Option 1: Hamilton - A Class Act
These suggestions highlight the city’s sophisticated metropolitan experiences.
* Walk along the riverside. There are plenty of places to enjoy the magnificent Waikato River on both banks.
* Go shopping at the boutique stores dotted through the city, including European-style Casabella Lane, or in the city’s modern malls, and have lunch at one of the many top streetfront cafes with their pavement dining.
* Take in the Waikato Museum for its interactive historical shows or contemporary art exhibitions all under the one roof and over several levels. While there, don’t miss Te Winika, the waka taua (war canoe) or Hamilton exhibition on permanent display. Beside the museum, ArtsPost showcases the best local artists at its ever-changing exhibitions, as well as offering fine gift buying opportunities in its shop.
* Have a flutter at one of SkyCity Casino’s gaming tables or gaming machines.
* Go sky-high – well nearly – with a magical balloon ride to start the day and see Hamilton and the Waikato spread before you.
* Walk through Hamilton Gardens. Their themed gardens range from Italian Renaissance to Chinese, with just about everything else in between, and Turtle Lake adds to the picturesque setting.
* Have a wine tasting at Mystery Creek Wines on the city’s outskirts, and stop for lunch there at the highly rated Woodbox Winery Restaurant overlooking the Waikato River.
* Head to Inspirit Gallery directly across the river from Mystery Creek Wines, and browse among great art, photography and crafts, including sculptures.
* Catch a concert or show at one of Hamilton’s theatres, whether in the central city or at the Academy of Performing Arts with its beautiful setting on the university grounds.
* Make the most of the many fine dining and nightlife options clustered around the popular southend.Option 2: Hamilton - Family Fun
These suggestions showcase the myriad of family focused activities Hamilton has to offer.
* Take a cruise on the mighty Waikato River with Waikato River Cruises, or if you want to get up close and personal with the river, try your hand at Canadian canoeing with Wiseways Canoes.
* Visit Waikato Museum and explore the interactive centre, learn about the marvels of the Waikato River, and take in “Never a Dull Moment”, an exhibition which showcases the best of Hamilton’s stories from the past (open seven days).
* To finish off the day with a bit of family fun and team challenge, check out SkyCity’s ten pin bowling or laser tag accompanied by family-friendly dining.
* Visit Hamilton Zoo and see the sumatran tigers, chimpanzees and white rhinos, along with a huge range of other animals.. Walk through the largest free flight aviary in Australasia, or get up close to the animals with a Face 2 Face encounter.
* Have a picnic at Hamilton Gardens with its wide range of themed gardens and open spaces including picturesque Turtle Lake.
* Cool off at Waterworld where there’s a diving pool, a hydroslide, and a choice of indoor and outdoor pools along with a barbecue area and cafe.Option 3: North Waikato
Uniquely significant in both Maori and European history the North Waikato Region celebrates its heritage while welcoming the future through the range of experiences and attractions on offer.
Suggested activities include:
* Walk about 40mins into the Hakarimata Ranges and stand next to the largest kauri trees in the Waikato.
* Journey beneath the earth and encounter untouched limestone formations and glowworms at Nikau Caves near the west coast.
* Picnic on the banks or stroll around the beautifully developed Hakanoa Lake, with its plantings from different regions. A circuit of the lake takes about 1hr 15mins.
* Step back in time and explore the lives of the miners and their families by visiting the Waikato Coalfields Museum in Huntly (open seven days), set in an historic homestead.
* Check out the race action at Placemakers Huntly Speedway, dust flies at 7pm.
* At Rangiriri Heritage Centre, which is also a tearooms, watch a video of the Waikato wars and visit a partly preserved fortification from the battle fought there in 1863.
* Visit Herb Haven for Victorian high tea (bookings recommended). Stroll around the grounds, and purchase some of its famous garlic sauce. Or take its course in bread making (booking required).
* Enjoy the race action at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park with its full calendar of events. Nearby is the Meremere drag strip, and Huntly holds regular speedway meets.
* Test your skills at making your very own lollipop at Candyland and see how chocolates are made (two shows a day at weekends, public holidays and school holidays).
* Visit historic Woodlands Homestead. Stroll around the gardens, which are of regional significance, or take a tour of the homestead itself. And enjoy a meal at the café, looking out across a picturesque cricket field and trees.
* Experience Zealong’s Oolong Tea Plantation, he first of its kind outside of Asia, on the outskirts of northern Hamilton. Learn about the process of growing and harvesting this specialist premium team and enjoy a delicious high tea as you look out over the vista of 1 million tea plants.Option 4: South Waikato
The South Waikato region is home to the charming country town of Tirau with its antiques, arts and craft shops and home-style cafes. Nearby is the “olde worlde” Okoroire hot springs and hotel while some of the region’s finest river trails and walks can also be found here.
* Stop off in Tirau, well known for its corrugated iron sculptures. Walk around the township for a spot of retail therapy in the many boutique shops, including antiques and crafts.
* Visit Tirau Museum, an excellent private collection of Geoff Ernst and a dream for all collectors – you name it, he’s got it (open seven days, closed Mon and Fri mornings). There is also a honey shop on site.
* Visit Okoroire Hot Springs with its “olde worlde” country pub, classic nine hole golf course and chance for a soak in the hot pools.
* Check out Over the Moon Cheese in Putaruru. Taste their award-winning range of specialty products and watch the cheeses being made in their artisan dairy.
* Visit the internationally acclaimed Te Waihou Walkway and Blue Spring, with its pure water that has been underground for up to 100 years. The return walk, over varied terrain, takes about three hours.
* Explore the Waikato River Trails, a series of river and lakeside walking and biking tracks that encompasses the magic and beauty of native bush, exotic forest and significant wetlands with lake and river views.