Best 25 things to do in Hamilton with kids
Here is our pick of the top 25 things to do with families and kids in Hamilton, New Zealand. There are lots of fun parks, attractions and activities for kids making it a fun place to visit for a day out, or to go for a family holiday.
1. Play at Hare Puke Destination Playground
Hamilton has more than 80 playgrounds, and it’s hard to choose a favourite but Hare Puke is definitely one of them. The playground was also awarded 2019 New Zealand Playground of the year!
There is a fun giant climbing wave, spinning carousels, in-ground trampolines, sand diggers, basket swings and lots of swings for all ages of kids and teens to enjoy.
2. Visit Hamilton Gardens
A trip to Hamilton would not be complete without a stop at the stunning Hamilton Gardens, which has FREE entry. The gardens have lots of separate garden collections within the garden which makes them fun to explore. Our families favourite gardens are the Indian Char Bah Garden (pictured below), the Modernist Garden, the Chinese Scholars’ Gardens with the bamboo path , the Surrealist Garden with the giant surrealist biomorphic shapes known as the trons and the greenhouses in the Victorian Flower Garden.
The Hamilton Gardens Cafe overlooks the lake and is the perfect space to stop for a break and bite to eat.
There is a fun kids playground near the Gate 2 entrance off Cobham Drive with slides, swings and a climbing tower.
The Gardens are also a good stopping off point on a drive between Auckland to Rotorua or Auckland to Taupo as they are halfway in between. There are toilets and baby changing facilities located at 3 different places in the park.
3. Explore the Waikato River by boat
Take the family on a relaxing Waikato River Explorer cruise on New Zealand’s longest waterway that cuts through the middle of Hamilton. The boat is protected in the weather, so it still a fun experience with the kids even if it is raining. The cruise departs from Hamilton Gardens or Waikato Museum and snacks are available to purchase on board.
4. Hamilton Zoo
Hamilton Zoo is a fun place for the animal lovers in your family to visit. See chimpanzees, rhinos, tamarins, giraffes, meerkats, zebra, red pandas, lemurs, tigers, brids, geckos, tuataras and over 500 other animals at the zoo spread over 25 hectares.
The zoo has daily FREE keeper talks where you can learn about tigers, rhinos, spider monkeys, parrots, lemurs and more animals depending on the day you visit.
5. Discover the Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato
Auckland for Kids always loves a trip to the museum and the Waikato Museum on the banks of the Waikato River in Central Hamilton is no exception. The museum tells the stories of Hamilton and has over 30,000 taonga (objects).The Exscite interactive science gallery will keep the kids entertained and learning for hours. The museum has school holiday activities on for each school holidays.
6. Visit Lake Rotoroa, also know as Hamilton Lake domain and playground
Lake Rotoroa is a good place to visit year round with a superb tree top theme playground (near Innes Common and the Veranda Cafe) for the kids, a parkour area for the older kids and lots of space for a picnic. There is an easy 3.8 kilometere walk with picturesque views around the edge of Hamilton Lake (Rotoroa) and the kids can enjoy feeding the ducks and watching model boats too. You can cycle on the paths, but not on the boardwalk section of the lake walkway.
7. Check out the Classics Car Museum
For the classic car fanatics in your family you can’t miss the Classics Car Museum in Railside Place in Hamilton which has over 100 classic cars including Belair, Bugatti, Auburn and Cadillac cars. They also have an impressive collection of petrol memorabilia including signs and petrol pumps. You family will love the retro 1950s themed Jukebox Diner which is open the same hours as the museum.
8. Visit Lake Rotokaeo, Minogue Park playground & the BMX track
Minogue Park is another fun Hamilton playground next to Lake Rotokaeo which is fun to play with and has in-built mini tramps, climbing ropes, slides tunnels, water play and a dual flying foxes. We think the park is more suited to younger children but older kids can have fun too. As it’s close to the lake make sure you keep an eye on your littlies.
The Hamilton BMX tracks and club are next to the playground and Lake Rotokaeo. The track is suitable for all ages of children, including those from 2 years and up on balance and pedal bikes. The track is open to the public to use when there are no club events on.
9. Go swimming at Waterworld Te Rapa
Waterworld Te Rapa is a large swimming complex with 6 pools just off Te Rapa Straight in Hamilton. Enjoy the 25m children’s pool, toddler pool, 50m lane swimming pool, 4.6 metre dive pool, outdoor lido pool, splash pad, hydroslides plus the outdoor playground and barbeque area. Note the outdoor pool and splashpad are only open during summer.
10. See the hot air Balloons above Waikato
Balloons over Waikato is a FREE hot air balloon festival held in early Autumn for five days. The event has been voted six times as the Best Waikato Event by the public of Hamilton, and is a Must Do in the Waikato events calendar.
The festival attracts balloonists from New Zealand and the world and spectators can enjoy the amazing site of balloons ascending over the Waikato.
11. Visit Temple View Legacy Park
Legacy Park was created in remembrance of the Church Labour Missionaries for families recreation and enjoyment. Kids will enjoy exploring the boardwalk path through the mature trees and alongside marshland. You can’t use bikes, skateboards at the park and dogs must be kept on leash. The boardwalks are smooth and flat which make them ideal for buggies and for wheelchairs.
There is yet another fun playground for the kids to enjoy with two large slides.
