March is a great time to visit Hamilton. There's the Balloons Over Waikato Festival, the Waikato Times Food and Wine Festival and the popular Summer of Cricket event. There's also the Turangawaewae Annual Regatta, which has been running for over a century, and features live entertainment, rides, food stalls and the traditional war canoe parade. Don't worry if you can't make it in March – there's plenty to see and do any time of the year. Your first stop should definitely be the Waikato Museum, which displays the cultural heritage of Hamilton and the Waikato region. After that, you can take a stroll around Hamilton Gardens. This collection of gardens is unique because it focuses on design and atmosphere, rather than just botany. You can wander through various types of gardens, such as Japanese, Chinese, English, Italian Renaissance, Indian and tropical. If you're on a family holiday, make sure to take the kids for a day out at Hamilton Zoo, where they will see a herd of rare white rhinos, watch the cheetah run, laugh with the lemurs and be amazed by the red panda.
Hamilton is well known for its cafe culture and lively bar scene. What many people don't know is that, just 10 minutes from Hamilton, is New Zealand's only tea farm, Zealong's Gordonton Tea Estate. Here, you can kick back, relax and sip a cup of tea whilst looking out over the vast field of tea leaves, or even sit down at a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Once you've fuelled up on tea – or coffee – you can get ready to hit the streets and wander through the shops. Hamilton is home to some of the top fashion designers in New Zealand, so you'll find some great threads in the boutique stores. There are also lots of galleries in Hamilton, where you can pick up some one-of-a-kind pieces from local artists. If markets are more your style, there's the Frankton Market on Saturday mornings and the Farmers' Market on Sunday mornings.
Hamilton airport is only 15 minutes from the centre of town. There are plenty of airport shuttle buses, so getting to your hotel shouldn't be a problem. There's a free bus service that goes around the CBD, every 10 minutes, and you can also jump aboard the affordable buses and trains to explore other parts of Hamilton. If you hire a car, you can take a drive to Hobbiton (the town where many of the scenes from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were set), which is only 46km away. So, for a fun yet relaxing holiday, book your flights and your Hamilton accommodation now.