Lovers of sport, great food and wine are all part of a population of people who have a palpable sense of loyalty to their city, and with plenty to be proud of it’s no wonder they have made it home.
Join the growing throngs of visitors who know Hamilton is much more than meets the eye.
A place where quirky cafés and world-class eateries are popping up in every alley, it’s worth taking the time to explore.
As the sun rises you best get yourself dressed and out the door, Hamilton’s finest breakfast spots are calling…
33 Jellicoe Drive, Hamilton East
In the hip hub of East Hamilton overlooking the river, Hayes Common is known for waking up the township on the right side of the bed with fresh, locally-sourced morning fare and beautifully brewed Atomic Coffee. Settle into a comfy corner or pull up a chair at their family-sized tables and eye up their seasonal menu, bursting with top quality free-range produce and catering to all dietary needs. This all-day eatery does it all – and does it well.
300 Grey Street & Hungerford Crescent
Next head on down to Hamilton Gardens which have been sitting pretty since 1960. The Gardens are a masterpiece of foliage divided into five sections – Paradise, Productive, Fantasy, Cultivar and Landscape. Each section works like a gallery, with different exhibits (aka gardens), cultivated to show something about gardens and our relationship to them. The ‘Paradise Collection’ of international gardens is a favourite among visitors, and feels like a trip through five countries in an afternoon.
394 Grey Street
The aptly named Lovegrove Lane is a colourful and holistic display of businesses run by a group of people clearly determined to support one another and grow their up and coming suburb collaboratively. Made up of The Flower Crate, Sun Salute Yoga Centre, Framing House and GG’s café, visitors here often find themselves pleasantly surprised by what’s on offer. Pots of greenery and outside furniture filled with easy-going lunch-goers makes for a stress-free air of tranquillity and a true escape from more industrial parts of town.
394 Grey Street
One look at GG’s cabinet will convince your stomach that yes – it’s definitely hungry again. Making a home in Lovegrove Lane’s sixth and final shed, this cosy café is humming with good vibes aplenty. Decorated with ‘70s nicknacks that will leave you reminiscing over your family bach, GG’s are well known for their chocolate lamingtons, delicious savoury scones, flavour-packed toasties and hearty soups.
300a Grey Street, Hamilton East
Luckily the dessert is only a short stroll from Lovegrove Lane. Duck Island is Hamilton’s premier ice-cream parlour, well known for their enormous variety of one-of-a-kind, genius inspired flavours. Quite literally the talk of the town, they offer a staggering range of ice creams from popcorn, condensed milk and toasted marshmallows, to old time Kiwi favourites such as mint chocolate chip.
If an afternoon pick-me-up is in order, then Hamilton continues to provide the goods. Spend the later part of the day ticking off those earlier town sights you missed in the morning.
1 Grantham Street
What’s a visit to a new city without checking out the local museum? Hamilton is not short on history, and you can find out all about it at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. Wander around the museum’s 13 galleries and be amazed by one of the major highlights – the 200-year-old waka taua (war canoe) Te Winika, which was gifted to the museum by the late Māori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu. The family will also enjoy Exscite, the museum’s science-based interactive area where kids can learn while they play. The museum shares regional and global stories in the areas of art, history, science and tangata whenua. It’s open every day 10am-5pm. Free entry.
Rocket Coffee Roasters
302 Barton Street
We hear you, we hear you, all that wandering back through history can leave you feeling a little fatigued, so why not head into the heart of the town and have yourself a caffeine pick me up from the people who know a quality coffee when they see one. Rocket isn’t really like anything else. Anyone who has stopped by their roastery on Barton Street for more than five minutes will know that. It’s been around for a long time, and they’ve cultivated a dedicated relationship with coffee farmers and perfecting the roast. They are open till 4pm, so you best get a move on if you want a chance to see them roasting the very coffee you’re drinking.
Needle in the Hay
300a Racquet Lane
Ever tried to find a needle in a stack of hay? No neither have we, but we get the point. Lucky we’re here to tell you exactly where this little store filled with eccentric arts, crafts, homewares and records is so you needn’t get lost along the way. Happy to tread its own path, Needle in the Hay is a clever shop full of rad goods where you just might be pleasantly surprised by what you can find. Open Thursday to Saturday.
15 Hood Street
Late afternoon means it is about time for a cold one, and what better place than Craft, a bar that prides itself on having no less than fifteen beers on tap at any one time. At this local joint customers are treated to friendly banter from the bartenders, who are knowledgeable about brews on offer and can assist those new to the craft scene. Perch inside at the shared high tables, or sit street-side where a lounging area catches the last of the day’s sun.
In a city reluctant to go to sleep, you need only visit one of these evening establishments to see why locals choose to stay up late.
298 Victoria Street
A place to meet, eat and drink, Riverbank Lane is home to a number of bespoke businesses that offer a perfect transition from boutique browsing to dinnertime. Before tucking into a feed, you could sharpen up with a trim at Fox & Kennedy Barbers. Fancy a few page-turners? The towering shelves at Browsers should keep you occupied for some time. The cocktail list (and pro bartenders) at Mr Pickle’s will pull your nose out of the books and onto the laneway bar for your favourite tipple, of the outside courtyard overlooking a phenomenal riverside sunset. Stay on here for a dinner of BYO (that’s build your own) charcuterie platters and small and large plates to share. Or head to their neighbours, Banh Mi Caphe, for a hit of punchy Southeast Asian flavours from recipes that have been carefully passed down from generation to generation, all the way from Can Tho to Waikato, and the fresh, healthy and truly tasty dishes are worth travelling for.
236 Victoria Street
Wait, you’re going to bed? Oh no, you don’t. On the same street, set down all alley, so you may need to look twice, is Wonderhorse, an establishment at the heart of Hamilton’s night scene, with amazing service, a whole lot of soul and a menu of magnificent cocktails. Every week from Wednesday till Saturday it’s the place to be for good chats, group hangs or after-dinner drinks. You’ll be glad you stayed up past your bedtime for this one.
Discover more neat places around New Zealand at neatplaces.co.nz