Hamilton Gardens is a free public park that showcases some of the finest flowers and plants you will ever see. Spend the morning looking at the various historic garden displays — the park is designed to look and feel like a plant-based museum — and then settle by the lush grassy areas to for a romantic picnic. Try to find a spot right by the riverside to get the most out of the lush vistas around you.
What Hamilton lacks in coastlines, it definitely makes up for with its awe-inspiring Waikato River — which just so happens to be New Zealand’s longest. The main river path pretty much runs right through the city, with the eastern stretches connecting to various parks, bridges and recreational facilities too. As a bonus, you’ll find plenty of seating and grassy areas where you can stop by to fully soak up the serene riverside scenery.
The Waikato River Explorer’s scenic 90-minute cruises only cost NZ$35 per person, and offer an entirely different perspective of the city. Board the sheltered vessel, and enjoy the lovely views of the historic Claudelands Bridge, Memorial Park and the Hamilton Gardens as the boat meanders downstream. There’s also a fully licensed cafe inside if you want to add a romantic meal into the mix.
Hamilton offers a great departure point for a day trip to Waitomo, a spot famous for its adrenaline-inducing experiences as well as its stunning, glowworm-lined limestone caves. Boat rides along the Glowworm Grotto depart every half hour from 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and tickets are NZ$51 per person. There are also cost-effective upgrade options for those wanting to delve further into these awe-inspiring surroundings.
Hamilton’s Zealong Tea Estate is the only commercial operation of its kind in New Zealand. Guided tours of the tea plantation are between NZ$49–$85 per person, depending on which package you’ve chosen. The estate’s highlights include its gorgeous gardens, art installations and the Zealong Tea House, where you can treat yourself to a pleasant high tea session.
Zealong Tea Estate, 495 Gordonton Rd, Hamilton 3281, New Zealand, +64 7-853 3018
The Waikato Museum is free to enter, and many of its paid exhibitions are quite affordable too. If you want to unleash your inner child and have a soft spot for interactive scientific exhibits, the paid Exscite gallery will be right up your alley. For those who love their historic relics, the fully restored 200-year-old Te Winika Waka, a traditional Maori canoe that has been a fixture of the museum since the 1970s, is definitely worth seeing from up close. If you want to spend longer scanning your surroundings, the ArtsPost Galleries are right next to the museum.
If you’d like to take your significant other on a pleasant brunch date, you can’t go wrong with the cafes and eateries that line Hamilton’s Victoria Street. Notable award-winning establishments on this stretch of road include the Victoria Street Bistro (which was crowned New Zealand’s best regional restaurant by Cuisine magazine in 2013), Scotts Epicurian Cafe (voted the best cafe in the Waikato Times’ Readers’ Choice Awards for five years running) and the River Kitchen (the 2010 winner of Cafe Magazine’s Best New Zealand Cafe award). Needless to say, it won’t take too long for you to find the ideal spot to relax and enjoy some good coffee.
The River Kitchen, 237 Victoria St, Hamilton 3204, New Zealand, +64 7-839 2906