Hamilton, New Zealand Tourist Attractions
Hamilton, New Zealand's fourth-largest city, lies in the fertile plain of the Waikato River. The country's only inland city, it has developed spectacularly since 1950. It has a university and several agricultural and food-science research institutes, including the Meat Industry Research Institute of New Zealand.The military settlement of Hamilton was established in 1864, after the end of the land war in the Waikato area, on the site of an abandoned Maori village. Instead of being paid the soldiers were given land to cultivate. The town is named after Captain John Hamilton, who was killed in the Battle of Gate Pa, near Tauranga on the Bay of Plenty.
Waikato Museum of Art and History
The museum has a large collection of Maori material, particularly on the Tainui tribe. Its prize exhibit is a carved war canoe of 1845. Also of interest are examples of modern woodcarving and weaving from Ngaruawahia.
The Hamilton Gardens on the banks of the Waikato River are particularly beautiful when the roses are in bloom. An excursion steamer, the Waipa Delta, plies along the river.
In Victoria Street, which runs parallel to the river, and Main Street there are a number of commercial art galleries.
Bank of New Zealand
The Bank of New Zealand building (1878) is one of the town's historic buildings which has been converted for other purposes.
Lake House (1873) is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture.
Founders' Memorial Theatre
Left Bank Theatre
In Marlborough Place is the avant-garde Left Bank Theatre.
There are a number of interesting towns and attractions in the Hamilton surrounding area.
Ngaruawahia was once a Maori capital.
Bridal Veil Falls
7km southwest of Hamilton is Temple View, the headquarters of New Zealand's Mormons.
50km west of Hamilton, on the Tasman Sea, is Raglan, a pleasant seaside resort with a beach of black sand. It is named after Lord Raglan, commander of British forces in the Crimean War. The first white mission station in the Waikato region was established here in the 1830s.
7km north of Ngaruawahia, on the banks of the Waikato, is Taupiri Mountain (288m). The hill, which to the Maoris is sacred, was returned to them by the government only in 1975. On the slopes of the hill, which has been fortified since early times, is the tapu burial place of the Maori kings.
On the lower course of the Waikato River, 33km north of Hamilton, is the town of Huntly (pop. 7,000). Here the river cuts through two huge coalfields that were opened in the 1840s. The coal deposits were systematically surveyed by the geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter in 1859. After a number of serious accidents in the underground workings opencast mining started in 1940. There are now, however, two new underground mines.Huntly's coal-fired power station was completed in 1981. Its twin cooling towers, 150m high, are prominent features of the landscape.
17km north of Huntly is Rangiriri, which in 1863, during the land wars, was the scene of a bloody encounter between British troops and Maoris. It was only after two unsuccessful assaults on the Maori stronghold here that it finally fell to the British. The main fortifications stand on the west side of Highway 1.
53km northeast of Hamilton on Highway 26 is the long-established spa resort of Te Aroha situated at the foot of the hill of the same name on the fringes of the Kaimai Range. It still preserves its turn-of-the 19th C. Victorian bathhouses and spa establishments. There are three different mineral springs, whose water is used both for drinking and bathing. The old bathhouse No. 1 has been replaced by a modern establishment. From Mount Te Aroha (952 m; trails, shuttle bus) there are beautiful views. Within easy reach of Te Aroha are the Kaimai Range (trails) and the imposing Wairere Falls (150m high).
60km east of Hamilton, on Highway 27, is the little town of Matamata (Waikato region; pop. 6000), the commercial center of an agricultural region (sheep, dairy farming, horse breeding). The town owes its origin to a 19th C. British immigrant named Firth who leased more than 22,000ha of land from the local Maori chief, Wiremu Tamihana. He drained the swamps, built a road to the military settlement of Cambridge and made the Waihou River navigable for cargo vessels. By the end of the century, however, his little empire had collapsed. He built the three-story Firth Tower (1881; 3km east of Matamata) as a refuge against Maori raids. Beside the tower are his house and a number of other old buildings.
The Alexander family farm was converted into Middle Earth as it closely resembled the description by J.R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings. Total site construction took nine months. The land also supports a thriving sheep and beef cattle business.
Northeast of Matamata is the Kaimai Range, through which there are a number of trails. One particularly attractive trip is to the imposing Wairere Falls, 150m high. The trail takes off from the Matamata-Okauia-Gordon road.
A half-hour drive southeast from Hamilton is the English-looking town of Cambridge (pop. 11,000), on the Waikato River, in the commercial center of an agricultural area (cattle, sheep, horses; dairy farming). Cambridge was originally a military settlement established during the land wars in the Waikato region, on the site of a fortified Maori village. British gunboats could sail up the Waikato River as far as this point. It is disputed whether the town was called Cambridge because the Waikato was thought to resemble the English river Cam or as a compliment to the then commander-in-chief of the British army, the Duke of Cambridge. Historic buildings include St Andrew's Church (1881; Anglican), the Primary School (1879) and the old Court House with its handsome facade, now housing the Municipal Museum.
Southeast of Cambridge is Lake Karapiro, a 24km long reservoir supplying the Karapiro hydroelectric station (viewing is possible). It is the lowest of a chain of power stations on the Waikato that were brought into operation in 1948.
30km south of Hamilton (Highway 3), on the Waipa River, is the old Maori settlement of Te Awamutu (pop. 8500). The name means 'end of the river' (that is, the highest point at which it was navigable by canoes). A mission station was established here in 1839. Te Awamutu is now the commercial center of a dairy farming area. The last battles of the land war in the Waikato region were fought hereabouts in the late summer of 1864. The decisive battle was fought at Orakau, only 8km from Te Awamutu, on March 31st 1864. The heroic resistance of Rewi Maniapoto provided material for the early New Zealand film Rewi's Last Stand.After the end of the land war in the Waikato region British soldiers were settled on land confiscated from the Maoris. The Puniu River marked the boundary between the confiscated land and the King Country, which no settler dared enter until a peace treaty was signed with King Tawhiao in 1881. The railroad reached Te Awamutu in 1880.St John's Anglican Church (1854) has fine stained glass and interesting gravestones. Beside it, in sharp contrast, is a modern church built in 1965.
Te Awamutu and District Museum
In the Civic Centre is the Te Awamutu and District Museum, which is mainly devoted to the Maoris and the land wars.
Address: 135 Roche Street, New Zealand
Opening hours: 10am-4pm; Sun: 1pm-4pm; Sat: 10am-1pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Good Friday - Christian
Useful tips: Admission by donation.
Waipa Kokiri Arts Centre
The Waipa Kokiri Arts Centre was established to preserve and maintain the craft skills of the Maoris.
Pirongia Forest Park
Pirongia Forest Park (15km west of Te Awamutu), centerd on an extinct volcano (959m), can be explored on a network of trails with mountain huts and fine views.