We’ve lived in Hamilton nearly three years now and our Auckland friends still mock us for it. In all honesty, though, it’s a great place to be. Here’s a list of my top ten favourite spots around the city:
10) Down by the river
Hamilton straddles the Waikato River, which, on sunny days, actually looks quite pretty. Extensive pathways adorn both banks, which make for very pleasant walks (and bike rides.) I love having somewhere so peaceful right next to the central business district.
9) Embassy Park, a.k.a. the one with the Rocky Horror statue in it
One of the many paths that leads from Hamilton’s main street down to the river goes through Embassy Park. It’s where the Embassy Theatre used to be, which is where Richard O’Brien, the creator of The Rocky Horror Show, saw his first drag act. There’s a statue of him – well, Riff Raff – as well as a rather quirky public toilet. (It lights up and makes noise when you activate the ‘transducer’… I had a lot of fun with it when I was pissed.) There’s also a sign on the wall telling you how to do the Time Warp. And gargoyles. And a resident population of stray cats.
8) La Cave
This is a shop out in Hillcrest that does imported French food. Cheese, wine, pâté, truffle oil… and baked goods… Heaven, really.
7) The Gouda Cheese Shop
I am obsessed with cheese. There was no way the Dutch cheese shop wouldn’t make it onto a list of my favourite places in Hamilton. It has two branches, one near La Cave and one in Rototuna. They sell both local and imported cheese, as well as Dutch confectionary. You can sample the cheese before you buy it, of course.
6) Casabella Lane
Hidden amongst Hamilton’s not-so-attractive streets is this adorable, desperately-trying-to-be-European lane. It has fountains and wall foliage and interesting little shops, and I wish there were more places in New Zealand like it.
I probably wouldn’t spend so much time there if it wasn’t for a certain delightful little bookshop called Poppies.
5) Victoria Street Bistro
This is my favourite restaurant, and not just in Hamilton. I love the food so much it’s becoming a tradition to go there for my birthday. It’s in the middle of Hamilton’s main street.
4) The Meteor Theatre
At the top of Victoria Street, this unpretentious theatre has become an important part of my life. I’ve performed in quite a few plays there and witnessed its transformation from a bit shabby to pretty neat. There’s always something interesting on, so if you want to see some original theatre for cheap, check it out.
3) Memorial Park
The first time I explored Memorial Park, I was blown away by how nice it was and continue to be impressed. I wrote more about it in Exploring Hamilton’s Parks.
2) The Italian Renaissance Garden in the Hamilton Gardens
I’ve written so much about the Hamilton Gardens, because they really are wonderful. It’s hard to choose a favourite garden, but I do love sitting on the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ balcony in the Italian Renaissance Garden.
Yes. My number one favourite place in Hamilton is a secondhand bookshop. It’s one of the best in the country. (I’ve been to a few!) It has a really cool feel to it and it’s open until 9.30pm on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. If you’re a bibliophile, make it your mission to seek it out on Victoria Street.