Dial-Up Summer With 10 Of The Best Things To Do In Hamilton

Surrealist gardens at Hamilton Gardens.

If there’s one way to make our favourite season even better, this is it.

Words by: Jess Willemse

Photography by: Anna Briggs 

Summer is a season that gives us warm fuzzies—and not just because we’re melting from the sweltering heat. It’s filled with the things we love; long evenings spent sipping cocktails or cheeky trips to the ice cream shop. Guaranteed good vibes all around. 

So we’re helping you crank up the serotonin with our list of all the best things to do in Hamilton when it’s hot out. You’ll find old faves like picnicking in the Hamilton Gardens through to creative fixes like the street art scene. What are you waiting for? Slap on your SPF and get to it.  

Exterior of Hayes Common in Hamilton.

Dine Under The Stars

There’s no better way to celebrate the change in seasons than with an aperitivo under the stars. Outdoor dining is a-plenty in Hamilton, with bars and restaurants ready to make good on your sundowner needs. Make tracks to Gothenburg and for a taste of the lush life—think abundant greenery, comfortable seating and ample shade umbrellas. Catch neighbourhood vibes at Hayes Common, or nab a spot at Banh Mi Caphe or Mr. Pickles for a riverside moment. Expect bar snacks, people watching, and a cool summer breeze—we’ll see you there.

Casabella Lane in Hamilton.

Meander Magical Laneways

There’s something enchanting about stumbling into a laneway off the beaten path. Hamilton East’s Lovegrove Lane is a one-stop-shop for all things good for your soul. Known for its welcoming mural, lavish greenery and relaxed independent operators, we’re all about the wholesome vibes. Or head on over to Riverbank Lane for cafés, bars, hairdressers, and even a tattoo studio. Other notable mentions go to Casabella Lane and Barton Street, two charming spots offering the perfect spot to soak up the bustling CDB. Somewhat tucked away, these unsuspecting spots embody the best of what the city has to offer.

Beers at Bootleg Brewery in Hamilton.

Brewery Hop Across Hamilton

If there’s one thing Hamiltonians know how to do well, it’s beer on a scorching hot day. After all, local craft brew icons Good George were born here. Get among the goodness with a brewery tour at their Frankton hub, St George’s Church, or hit up one of their many watering holes around the city. Also on the list is Bootleg Brewery, slinging plenty of well-crafted pints and classic Kiwi bites at their rustic Matangi taproom. Round out your tour with a trip to Brewaucracy over in Te Rapa for an unfussy taste of the good stuff including ESBs, amber ales, IPAs and more.

Get Lost In Hamilton Gardens

Stay and explore key icon.

Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton East, Hamilton

Skip your regular picnic spot and spend a day discovering the whimsy and wonder of Hamilton Gardens. A level–or three–above your typical botanical garden, there’s plenty to keep you busy. From the show-stopping Paradise collection of international gardens to the immersive Fantasy landscapes, it truly is like stepping into another world. After you’ve worked up an appetite, pull up at one of the many picturesque picnic spots, throw down your rug and eat away the afternoon.

Lovegrove Lane mural painted on the side of warehouse in Hamilton.

Add Hamilton East To The Agenda

Hamilton East

A summer day spent in Hamilton East is nothing short of pure bliss. Foodies will be welcome with drool-worthy spots like Grey Street Kitchen and Hayes Common serving up some of the finest fare around town. It’s also home to the original Duck Island outpost, proudly dishing up decadent scoops from the corner of Grey Street and Cook Street. Add in a bit of shopping at the likes of Lovegrove Lane, Recycle Boutique and The Flower Crate for an outing that will surely fill your cup.

Close up of strawberries on plant by Henry & Co.

Celebrate The Season With Berry Picking

Instantly transport yourself back to childhood by hitting up Hamilton’s pick-your-own berry farms. Ruakura Berry Farm have all the strawberry lovers covered, and we hear they dish up a pretty wicked real fruit ice cream. Whatawhata Berry Farm, on the other hand, offers a range of treats to pick across the seasons, including strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries and cherries. If that doesn’t sound like one hell of a pavlova topping, we don’t know what does.

Jetty on Waikato river in Hamilton.

Soak Up The Riverside

You don’t need to go far to get a taste of what New Zealand’s longest river has to offer. Running straight through the centre of Hamilton, the Waikato River is a haven for outdoor lovers looking to get their fix this summer. Lace up your sneakers and take to the river trails accessible from many hot spots like Hamilton Gardens, Memorial Park, and Munro’s Walkway. Turn things up a notch and hire an e-bike from the team at River Riders to get the full experience (minus the sweaty workout).

Flowers for sale at a farmer's market.

Fill Up Your Tote At Waikato Farmers Market

Claudelands Event Centre, Hamilton

Nothing says summer break like spending a lazy weekend morning wandering around a farmers market. Luckily, Hamilton foodies can feed their souls and tastebuds by backing local producers and artisans at the Waikato Farmers Market. Catch the stalls at Cambridge on Saturday or at Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton on Sunday. Here, the delicious options are endless, whether you’re into organic produce or down for handcrafted pastries. Our advice? Bring a big tote bag, you’ll need it.

Graffiti art in Hamilton.

Scope Out Street Art

Dose up on creativity by taking a DIY walking tour of Hamilton’s street art spots. Thanks to the annual Boon Street Art Festival, the local scene is thriving, with works from up-and-coming and more well-known artists painting the city. Some of our fave spots for scouting street art include Lovegrove Lane, Grey Street, Victoria Street and Liverpool Street. The latter is home to 10 new murals from recent street art festivals.

Cream Eatery in Hamilton.

Fill Your Tum With Summer Bites

Narrowing down Hamilton’s foodie scene to the best bites is a challenging feat. Still, we’ve got you covered with all the best places to grab a quick bite, hearty meal, lavish cocktail or coffee around the town. Top picks for a summer treat go to Cream Eatery’s signature chilli fried eggs or Banh Mi Caphe’s colourful cocktail list. Of course, we can’t forget the local legends over at Duck Island because ice cream is categorically the best thing about summer.


In partnership with Hamilton Central Business Association and Hamilton & Waikato Tourism

Neat Hamilton Places

Wonder Horse

Cocktail in the making at Wonder Horse, Hamilton.
Place Hamilton
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The place for good chats, group hangs or after dinner drinks.

The Lost Boys

Outside of The Lost Boys, Hamilton.
Place Hamilton
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A café tucked away in the back streets of Frankton.

Space Cadet

Wall art and curiosities on the shelf on the bright blue wall at Space Cadet, Hamilton.
Place Hamilton
Cafes key icon.

A thriving cafe that feels like a retro holiday.

Grey Street Kitchen

Waiter puts burger on the table at Grey Street Kitchen, Hamilton.
Place Hamilton
Cafes key icon.

An East Hamilton community favourite.