On the banks of the languid green Waikato River, New Zealand’s fourth-largest city, HAMILTON, functions as a regional hub rather than a major tourist destination, but it’s within striking distance of some of the North Island’s top spots, such as the surf beaches of Raglan and Waitomo Caves, as well as Auckland, 127km north. It’s worth devoting some time to the excellent Waikato Museum and the tranquil Hamilton Gardens.

Everything of interest in Hamilton is either along or just off the main drag, Victoria Street, which parallels the west bank of the tree-lined Waikato River. One of more striking buildings is the 1924 Wesley Chambers (now Le Grand hotel) on the corner of Collingwood Street, influenced by the buildings of boomtime Chicago. Diagonally opposite, a small open space is graced by a statue of the English-born Rocky Horror Show creator, Richard O’Brien – decked out as Riff Raff, the role he played in the film of the show – who spent his teens and early twenties in Hamilton visiting science fiction double features.

In mid-June, the annual four-day Fieldays festival (w fieldays.co.nz) is held at Mystery Creek Events Centre just outside the city. The largest agricultural field day in the southern hemisphere, it’s a quintessentially Kiwi event with everything from sheep shearing to ploughing contests plus lots of entertainment, mostly with a rural tenor.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

How to find the right New Zealand for you

How to find the right New Zealand for you

While it may not loom large on the world map, New Zealand feels incredibly vast and imposing on the ground, especially to those who try to visit the North and S…

23 May 2016 • Eric Grossman insert_drive_file Article
Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks are dotted with wildlife and beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every co…

07 Mar 2016 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
Video: the world's friendliest cities

Video: the world's friendliest cities

Which cities are going to welcome you with open arms? Where will the locals be likely to buy you a beer, and who's going to invite you in for tea when it's cold…

10 Oct 2014 • Rough Guides Editors videocam Video
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month