The charming little city of Hamilton, New Zealand, about halfway between Auckland and Rotorua, is worth more than a quick stopover. For those touring the North Island, Hamilton NZ is a must for any road trip itinerary.
While you may not be entirely familiar with Hamilton New Zealand, you’ve surely heard of Hobbiton, in The Shire of Middle Earth. Hamilton NZ is the now-famous site of the humble Hobbit village, featuring in the The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. The village is the only remaining film set from these two epic series, and is a major drawcard for travellers from around the globe.
Tour around this quite amazing, seven hectare site, both fantastic and natural, with iconic, circular Hobbit-hole doors nestled into rolling hills, surveyed from above by the soaring Kaimai Ranges. Hobbiton Tours cater for all levels of interest, from curious tourists to ardent LOTR fans: enjoy a simple guided tour or opt for the all-in, Hobbit-style banquet at the Green Dragon Inn (where having seconds is a must).
If you’re still in the mood for something other-worldly, cue a visit to Waitomo Caves. Be dazzled and enchanted by the glow-worm filled caves, with their fascinating displays lighting up the ceilings and walls. The caves, which have been scoured out over the ages by underground streams carving their way through the soft limestone, can be explored on foot or by boat, or by blackwater rafting or zip lining (if you’re game!).
Waitomo is a feast for the senses, from the stunning glow-worms, stalactites, stalagmites and crystals, to the roaring of underground rivers and waterfalls, and the cool, dampness of the cave environment. Ruakuri Cave (which happens to be New Zealand’s longest underground walking tour) is also wheelchair accessible, so everyone can enjoy the experience.
Art & Culture
Sticking with the fantastic theme, why not visit the Riff Raff Statue (206 Victoria Street in the city centre) and just jump to the left… and then step to the right… and have it broadcast live on the internet. The Riff Raff Statue commemorates Richard O’Brien, Hamilton NZ-native and writer of The Rocky Horror Picture Show who portrays Riff Raff in the screen version. Check out others doing the Time Warp (again) here.
Any visit to Hamilton New Zealand would not be complete without at least a stroll through Hamilton Gardens. With free entry (and a café) there is no reason not to. Hamilton Gardens is different to most other gardens: it’s not a botanical garden, but rather more about garden design, use and differing cultural styles. Gardens are themed by style (Italian Renaissance, Japanese, Chinese, Modernist), purpose (Te Parapara, sustainable, herb and kitchen garden), flower and more. Pack a picnic and choose a tranquil spot (there are plenty) to while away an afternoon.
Rainy day plans are a must (it rains at least 10 days out of every month in Hamilton NZ) and a great one to have up your sleeve is the Waikato Museum. Temporary exhibitions change regularly, so check the website for the latest what’s on, but regularly feature international collections on loan and specially curated Maori exhibitions. Do not miss Te Winika, an incredible 200 year-old Mario waka taua, or war canoe.
Accommodation in Tauranga
If you’re checking out Hobbiton during the day, why not head to the coast and stay in Tauranga, where the Comfort Inn Academy will look after all your needs. Whichever way you go, Hamilton New Zealand is worth much more than just a stopover.