Top 10 things to do in Hamilton while training

by Chantelle Pettigrew on Sep 06 2019
Kia Ora from L3Harris Airline Academy in Hamilton, New Zealand! I’m Chantelle, the Marketing & Selection Officer based here at the NZ Academy. I grew up in Mount Maunganui, a beach town an hour and a half away, and I have chosen Hamilton as my home for the past 20+ years. It gives me great pleasure to share with you my top 10 things to do while training with us here in the beautiful Waikato!

1. The Waikato region is renowned for its natural beauty and strong agricultural roots – you get to experience some amazing scenery when flying with us… but it’s a lot of fun to explore on the ground too! There is so much for nature lovers to experience, including bush hikes and top cycle trails. As the country’s longest river winds its way right through our region, there’s no shortage of water based activities such as kayaking to keep you busy (and fit!)

2. Hamilton is the fourth largest city in NZ. We have a vibrant arts scene, great shopping and some award-winning restaurants all in the center. You can dine at a restaurant overlooking the Waikato River, then head off for a walk along the river path, check out local artists work at one of the galleries or soak up some history and learn more about the area at the Waikato Museum. There really is something for every taste.

3. In case the river wasn’t enough, our city also boasts a lake! While swimming and motorboats are not allowed, it is a pretty spot for a picnic lunch, and a footpath/boardwalk around the entire circumference of the lake (3.8kms) makes this a very popular place for runners and walkers to meet after work.

4. We embrace our quirky side! While in town, make sure you check out some of our city’s fabulous street art, murals and sculptures. Some are a little tricky to find – you can ask a local to show you around, or grab a map from the information centre in town. Make sure you also check out Riff Raff – a life-size statue of Rocky Horror Picture Show creator (and Hamilton native) Richard O’Brien, dressed as the iconic character from the musical.

5. For those wanting to explore a little further, Waitomo Caves are a real treat. Explore caves with stunning formations and magical glow worms. 15 minutes away from the caves, you can see our native birds (including kiwi) up close at the Otorohanga Kiwi House. Then head over to the west coast to Kawhia, where you’ll be amazed by the vast ocean beach. If you get the timing right, at low tide you can dig your own hot water spa in the sand!

6. For Lord of the Rings fans, a trip to Hobbiton is a must. The rolling green paddocks and limestone outcrops of a sheep farm in the Waikato were exactly what director Peter Jackson was looking for when scouting locations to film the J.R.R. Tolkien classics. You can now walk through the full set, exactly how it was during filming. While you do have to pay to attend an official tour, it is well worth it for fans of the films.

7. Only a short drive out of Hamilton, you’ll find Taitua Arboretum. A network of walking tracks, lakes and gardens make this a great weekend spot to “escape the city”. There is plenty of birdlife, farm animals and grassy areas to picnic, and if you’re lucky you might even find a Tron Rock.

8. If you are into surfing and water sports, you’ve probably already heard of Raglan. The Maori name for Raglan is Whaaingaroa, meaning The Long Pursuit. The area is renowned for having one of the longest left-hand surf breaks in the world, and people travel from far and wide to experience the surf and black sand beaches. There is a wonderful relaxed vibe in the township, and plenty of interesting shops and cafes. Make sure you also check out the stunning scenery, including the nearby walk to see Bridal Veil Falls (waterfall).

9. If you are here in March, you will notice more than just L3Harris planes in the sky! Hamilton hosts a very popular annual Hot Air Balloon Festival, called Balloons Over Waikato. Every year, balloonists from NZ and around the world bring their bright and colourful balloons to the Waikato for a week, to participate in this fun and vibrant festival. You will see the balloons lift off in the early mornings, and sometimes in the evenings (if the wind behaves!) On the final Saturday night, the Waikato University hosts the Nightglow – a free family event where the balloonists light up their balloons in time to music, followed by a huge fireworks display. This exciting event attracts 80,000+ people.

10. Perhaps the thing that Hamilton has become most known for in recent years is our award winning Hamilton Gardens… and for very good reason! Located next to a stretch of the Waikato River, the gardens are a free attraction covering 58 hectares and include enclosed gardens, open lawns, a lake, a nursery, a convention centre, a café and a cemetery. There are 5 garden collections: Paradise (6 gardens), Productive (4 gardens), Fantasy (6 gardens), Cultivar (4 gardens) and Landscape (4 gardens). You can easily spend a whole day exploring here. The Paradise Gardens are particularly special, with themed gardens representing different countries of the world, including India, Italy, Japan and China. It is not uncommon to spot wedding parties here, as these feature gardens make for beautiful photo backdrops. And after a day of exploring, you can even join a river cruise from the onsite jetty.

So there you have it – my top 10 must-do things while training with us here in Hamilton, our little slice of paradise “down under”!