Hamilton’s Historic Estate

Woodlands Historic Homestead

Need help finding things to do in Hamilton, New Zealand? Probably. At first glance, it can seem like the only place worth visiting in Hamilton is the Gardens. At second glance, you have to concede that the zoo is a great place to go in Hamilton as well. Then you’ve got the museum, Taitua Arboretum, Memorial Park and the lake. Admittedly, after that you’re beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel. We’ve lived in Hamilton for two years and we’re rapidly running out of new things to see. We have to keep visiting relatives entertained somehow!

Last weekend, however, we visited somewhere we’d never been before, Woodlands Historic Homestead and Gardens. It’s about fifteen minutes by car from the centre of Hamilton, in a village called Gordonton. (By the looks of things, it won’t be a village much longer. In a few years, it’ll be swallowed up by the growing city and become just another suburb.) We were pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. I mean it’s not amazing or anything, but we’ve definitely found a new place in Hamilton to take our families.

Woodlands EstateWhen we arrived at Woodlands, we were greeted by the sight of uniformed children playing cricket on the lawn. How very English, wot! Also, in the carpark, there was a rustic stall selling produce from the gardens. Things already looked promising. We decided to look around the house first. This usually costs $5, but in the summer holidays it’s just $2. That day we got in for free, as we couldn’t go upstairs. (They were preparing for a wedding. Because of course they were preparing for a wedding.) Going around the gardens is free, but there is a box for donations.

Woodlands Estate SofaIt was by no means the most impressive historic house I’ve been around – not even in New Zealand. It was nice enough, though, and there was a big book you could flip through, explaining the history of the place. (The house was built in the 1870s.) I fell in love with the sofa, and with the book collection at the opposite end of the sitting room.

“No, we’re not coming back here under cover of darkness to steal books,” Tim said.

He’s such a spoilsport.

There was a mildly interesting little cellar and an old kitchen range. I think I saw some William Morris wallpaper. (Recognising William Morris wallpaper makes you sophisticated, right?) Then we stepped out into the gardens. The grass was still saturated from the spate of storms that still haven’t stopped, but that afternoon the sunlight gave the gardens a heavenly aura. We wove between the hedges and down the path to the pond.

Abby at the Woodlands Estate

The bridge over the pond looked quite magical, especially as we were coming up the driveway. The white ducks appeared to glow in the sunlight. It was a lovely place to just… sit. Or take wedding photographs, I suppose. Speaking of which, we found this beribboned swing waiting for the bride.

Woodlands Estate Wedding Swing

It didn’t take us as long as we’d expected to walk around the gardens, so we decided to check out the onsite café. It’s called Prof’s, and, apparently, there’s a quiz there on Friday nights. (Might be worth going to one of these days. I love quizzes.) We found the café to be beautifully decorated on the inside and the menu to be quite irresistible. Sitting in the café was when we decided that we had to bring our families to Woodlands.

The café seemed to cater very well to children. There was sports equipment outside, and board games and books inside. Everything looked very… civilised. Especially with the cricket going on in the background.

Woodlands Historic GardensSo, if you’re travelling around New Zealand and don’t know what to do in Hamilton, Woodlands Historic Homestead and Gardens is a relaxing place to have lunch, with enough to keep both children and adults entertained for a couple of hours. If you’re on a New Zealand campervan trip, the nearest free camping spot (for self-contained vehicles only) is the carpark at Porritt Stadium.

For more places to see in Hamilton, check out the Hamilton category of this blog. (Yes, Hamilton has its own category now. I do live here, after all.)

Not Just Cows and Chlamydia: My First Impressions of Hamilton

I have now lived in Hamilton for two years. It must be doing something right.

POMS AWAY!

Well, I live in Hamilton now. Never thought I’d say that.

For those of you who don’t live in New Zealand, Hamilton is… well, it’s just one of those places. It’s mercilessly mocked by the rest of the country, perhaps a little unfairly.

Cows and chlamydia – that’s what you think of when someone mentions Hamilton. A boring, low-class place, full of upstart dairy farmers, criminals, druggies and teenage parents.

Of course, it’s not just that. Admittedly, I have witnessed more poverty in Hamilton than in either Auckland Central or Tauranga, and the other day I had to walk past a father bellowing, “I’m gonna f**kin’ smash you, c**t!” at his son. However, despite those two negative experiences, I have to say that, so far, I like Hamilton.

waikatoriver

It’s a nice-looking city. I mean, there’s a big river running through it that has some lovely walkways and parks along its…

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The Best Place to Live in New Zealand

POMS AWAY!

