Hamilton is approximately 1 ½ hour’s drive South from Auckland and is in the heart of the Waikato farming community with the beautiful Waikato River alongside it. It is usually overlooked by tourists who are more interested in visiting Hobbiton, Waitomo Caves and Rotorua. However it does have a hidden gem and that is the Hamilton Gardens which last year was awarded International Garden of the Year by the International Tourism Network. The gardens have a unique concept which has been compared to a museum with each garden collection having historical integrity and providing a window into the stories of civilizations, their arts, beliefs and styles.
There are 21 themed garden areas including the peaceful Sung Dynasty Chinese Scholars garden, an Italian Renaissance Garden, the Indian Char Bagh Garden and just opened recently the Tudor intricate knot garden. I also enjoyed visiting Te Parapara – the Maori Garden and the whimsical sustainable backyard garden. Garden enthusiasts could spend many happy hours here and the bonus is the admission is free!
If you are travelling by bus from Auckland to Rotorua the bus stops in Hamilton so you could spend a night here, enjoy the gardens and a walk along the river.
Likewise if you have a rental car you could make this your base for a couple of nights and visit Waitomo Caves about 1 hour South, or Hobbiton which is about 45 minutes drive away. From Hobbiton you could continue to Rotorua (approximately 1 hour)