Discover the best things to do in Hamilton with kids – as written by a local. Best of all, they’re all free or low-cost, so are the perfect addition to your family-friendly plans.
Locals know that Hamilton is filled with seemingly endless summer days, accompanied by the deafening chorus of cicadas.
It’s a place where you’ll find things like the iconic Riff Raff statue in the middle of town, an eclectic market filled with antiques and food trucks, and of course, the famed Hamilton Gardens. There is so much to do in Hamilton.
But it’s also a great place for curious kids to learn about the world around them and to burn off some energy while gaining confidence in their skills.
Families enjoy living in Hamilton – providing the perfect balance of city convenience and the great outdoors.
Ranging from free to a small entry fee, here’s our list of affordable family activities in Hamilton!
The best things to do in Hamilton with kids
1. Picnic at Hamilton Gardens
It’s well-known, but for good reason. Hamilton Gardens really is the jewel of Hamilton on a sunny day.
With over 54 hectares of trails and walks to explore, it’s the perfect place to run off some excess energy, take some great photos and best of all, it’s completely free!
Swing by the nature-themed playground by the Gate 2 entrance (off Cobham Drive) or download one of the activity sheets below to keep the kids busy:
Hamilton Gardens has four toilets and changing facilities scattered throughout, and wide paths which make it ideal for buggies.
If you’re in need of a break, there’s the ever-popular Hamilton Gardens Café which overlooks the picturesque lake and is open every day until 5 pm (although the kitchen closes at 2.30 pm so get your order in before then).
Or if you’d rather throw down a picnic mat, there’s plenty of open grassy space around Turtle Lake—including the hungry ducks that know exactly when to turn up.
Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton 3216
2. Cycle along the Waikato River
While the Waikato River stretches for 425km, you can enjoy the river in far smaller chunks by joining one of the many walking and cycling tracks along it.
The Te Awa River Ride spans 65km as it winds from Ngaruawahia down to Lake Karapiro, earning it the achievement of being the longest concrete path in the country.
Not only is it bicycle and stroller friendly, the path is also an easy, beginner-friendly way for kids to master their cycling skills.
The well-connected paths are very popular amongst locals, with many entry and exit points dotted around the city and beyond.
This means you can pick and choose the distance that suits your family best – there’s definitely no need to ride/walk the whole thing.
To prepare in advance, you might like to download a map of the track. Or, just play it by ear – you really can’t get lost.
Did you know? Biking etiquette is very important when sharing a popular path. Make sure to ride at a safe speed and either ring a bell or call out to pedestrians ahead of you.
3. Explore Waikato Museum
Waikato Museum is perched on the banks of the mighty Waikato River, right by the edge of Hamilton city centre. Jam-packed with a revolving door of world-renowned educational and cultural exhibitions, it’s the ideal place to spend a rainy afternoon with your whānau.
There’s plenty for curious kids to explore at the interactive science gallery, Exscite, plus activity sheets that can be found at the information desk as you enter.
The museum is also right next to the art gallery, ArtsPost, if you’re looking to pickup something to remember your trip by.
Entry is free, except for certain special exhibitions, and parking is easy with dedicated car parks behind ArtsPost.
1 Grantham Street, Hamilton Central, Hamilton 3204
4. Visit a destination playground
Unless you’re a smaller-than-average adult, these playgrounds are sure to make you feel jealous that you can’t join in yourself!
Hare Puke Park
First, there’s the eel-themed playground, Hare Puke, which won New Zealand’s ‘Playground of the Year’ in 2019 when it first opened.
With an incredible play net and slide combo, trampoline, sandpit, plenty of swings and a scooter track, there are heaps for kids of all ages to enjoy.
The playground also features picnic tables, accessible toilets and shade sails, plus a large car park nearby for easy parking.
Hare Puke Drive, Flagstaff, Hamilton 3281
Lake Domain Playground
We also recommend you head to Hamilton Lake Domain in the heart of the town for a relaxing 1-hour walk around the tranquil (but also hazardous, so no swimming!) Lake Rotoroa.
