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  • Spirit Cave, Waitomo
  • Surfer catching a wave, Raglan – Waikato
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Life & Style

Experience it all – Hamilton & Waikato is at the heart of New Zealand’s North Island tourist playground and is world famous for its underground experiences.

Farming is the backbone of the district and it is easy to understand why. Farmers benefit from the rich soils and the temperate climate of the district. As the region has grown so to have its towns and cities.

The region’s main metropolitan hub of Hamilton is situated on the banks of the mighty Waikato River, and its rich cultural mix and vibrant centre makes it a perfect place to experience the friendly Kiwi lifestyle. The café and bar scene is making a name for itself, and plentiful open spaces make the city an easy place to spend time in. Hamilton is also rapidly gaining a reputation as a destination for world-class international, national and local events.

The Waikato River is one of Hamilton city’s iconic features and the simplest way to enjoy it is by taking a stroll or bike ride along its banks. You can also take a cruise on the river with the chance to learn more about the city’s history and culture or if you fancy a paddle, you can kayak along the river and see the cityscape from a different angle. Another perspective altogether is offered by way of a magical hot air balloon ride, rising serenely above the city and with great views of the green countryside. The Hamilton & Waikato region has perfect conditions for such flights. Time your visit and you could see dozens of balloons floating above the city and region as part of the country’s premier ballooning festival, Balloons Over Waikato. Hamilton is also playing host to three ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 games in February-March and 8 FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015 matches in May-June.

Hamilton’s sophisticated, vibrant restaurant scene is one of the most up-and-coming in New Zealand. Its mix of modern award-winning urban eateries and cafes offer visitors a variety of tasty Asian and Mediterranean inspired cuisine alongside delicious local Kiwi fare. The southern end of central Hamilton, near the modern casino, is abuzz with wine bars, pubs and clubs showcasing local and imported beverages and an eclectic range of DJs and live bands. Meanwhile Cambridge, just a short drive down SH1, adds to the mix with its thriving café scene and there are two boutique-style vineyards on the city’s outskirts, so you can relax over a glass or two of fine local wine amid the rolling countryside.

When it’s time to go shopping, expect to find everything you could want in the Hamilton & Waikato Region. Boutique stores through the city sell high-end fashion while the Spanish-style Casabella Lane has a unique setting and gift stores and convenience is offered by way of the city’s large modern malls, including New Zealand’s largest, which cover the range from clothing to books and electronic goods. Towns like Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Te Aroha and Matamata feature top antiques, boutique homewares and gift stores in charming rural settings. There are also bustling weekend craft and farmers markets, with local produce for sale along with arts, crafts and gifts or browse the number of galleries dotted throughout the region for quirky arts and crafts.

Culturally, the Hamilton & Waikato region has a thriving artistic community and the Waikato Museum features a diverse range of art, interactive and historical exhibitions. Over five levels, and on the banks of the river, the museum showcases the cultural heritage of the region as well as showing national and international exhibitions. There are also a myriad of boutique galleries and art studios dotted around the city and surrounding region.