Since moving to New Zealand, I’ve lived in four very different places:

1)Waiuku, a sleepy town south of Auckland,

Waiuku

2)Tauranga, a peaceful city in the Bay of Plenty,

Mount Beach

3)Auckland Central, the busiest part of New Zealand’s busiest city, and

Auckland Rangitoto

4)Hamilton, a city that’s mocked by the rest of the country, but actually has a lot going for it.

HamiltonChristmasTree

I’ve also experienced life out at Bethells Beach, as that’s where my partner’s from. He’d tell you it’s the best place to live in the country hands down, but I’m not so sure. Yes, it’s close to a very beautiful beach and boasts magnificent valley views, but it has its disadvantages too.

The mysterious West Coast (Bethells Beach)

So what is the best place to live in New Zealand? Obviously, I can only speak from my own experience, but someone somewhere might find this useful. I’m going to attempt…

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Springtime for Hamilton Gardens

There’s always something going on at the Hamilton Gardens. The weekend before last there was a model railway exhibition. I wouldn’t have gone to it myself, but my parents were visiting and my dad’s obsessed with trains. His own model railway takes up nearly half a double garage, and he’s started another one in a shed. (Mum wasn’t keen on him building one around the top of their lounge.)

Model Railway

Some of the layouts were quite interesting. I especially enjoyed seeing the ones set in Germany and Austria. They reminded me of my real train journey through Europe. My dad’s layout is based on our hometown in England. Mostly. He’s added a few quirky touches, such as a 1960s police box (or TARDIS) and zombies emerging from a graveyard. It’s really good, actually. The Victorian terraced houses make me nostalgic.

I didn’t find the model railway exhibition nearly as interesting as the gardens themselves, though. I know I go to the gardens a lot, but seeing them in the springtime is something special. I couldn’t resist taking these photos of the Italian Renaissance Garden

Italian Garden, Hamilton, New Zealand

Italian Garden, Hamilton, New Zealand

Italian Garden, Hamilton, New Zealand

Italian Garden, Hamilton, New Zealand

When my dad finally emerged from the exhibition, he wanted to do some geocaching. It’s another obsession of his, albeit a recent one. There were a few hidden caches around the gardens. In one there was a trackable coin that had been all over the world. I followed him with my mum and partner, catching Pokémon on my phone as I went. I wonder if we’ll ever walk around the gardens normally again!

Cute Animals and Hay Fever

Ducklings

“That’s how we know it’s spring,” Tim said as I tried not to sneeze on a duckling. “Cute animals and hay fever.”

I backed away, drawing out one of my carefully rationed tissues. Pollen filled the air like fairy dust, glistening as it swirled around the trees at the Taitua Arboretum. To be fair it wasn’t just hay fever – I was (and still am) fighting off a bad cold.

We were at the arboretum because my parents were visiting. We’d been before, but until now we’d never seen it bathed in sunlight. It was a little bit magical.

arboretum

Fluffy, yellow chicks flurried about in the undergrowth. (We couldn’t believe how many chickens there were, actually!) Fantails flitted coquettishly along the branches. Tui serenaded us from above, ducklings begged us for food, and geese drifted towards us. (Tim has a history with geese; perhaps they sensed this as they drifted away again quite quickly.)

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I felt like a mucus-laden Disney princess. We even found fairy doors on a couple of tree trunks.

doorintrunk

The most magical sight, however, was this.

sunonwater

The photograph doesn’t really capture it, of course: the golden beams of sunlight filtering through the branches; the branches bowing to kiss the surface of the pond; floating leaves forming an illuminated path to the far bank, upon which sits a bench in a sheltered clearing… All rather inviting.

stonecircle

The Taitua Arboretum is a lovely, peaceful place to go for a walk that I imagine would be great for kids. I look forward to visiting it next season. Hopefully I’ll be able to breathe properly then!

Corsets, Clockwork and a Cicada

Steampunk Market in Kihikihi, you say? I’m there!

Kihikihi is a small town half an hour south of Hamilton. I’d never been there before, but I’m very glad I went. The Steampunk Market took place in the old Town Hall, but there were other historic buildings to explore as well. These included one of the loveliest wooden churches I’ve seen in New Zealand!

kihikihi-church

The name Kihikihi means ‘cicada’ – it’s onomatopoeic, you see. There’s a sculpture of a cicada outside the church, observing every car driving in and out of the town. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy walking around the town quite as much as I did.

kihikihi-cicada

The market wasn’t very large, but there were lots of people there and lots of pretty costumes! Of course, there were corsets for sale. And an abundance of jewellery made out of watch cogs. And top hats and goggles and old bits of junk that looked vaguely cool. That’s what steampunk’s all about!

