Say what you like about Hamilton, it’s got some pretty nice parks. I’ve just been for a walk along the east side of the river, passing through Parana Park, Memorial Park and Hayes Paddock and, I have to say, I was impressed.
It was great walking by the river, seeing the city centre along the opposite bank, separated from the water by trees. There are always people rowing on the river. To have such a peaceful stroll in such an urban area is something special. It made me feel good about moving to Hamilton.
But the parks would be impressive even without the Waikato River. Well, Memorial Park and Parana Park would be, anyway. Hayes Paddock is nothing special, but it does have an adult fitness trail – various pieces of free public exercise equipment placed at points on either side of the path.
Walking through Memorial Park and Parana Park just made me smile. They’re right by each other, so it’s one big park really. Memorial Park, of course, has a war memorial, but it also has a Spitfire. Just casually in the middle of the park.
It’s quite enlightening walking around, as there are a few signs explaining the history of both parks, contributing to my education in the history of Hamilton as a whole. There’s also a preserved Victorian gunship, which brought Hamilton’s earliest European settlers up the river in 1864.
Memorial Park has a beautiful flower garden. The colours were so bright – I suppose I was lucky to see it for the first time at this time of year. The benches in it looked so inviting, as did the cool colonnaded area behind it. I love grottos like this!
I also love stone bridges. One connects Memorial Park to Parana Park, over a little stream. I followed the stream, accompanied by a mother duck with ducklings in tow. There are a few charming pathways through the trees. It’ll take another visit to the park to find them all.
The best thing about Parana Park is the Potter Children’s Garden. It isn’t just a playground. It’s wonderful. It even has an aviary with exotic birds chirping away inside it. There’s a big, multi-sectioned paddling pool with running water, an amphitheatre, a playhouse, balancing beams…
And it all looks so nice, complete with a fancy lookout platform over the river. There are even a couple of little tunnels that look like hobbit holes. I kinda get the feeling that was done deliberately. Waikato is the home of Hobbiton, after all. (I went there last year. It was AWESOME.)
Waikato has some great places to visit. Hamilton itself isn’t exactly a dream holiday destination, but if you’re passing through and you don’t have hours to explore the incredible Hamilton Gardens, you could stop a while in Memorial/Parana Park. Especially if you have kids.
You can’t park a campervan overnight there, unfortunately – in fact, a look at the Rankers map has just shown me that you can’t camp for free anywhere in Hamilton. (Unlike in Tauranga, for example.) There are free spots in Ngaruawahia, though, and that’s only a little way outside Hamilton. Better than nothing.
Hey – there’s another slogan for you, Hamilton: ‘Better than nothing.’ (Hamilton has an amusing history of failed slogans, including ‘More than you expect’ and ‘City of the Future’. There is currently no slogan. I think they’ve given up.)