12. Take a minature train ride at Hamilton Model Engineers
On Sunday mornings and afternoon the Hamilton Model Engineers operate miniature train rides that go through tunnels and over bridges on two tracks in Minogue Park. You can check to see if they are running on the Hamilton Model Engineers Facebook page.
Nearby is the Minogue Park playground and also Waterworld for a full day of fun.
13. Pick-your-own lavender straight from the farm in summer
Lavender Backyard Garden is a small, family owned lavender and blueberry farm in Newstead, Hamilton.
For just 2 months each year in December and January you can take your family to pick your own lavender. Plus from December to January you can also pick your own blueberries.
14. Discover The Sculpture Park at Waitakaruru Arboretum
The Sculpture Park at Waitakaruru Arboretum is about 15kms east of Hamilton is a 17.5 hectare arboretum with more than 20,000 trees from around the world. The kids will enjoy discovering more than 100 New Zealand made sculptures and installations along the 2km trail. This art-in-nature experience aims to inspire imaginations, nourish inquisitive minds, and provide for creative learning in an accessible wilderness environment. There is no cafe onsite, but you are welcome to take a picnic to enjoy.
The park is only open by appointment so you need to book before you visit.
15. Try to escape from an Escape Room
16. Go skate boarding at Melville Skatepark
Older kids will enjoy the skatepark, playing basketball and climbing on the playground at Melville Park.
17. Visit the Hamilton Farmers Market
The Hamilton Farmers’ Market is an authentic farmers market as all of the vendors either make or grow the food that they sell. The market is indoors so it goes ahead every Sunday morning in Claudelands whether it is fine or raining. It’s a great spot to go to pick up some fresh, local and handmade food to enjoy in a picnic lunch later that day or to stock up on supplies for your holiday in Hamilton if you are visiting for a weekend away.
18. Go strawberry picking and have lunch at Punnet eatery
You can pick your own fresh berries in summer at The Strawberry Farm run by the McMahon family (subject to the strawberry seasons availability). If you are visiting in winter you will have to skip the strawberry picking but it is definitely still worth a visit for lunch at Punnet and a play on the fun playground for kids with life sized wooden aeroplanes, helicopters, and more to entertain them for hours. If you are visiting in the school holidays they have cooking activities you can book the kids in for on selected days too.
19. Go for a walk at Lake Ngaroto
Visit one of Waikato’s popular natural wetlands for a 90 minute easy flat walk around the lake which is between Hamilton and Te Awamutu. The trail is fine to use a buggy if you have little ones. You won’t see the lake for most of the walk so you are better to refer to this as a bush walk to the kids so they don’t end up disappointed. Be warned parts of the walk can get wet in winter so you may want to bring your gumboots. And if you go in summer take the sunscreen and a sunhat for the kids as there is not alot of shade. Dogs must be kept on lead.
20. Check out Dominion Park
Another fun playground in the Nawton neighbourhood in West Hamilton. There are fun climbing towers, giant slides and sand and water play. There is a family BBQ area and toilets.
21. Visit theTaitua Arboretum
See the native plants and mature trees spread across the 22 hectares of beautiful landscape with lakes, woodland gardens, bird life and family picnic spots at Taitua Arboretum. There are lots of different walks so those of you with little ones will still be able to find one to suit. Kids will enjoy being greeted by the free roaming chickens in the park. Bikes aren’t allowed, so leave them at home. It is a good idea to make sure your family has comfortable walking shoes on as some of the paths are steep. You can bring your dog along for a walk, but they must be kept on a lead at all times.
22. Visit Duck Island Ice Cream and Steele Park playground
Steele Park playground is on the corner of Cooke and Grey street in Hamilton East and is surround by the beautiful oak trees. There is a fun birds nest roundabout, stepping poles, and kakapo climbing structure.
Duck Island‘s flagship ice cream store is on Grey Street next to the playground and has 24 flavours of yummy ice cream, including dairy free and gluten free options plus this Hamilton store also sell tacos, sandwiches and coffee. There is also one more Duck Island Ice Cream store in Riverbank Lane in Central Hamilton.
23. Visit the Potter's Children Garden at Parana Park and Memorial Park
Parana Park has a children’s kowhai themed playground. There is a kowhai seed fountain, kowhai flower shaped slide and kowhai leaf viewing platform that looks over the Waikato River. Kids will fun playing in the small playhouse, watching the birds in the aviary and there is a small amphitheatre. Fun neighbourhood playground next door to Duck Island Ice Cream which we love.
Memorial Park was established as a WW1 memorial and the original trees were planted for the fallen soldiers from Hamilton. Keep a look out for the 300kg life sized War Horse sculpture in the park that honours the 18,000 New Zealand horses deployed with Kiwi troops in the South African War and World War One.
24. Go drift car racing
Challenge your family to a drift karting race of parents against the children at Blastacars. If you haven’t tried a drift kart before they are different for go-karts as they are hand crafted, powerful karts that drift on purpose built, indoor tracks. Kids need to be 8 years old and at least 1.2 meters tall to go drift karting. There are safe “kids” speed for first time riders plus booster seats available.
25. Take the family out for dinner
Hamilton has lots of good cafes and restaurants. However one of our family favourites is Joe’s Garage. Situated in Byrce Street in the centre of town, they have gourmet burgers, great coffee and kids meals and are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you are in Hamilton on a Friday night then you should check out the Hamilton Night Market which is at The Base on the Corner of Te Rapa Road and The Base Parade too.