kihikihi-town-hall

Further along the street from the Town Hall, there was a colonial jail and house, which were open for viewing. It was a beautiful day. The white, wooden exteriors gleamed in the sunlight. On the veranda of the house, as there so often is, was an old woman spinning wool.

kihikihi-historic-house

Naturally I dressed up.

kihikihi-church-portrait

I seriously can’t wait until we do another South Island campervan trip, because I want to visit the steampunk capital of New Zealand, Oamaru. Oamaru has a really cool Victorian Precinct selling books, antiques, jewellery and art. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for historic villages closer to home, such as Howick.

kihikihi-historic-house-exterior

With its heritage trail and collection of second-hand shops, including a 1920s shop was unfortunately closed when we were there, Kihikihi might just be worth visiting – on your way down to Waitomo, perhaps?

Top 10 Places to Hunt Pokémon in Hamilton

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of a certain massively successful mobile game called Pokémon Go. Perhaps it made you wish you were living under a rock, but not me. I’m one of those people who purchased a smart phone just to play it, having never owned one before. I’m a child of the ’90s, you see. I played the Game Boy games, collected the cards, and watched the series whenever my parents didn’t turn it off.

Is it a good game? I wouldn’t go that far, but since starting it I’ve been walking approximately fifty kilometres a week. Okay, so maybe I would go that far – I’ve lost three kilos! My epic quest to catch ’em all has led me places I’ve never been before; down streets I’d never otherwise explore. I’ve lived in Hamilton nearly two years and feel I know it better now, all thanks to Pokémon.

So… where are the best spots to catch Pokémon in Hamilton? Here are the top ten places I’ve found:

1) Hamilton Gardens

Of course Hamilton’s best (and practically only) tourist attraction is teeming with Pokémon. The gardens are a joy to walk around anyway – I’ve said so many times before – and now there’s an added bonus.

ChineseGarden

Check out the Hamilton Gardens

2) Hamilton Lake

While perhaps not devastatingly beautiful, Hamilton Lake is a fantastic place to go for walk. The path is perfect the whole way round, and it has a rather impressive playground. Of course, it’s a preferred hangout of water Pokémon.

Pukeko at Hamilton Lake
Check out Hamilton Lake

3) Memorial Park

Memorial Park can be almost as beautiful as the gardens. It – and its immediate neighbour, Parana Park – is absolutely full of Pokémon. I bet it’s never seen so many people in it at once, except during the ANZAC Day dawn service! Parking on the adjacent street has become a nightmare, and someone’s even had the foresight to set up a coffee cart. Some nights, there are hundreds of players wandering back and forth, eyes glued to their phones. It’s a beautiful thing. Rather satisfyingly, the gym in Memorial Park is a Spitfire.

Memorial Park, Hamilton
Check out Memorial Park

4) Along the River

The city of Hamilton is bisected by the Waikato River, and there are paths down both sides that go for miles. This is a great thing for residents of the city – one of the many reasons I love living here – and it’s not bad for Pokémon either. One particularly rich section, I’ve found, lies between the Fairfield and Pukete bridges on the west bank.

5) Garden Place

Garden Place is the city of Hamilton’s main square. The whole city centre’s okay for Pokémon, really, but Garden Place has a high density of PokéStops. You’ll often get lures there at lunchtime.

Garden Place, Hamilton

6) The Waikato Uni campus

I went to the University of Auckland, the students of which have sometimes been known to look down upon the University of Waikato. I was surprised, therefore, to find that the Waikato Uni campus is a lot nicer to walk around than the Auckland Uni campus. There are three lakes and plenty of Pokémon.

7) Victoria Street

This is Hamilton’s main street. Upon it, you’ll find an awesome statue of Riff Raff from Rocky Horror, which is now also a Pokémon gym.

riffraff

8) The Base

This is a huge shopping centre on the edge of Hamilton. The supply of Pokémon here is never-ending.

9) Five Cross Roads

This is just a collection of shops, mostly takeaways, at a roundabout where five roads meet. No reason to go there, really, but I was surprised at the sheer number of Pokémon.

10) Seddon Park

A cricket ground on the edge of the city centre, a walk around the perimeter of Seddon Park can yield great rewards Pokémon-wise. It’s next-door to the small-but-sweet Boyes Park, which has a rather striking feature fountain.

Boyes Park, Hamilton

You might say I’ve got far too much time on my hands, but it doesn’t feel like it! Besides, it’s an interesting way to keep myself fit. Nerds like me need all the encouragement we can get to go outside.

If you’re a fellow Hamiltonian Pokémon trainer, do please share the good spots you’ve found!

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