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10 best free things to do in Hamilton

Hamilton River Path

November 17, 2011

Localite Scott Barker shares his favourite 10 things to do in Hamilton for free. 

See it all on a map here: Map of the top 10 free things to do in Hamilton.

1. Walk the Waikato River path

The Waikato river basically splits Hamilton down the middle, running from one end of Hamilton to the other, and dominates the landscape  Clearly someone had some forethought and created walkways along the river bank. It’s pretty, scenic, and pram/dog and cycling friendly.

2. Visit Hamilton Gardens (free entry)

'Hamilton Gardens, North Island, NZ' photo (c) 2011, Shawn Huang - license:

Probably the most famous attraction in Hamilton, and famous for its themed gardens. These gardens are extensive; and entry is how we like it – free. The Gardens are slightly to the south of the CBD. The most photographed gardens are the American Modernist Garden and the Italian Gardens.

3. Feed the ducks at the Lake (the perimeter walk is great, too)

Hamilton has loads of great parks and open space, so #3 is another one. Not to be confused with the lake in Rotorua, the Hamilton Lake is called Lake Rotoroa. There is a very good children’s playground and café by the lake frontRemember to take some bread – the ducks are entertaining.

4. Relax in Garden Place, enjoying the atmosphere & entertainment

Garden place is a pedestrian section of central Hamilton CBD. It’s a hub point and a nice place to “people watch”, sit on the grass to eat lunch, and catch any street entertainment.

5. Ride at the Pukete mountain bike track

A good basic track that’s 10km long, mostly flat, and just a nice easy ride after work, or with the kids. It’s also within the city borders.

6. Kick balls around with friends in Hamilton’s many parks

As you’re beginning to see, Hamilton is all about the parks and the outdoors, so get out there and kick a ball around!

7. Window shopping at The Base

Get your fix of outlet shopping.

8. Visit statue of Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show

'Dedication to a Time Warp' photo (c) 2011, Michael Coghlan - license:

Richard O’Brien, creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, whilst not born in NZ, spent his teenage years in Hamilton and Tauranga, and this statue of his character Riff Raff is pride of place in Victoria St, Hamilton. Stop by, get your picture – makes a great talking point when you show off your pics.

9. Visit Waikato Museum (free entry)

Entry to the museum is free, and exhibits are educational.  The building is kind of interesting, too. Perfect for a rainy day.

 10. Taitua Arboretum

A bit out of Hamilton on SH23, this  is a great place to head for some serenity. The park covers 20ha, with walking trails under mature  trees, lakes and woodland gardens.  Makes a nice picnic spot. Dogs are also allowed,  but on a leash.


Well that’s 10 but cheekily we’ll add some more  courtesy of Natalie Dean at Hamilton & Waikato Tourism.

11. Artspost Gallery (near the Museum)

Dedicated to promoting local artists,  this gallery is free of course and right beside the museum in a nice heritage building. For more info and other art galleries in Hamilton.

12. Markets

Everyone loves a good Market and if you’re in Hamilton on the weekend, you’ve got a choice. Saturday is the Frankton Market from 8am-1, Commerce St, Hamilton and Sunday is the Farmers Market located in the River Road Car Park, 204 River Road Sunday morning from 8 to noon.

13. Visit Miropiko pā

For the Aussies, a pā is an ancient Maori Settlement. So if you’re visiting the Waikato a great free cultural experience, this ancient site has been made into a park and sites on the side of the Waikato River.



Been inspired to visit Hamilton; Find out where the best places to stay in Hamilton are. 

More Top 10 lists

Top 10 free things to do in Rotorua
Top 10 free things to do in Auckland
Top 10 free things to in Christchurch

  • Jessica Vivien

    As an exHamilton-ite, I love the Gardens, and would like to also recommend a trip to the Chapel at Waikato University: a stunning setting between the duck-filled lake and green grassy garden slopes.
    Ballooning was also on the menu when I visited a few months ago.
    Hamilton has a lot to offer, and is a beautiful, friendly city

    • Genevieve Atkinson

      Thanks for your comments. Chapel sounds pretty.  Ballooning is high on my list to try too, but it’s not free – maybe we’ll have to make a new list with what’s worth paying for. 

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