A locals guide to Hamilton

A locals guide to Hamilton

Posted by Little Mash on

Only a few more sleeps until the school holidays, can you believe it?! Have you made any plans? We'll be enjoying a stay-cation here in Hamilton. I have created a loose itinerary, but it will be fairly mellow and spontaneous for the most part.

Sometimes I feel Hamilton is overlooked as a place to visit - I've been guilty of this and have often speed off around the country before really exploring my own backyard. I may have even said more than once that the upside of living here is "that it is central to the rest of the island and so easy to travel to {insert city, beach, historical site, attraction, scenery HERE}." Opps! Isn't that terrible.

In recent years I have really grown to love little ol' Hamilton and am totally ok with hanging around during the holiday periods. It is family friendly, easy to travel, has great food and plenty of activities. I guess as is the case with most places, sometimes you just need to know where to go! And so, dear friend, I am here to give you the insider scoop on what to see and what to do in our wee city - and maybe give you some school holiday inspo or perhaps even convince you to plan a road trip to visit us sometime soon.



The Riverbank Lane

Spend an afternoon with the family at The Riverbank Lane! Start by exploring the towering shelves at Browsers, a secondhand bookstore filled to the brim with quality books to suit all ages and interests. Enjoy thumbing through the pages in a cosy reading nook, or grab a lunch to-go from one of the many eateries and wander to Victoria on the River (an amphitheatre style park) for a relaxing picnic in the sun. Take in the sights and sounds of the Waikato River before heading back inside to grab a scoop from Duck Island, a small batch ice cream shop serving seriously delicious (and sometimes crazy!) flavours. The pastel walls create the perfect atmosphere to enjoy your sweet treat and a backdrop for insta-worthy snaps. I highly recommend the Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie flavour. Wow! Lastly, you cannot leave without giving your kids a go on the little blue train (like the vintage rides you'd find outside a pharmacy back in the day). No coins required, it's totally free!


Perry Bike Park

Open all year round and free of charge, the bike park at Horotiu has areas for under-fives, school-age and advanced riders - including a road safety area, circuit pump track and a junior mountain bike trail. I personally prefer this park to the similar tracks around Hamilton as it's nice and open and easy to keep an eye on the littlies. Conveniently located next to a petrol station and cafe for emergency snacks too.

River Riders

My daughter and I did this for the first time a few weeks ago and it was so much fun! We hired an E-bike with a child seat attachment and spent a few hours riding along the river. The ride is mostly smooth concrete or brick pathway and is relatively easy. You certainly won't be working up a sweat, especially if you are on an E-bike, but you may want to dress in active wear for comfort anyway. I also suggest packing a small lunch to enjoy in one of the many scenic locations you find along the way. Reasonably priced and hassle free - helmets, safety vests and riding lessons included. Of course, if you have access to your own bike the track is open to the public and will be completely free.

BOON Street Art

Once a year, national and international artists bring colour to the streets of Hamilton and paint massive murals around the CBD. The murals take shape over a number of days and locals are encouraged to pop along and watch. Maps labeled with the locations of the artworks are available on the BOON Hamilton Street Art facebook page (previous years also available). Many of the murals are within walking distance of each other and I encourage you to check them out. Download the maps and plot your course, this is a great way to see all areas of the city.


Farmers Market

One of my favourite traditions is Sunday breakfast at the Farmers Market. I personally feel it is important to teach children where their food comes from, to connect with food, learn what's in season and how and where it's grown. The market can get busy at times and it's worth getting there early. We love the live music and the food is seriously delicious. Located a short distance from a neat playground and flying fox for the little wrigglers too.

Taitua Arboretum

A hot-spot for family photos, the Taitua Arboretum is abundant with trees, pastures, a woodland garden & walking trails. Perfect for a morning stroll or midday picnic and plenty of chickens and ducks to delight the kiddies too! As a friendly heads up, the track is mostly gravel and I found it difficult to use a pram. However I have seen plenty of families pushing their children along easily so perhaps it was just the pram I had, but something to keep in mind.

Minogue Park Playground

Hamilton has more than 80 playgrounds across the city, and I hard a hard time picking my favourites. I chose Minogue Park for its variety - it is located next to a BMX track and lake + sand and water play, a scooter track, flying fox and ample seating areas. What I love most about this park is the size and layout. It is big enough that you are not all up in each others space, but open enough that you can keep a close eye on your children. Two thumbs up from me!

Hare Puke Playground

Apparently awarded playground of the year in 2019, this playground is super colourful and open with its scooter track, social swings, onsite bathroom and sensory play areas. The Hare Puke playground is suitable for all ages and caters to many developmental stages. Located in a residential suburb, I would suggest packing your own snacks as the closest shops are driving distance.



I recently asked our followers on Instagram to share their favourite fluffy spots in Hamilton, here are their recommendations:

  1. The Village Cafe
  2. The Sugar Bowl Cafe
  3. Cinnamon Cafe
  4. Frank Food
  5. GG's Cafe

And of course you MUST pop in to visit us at Little Mash Boutique for all your road trip essentials + to snap a selfie in our famous mirror. See you soon!

Tania x


  • Hi Melody,

    How special! With all the new roads it really is such a quick drive from South Auckland now.

    Hope to see you soon!

    Tania x

    Tania on

  • Love this little kid friendly Hamilton guide. My husband and I used to day trip to Hamilton from South Auckland often when we were dating, and he proposed at the Hamilton Gardens.

    We haven’t visited since our almost two year old daughter was born but may need to plan another trip to check out some things on this list!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Melody on

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