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On the banks of the Waikato River on New Zealand's North Island, Hamilton is packed with lively cafés, vibrant nightlife and expansive parks. The largest inland city in the country, it has a cosmopolitan vibe thanks to its diverse population, which includes over 80 ethnic groups. It also has a thriving sports scene, with locals especially passionate about cricket and rugby. All these give Hamilton a convivial spirit that makes travellers feel immediately at home.
Hamilton hostels include a cheery modern property just a few minutes' walk from the city's main bus terminal. Here, guests can mingle with like-minded travellers in shared dorms and common rooms, trading stories and sharing travel tips. You can find a Hamilton hostel with free Wi-Fi, extra-large lockers and laundry facilities, plus security features like electronic swipe keys. Fill up on a complimentary breakfast before a day of sightseeing.
Hamilton Central is the vibrant heart of the city. It's home to the business district, quirky boutiques and several public art pieces (fans of The Rocky Horror Show should look out for the Riff Raff Statue). Hamilton East has heritage buildings, as well as a cluster of eclectic shops and cafés centred on Grey Street. If you're looking for local or organic produce, this is the place to come. A 45-minute drive west is Raglan, a free-spirited surf town that's a favourite among locals.
Top attractions in Hamilton include the Waikato Museum, which showcases fascinating Māori artefacts ranging from pottery to waka taua (war canoes). The 58-hectare Hamilton Gardens is also well worth a visit for its impeccably manicured green spaces. There are plenty of places to get active. You can jog around Lake Rotoroa or explore one of the many bike trails outside the city such as the 173km Hauraki Rail Trail. This hugs abandoned railway tracks, passing through thick forest and old mining towns along the way.
Hamilton International Airport is about 15km away from the city centre. From here, you can get a shuttle bus or a taxi into town. InterCity buses run daily from other destinations in New Zealand such as Wellington, Tauranga and Auckland. There are also trains from Auckland three times a week. The city centre is easily walkable or you can use the local bus network (note that most routes stop running by 8pm). You can also use Uber or grab a taxi from one of the dedicated stands dotted throughout the city.