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.)

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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