Hamilton (Kirikiriroa in Maori) is an inland city in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island. The Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river, flows through the middle of the city. This effectively cuts the city in half, with Hamilton West containing the Central Business District and main shopping areas. Hamilton East, among other things, is home to The University of Waikato, resulting in a large student population.
The area now covered by the city was originally the site of a handful of M?ori villages. The city is named after Captain John Charles Fane Hamilton and on the 10th March 2013 a statue was erected in his honour.
Many of the city’s venues and attractions are located on the old Town Belt, including Hamilton Gardens, Waikato Stadium, Seddon Park, Founders Theatre and the Hamilton Lake Domain.
Hamilton Gardens is a group of public gardens in the south of Hamilton owned and managed by Hamilton City Council. They are the Waikato Region’s most popular visitor attraction, attracting 600,000 people and holding over 2,000 events each year.
The gardens present the theme of ‘the story of gardens’ and are divided into the Paradise, Productive, Fantasy, Cultivar and Landscape garden collections.
Hamilton Gardens is located between the bank of the Waikato River and State Highway 1. Entry to the gardens is free, with most gardens open from 7:30am to 6:00pm in winter and 7:00am to 8:00pm in summer.
In the centre of Hamilton Gardens is a convention centre called the Hamilton Gardens Pavilion, a volunteer operated Information Centre, the Turtle Lake Restaurant and the Turtle Lake Café.
The first development of gardens began in the early 1960s at what was then the city’s waste disposal site. The first substantial development, the Rogers Rose Garden, was opened in 1971 in an attempt to block highway development over the site. Since 1982 many newly developed areas have been opened to the public. Additional features of the gardens include a lake walkway and a waterfall outlook.
Many services at the gardens are run by volunteers – including an Information Centre -located centrally in the Lakeside court area.
Previously called the Waikato Museum of Art and History , The Waikato Museum is situated in the south end of the main CBD of Hamilton, where it has been based since 1987. It sits on land gifted to the Hamilton City Council by the Tainui Tribe and there is a strong Tainui presence in the museum. Previously the museum was based in London Street.
The museum has twelve galleries that exhibit long-term and touring exhibitions. Displays include a 200 year old carved Waka Taua (a Maori war canoe, Te Winika), artworks by regional and other New Zealand artists and science exhibits.
Controversy has surrounded the museum, from its inception in 1987, to its continued move towards the new concepts of ‘edutainment’ and interactive exhibits. Presently there is a balance between the different types of exhibits.
Hamilton Zoo is the main zoological garden in the city. It is situated on Brymer Road in the suburb of Rotokauri, on the outskirts of the metropolitan area towards the northwest.
It is owned by the Hamilton City Council, with the Department of Recreation and Welfare handling the day to day running of the site. Hamilton Zoo is the first zoo in New Zealand to become fully accredited by the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria.
The zoo features a number of exhibits, some unique to the zoo: Parrot Court contains Australasian, South American and Indian parrots, including Yellow-bibbed Lory, Blue-and-yellow macaw and the galah cockatoo.
Free Flight Sanctuary is one of the largest free-flight aviaries in the southern hemisphere, housing a variety of native New Zealand birds, while Rainforest Walkway contains South American primates, including black-capped capuchins and cottontop tamarins, Asian siamangs, and two lemur species; ring-tailed lemurs and ruffed lemurs. Other species include Asiatic golden cat, agouti and red panda.
The zoo also has over 200 bird species.
Hamilton Astronomical Society Observatory
Hamilton Astronomical Society’s observatory is located next to the Hamilton Zoo in Brymer Road, to the west of Hamilton City. The Hamilton Astronomical Society was founded in 1933 and is one of New Zealand’s oldest astronomical societies.
The observatory instruments include two radio telescopes (32’/10m and 26’/8m diameter) and a range of optical instruments, including one 24? Classical cassegrain telescope, a 14? and 8? Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and one 12? Dobsonian telescope.
The observatory is open to the public on the first and third Wednesday of every month at 7:30pm (8:30pm during daylight savings).