Hamilton & Waikato

Surfing, glow worms and hobbits

Hamilton & Waikato

Surfing, glow worms and hobbits

With lush and fertile rural pastures, Hamilton & Waikato is the farming heartland of the North Island. The Kaimai mountain range to the east, the majestic Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest, at its heart and the Tasman Sea to the west all make for a diverse landscape that’s filled with adventure.

Hamilton Waikato region marker

Located just over one and a half hours south of Auckland, Hamilton is the main centre and an excellent base from which to explore the region. Heading south from Auckland on the Thermal Explorer Highway you may be tempted to head straight through to Ruapehu and the hugely popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing. But you’d be missing out on a few unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else in New Zealand.

Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from Hamilton.

Driving times

  • Auckland to Hamilton: 125 km / 78 miles – 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Hamilton to Raglan: 45 km / 28 miles – 50 minutes
  • Hamilton to Waitomo: 75 km / 47 miles – 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Hamilton to Matamata (for Hobbiton): 60 km / 37 miles – 50 minutes
  • Hamilton to Rotorua: 105 km / 65 miles – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Hamilton to Taupo: 150 km / 93 miles – 2 hours

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

The Northern Explorer runs southbound from Auckland on Monday, Thursday and Saturday departing at 7:45 am and arriving in Hamilton at 10:14 am. From Hamilton, this service continues south towards National Park (for Tongariro National Park), terminating in Wellington.

Hamilton Airport is 15-20 mins from central city via taxi, shuttle bus or public transport.

  • Palmerston North (PMR) to Hamilton (HLZ): 50 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Hamilton (HLZ): 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Christchurch (CHC) to Hamilton (HLZ): 1 hour 45 minutes

Note that there are no direct flights between Auckland and Hamilton.

Summer days (December – February) can be hot and often humid but the average high is around 23 °C / 73.4 °F and average low is 12 °C / 53.6 °F. In winter (June – August) the average high is 14 °C / 57.2 °F and average low is 5 °C / 41 °F. But don’t let these averages fool you. Early morning frosts after calm, clear nights can make things beautiful but pretty chilly. Morning fog in winter is also common but usually lifts to reveal a crisp sunny day.

Check current conditions and get the latest Hamilton weather forecast on MetService.com.

While there’s not much you can do about the weather once you’re here, it’s worth knowing what to expect at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. These two articles are well worth reading:

Top things to do in Hamilton & Waikato

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Hamilton & Waikato region.

Visit Raglan Beach

Raglan is without a doubt surf central having three of New Zealand’s 19 surf breaks of national significance. This west coast black sand beach is world renowned and Manu Bay has one of the longest left-hand breaks in the world. Whale Bay and Indicators are the more challenging breaks while Ngarunui (Ocean) Beach is better suited to beginners and a great place to learn to surf. It’s not all about surfing though. Raglan has a tranquil harbour perfect for kayaking and stand up paddleboarding and there’s a local ‘secret’ in store for those willing to explore.

Raglan Pancake Rocks

See glow worms at Waitomo Caves

Millions of years old and filled with dramatic limestone formations, Waitomo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand. While there are over 300 known caves in the area, a number of them are commercially operated and offer everything from guided walks to gentle boat rides through caverns filled with a blue ‘starlight’ canopy of glow worms. For the more adventurous there’s black water rafting on inflated rubber tubes, abseiling and zip-lining.

Waitomo tubing

Visit the Hobbiton Movie Set

Ok, so a visit to a movie set doesn’t exactly sound like an outdoor adventure. But of you’re a fan of the Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movies, you really should go and visit the Hobbiton Movie Set. Located on picturesque private farmland near Matamata, the set is exactly as it appeared in the movies. There are daily guided tours through Bag End and you can also visit The Green Dragon and try some exclusively brewed Southfarthing beer.

If you’re in the area and looking for something a little more physical to do, consider walking to the top of Wairere Falls.