University of Waikato College

Study abroad: things to do in Hamilton

Students visiting waterfall in Waikato

New Zealand is one of the most popular study abroad destinations in the world and it’s easy to see why. One of the best places to live and learn in New Zealand is Hamilton. Hamilton is located on the North Island of New Zealand and is the most populous city in the Waikato region. It’s the fourth largest city in New Zealand and offers something for everyone – from vibrant city living to easy access to beautiful countryside and outdoor adventure activities.

Experience student life for yourself at the University of Waikato. Here, you can gain the academic, professional and personal skills to be successful – in New Zealand or around the world. The University of Waikato College is a great first step to experiencing life in Hamilton. You’ll arrive to a welcoming and supportive community of staff and students, who will help you settle in.

How to immerse yourself in Hamilton culture

The best way to immerse yourself in a new culture is to do as the locals do. The student experience team at Waikato will be able to give you some tips on where to start. Don't be shy about asking the people you meet about their favourite things to do in Hamilton and New Zealand. Soon you will have a list of things locals enjoy. This could be anything from trying new coffee shops and restaurants, going to bookstores, or exploring new neighbourhoods. Hamilton has a bus service to get around the city and it’s a great way for students to explore.

You can also think more widely about Māori culture in Hamilton. What is now the city of Hamilton used to be several Māori Pā (villages) surrounding the Waikato River. The city is proud of its Māori history, and this is evident in its culture. Several Māori Pā have been restored along the banks of the mighty Waikato River. Māori Pā were fortifications and structures used by Māori iwi (tribes) for defence and shelter. By exploring this trail of Māori Pā, you can get to know the modern city of Hamilton whilst honouring and respecting its past.

Things to do in Hamilton

When you’re not in classes, you’ll have fun exploring the city of Hamilton. Here are just a few things you can experience in your new home:

Hamilton food

No matter what cuisine you’re in the mood for, you’re never far from a delicious meal in Hamilton. There are restaurants to suit every budget, so students can easily find dining options after a day of classes. Some great places to try in Hamiton include:

  • Mamasdonuts: These traditional, delicious donuts make a great treat or study break.
  • Ruakura Berry Shop: Delicious freshly picked fruit snacks – you can even pick your own berries!
  • Bull and Bear: Can’t decide what cuisine you want to eat? Here you can find a mix of European, Indian and Asian food on the menu.
  • Gothenburg: Eat a delicious meal with beautiful views of the Waikato River.

Hamilton museums

When you study at Waikato, your education doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom. Hamilton has a range of museums available to help you keep learning. These include:

  • Waikato Museum: With changing exhibitions, the Waikato Museum lets you can experience the very best of culture and art.
  • Classics Museum: Hamilton’s Classics Museum is all about classic cars – the perfect place to develop a new interest.
  • The Sculpture Park: Experience the great outdoors on this 2km long nature trail filled with more than 100 sculptures.

Gardens and parks of Hamilton

Hamilton is a green city filled with beautiful scenery. Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park is all about biodiversity, creating a safe space for Hamilton’s native plants and animals. A walk here will really help you appreciate the beauty of New Zealand’s landscape and history.

Another great park in Hamilton is Victoria on the River, which is a riverside park offering stunning views and nature. The park has paths for walkers, runners and cyclists so you’re sure to discover something new whenever you visit. The park is also home to its own amphitheatre, where you can watch amazing acoustic performances from some of Hamilton’s best local acts.

There’s also the stunning Hamilton Gardens, which as well as being a beautiful park full of greenery and nature, is home to a range of themed gardens. Here you can experience a traditional English flower garden, an Italian garden, Japanese garden and many more – all without ever leaving New Zealand!

Places to visit in Hamilton

There are so many other amazing things to do in Hamilton. If you’ve already tried our other suggestions, don’t forget to check out:

  • Hamilton Zoo: Animal lovers will enjoy Hamilton Zoo, which is home to a wide range of animals (both local to New Zealand and otherwise) as well as helping conservation efforts.
  • Surfing: There are plenty of places to try surfing near Hamilton, including nearby Raglan.
  • Lake District Adventures: A great way to experience the natural beauty of the Waikato region is through this organisation, which offers everything from kayak tours to guided mountain bike rides.
  • Hobbiton Movie Set Tours: One of the most famous places near Hamilton is Hobbiton – giving you a chance to experience the magic of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies whilst exploring the movie sets.

Frequently asked questions

What are the top attractions to visit in Hamilton?

There are plenty of things to do in and nearby Hamilton, New Zealand. Whether you're taking a stroll through Hamilton Gardens, eating a riverside café overlooking the Waikato River, or taking a day trip to the Hobbiton Movie Set, you’ll never be bored here.

What is special about Hamilton, NZ?

Hamilton has a special blend of modern city living whilst appreciating and respecting the traditional Māori culture of New Zealand. Its varied landscape also means that you can enjoy everything from beautiful scenery and local nature to delicious restaurants and amazing art galleries.

Is Hamilton a good place to live for students?

University of Waikato students live in the city of Hamilton – a vibrant and exciting city for New Zealand and international students alike. Whether you’re hanging out with classmates on campus or exploring the city, there’s always something to do in Hamilton.