It’s hard to miss the sprawling treetop-themed playground as you enter Lake Domain.
Situated right next to Veranda Café, the playground is spread out over several sections, each connected by accessible ramps.
It features all the classics, plus a few interesting water play features too.
Ruakiwi Road, Hamilton Lake, Hamilton 3204
5. Wander through the Sculpture Park at Waitakaruru Arboretum
Towards the east of the Waikato region lies Waitakaruru Arboretum, a secluded arboretum with over 20,000 trees from all around the world.
This 17.5-hectare park features a 2km long walk through the tamed wilderness and is dotted with more than 100 sculptures and installations.
The sculptures, often rather thought-provoking, are all made in New Zealand and highlight the sustainability of nature and art. They’re sure to be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Go on a self-guided tour, with a very affordable entry fee of $5 for 5-14 years olds and $15 for ages 15+.
Alternatively, you can even join in one of their family games that will take you on a problem-solving adventure through the park.
Bookings can be made online in advance.
207 Scotsman Valley Road, Tauwhare 3287
6. greet the animals at Hamilton Zoo
The zoo is a chance to get up close and personal with wildlife that you don’t usually get to see in Aotearoa.
With over 600 exotic and native animals, plus the country’s largest free-flight aviary, Hamilton Zoo is an engaging way to learn more about conservation and endangered species.
You’ll find educational zoo keeper talks that pop up over the course of the day and heaps of interactions and activities that make a visit perfect for kids.
When you’re starting to get a little peckish, there’s the Everyday Eatery café, which is available from both inside and outside the zoo.
If you’ve come armed with a picnic though, there are also plenty of tables strewn around. Be aware though, these are first-come, first-serve basis.
We recommend setting aside at least 2.5 – 3 hours to fully explore each nook and cranny.
Entry for adults is $26, while children are $12. Ages 3 and under are free.
183 Brymer Road, Rotokauri, Baverstock 3289
7. Hop on a model train
Ever wanted to ride around on a miniature train?
Every Sunday from between 10.30 am and 3 pm, you’ll find members of the Hamilton Model Engineers club firing up their engines and giving rides around the track at Minogue Park (weather permitting, of course).
Run by an amazing crew of volunteers, tickets cost a grand total of $2 per person and all funds go back to the running and maintenance of the trains.
If you’re planning to pay them a visit, make sure you check their Facebook page for any weather updates and come prepared with covered shoes.
Minogue Park Tui Avenue, Forest Lake, Hamilton 3200
Other attractions at Minogue Park
Towards the south end of Minogue Park, you will also find a popular playground with mini trampolines, flying foxes, water features, and more. However, it is rather close to the nearby Lake Rotokaeo, so keep an eye out for any little ones.
It is also next to the Hamilton BMX Club which is available to the public to use when there are no club events.
6 Moore Street, Forest Lake, Hamilton 3200
8. Pick your own berries — and ice cream!
What is better than picking a bucket of juicy berries and rewarding your hard work with real fruit ice cream?
Of course, berry-picking is limited to the seasons, but it’s well worth making a mental note of the season! Picking is best between November and February.
The Waikato region is ripe with pick-your-own berry farms and orchards, but here are some of our favourites:
- The Strawberry Farm: Located in Tamahere, this charming farm is attached to the famous Punnet Eatery. Plus it has a small playground to keep the little ones entertained as you browse their fantastic homeware and specialty food store. 337 Newell Road, Tamahere 3283.
- Ruakura Berry Farm: Now the largest pick-your-own strawberry farm in the Waikato, they also offer some of the best mixed-berry ice creams around. The farm is handily located by the elegant Camarosa which heroes quality local ingredients. 11 Davison Road, Newstead 3286.
- Tauwhare Berry Farm: Here you can find a wide selection of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries ripe for plucking. They also have an array of quality produce, available at very reasonable prices. 487 Tauwhare Road, Matangi 3284.
Pro tip: Picking your own fruit can be hard work under the blistering sun so we recommend turning up armed with sunblock and a hat to protect your neck.
9. take a leap at Ninja Valley
This is one of the pricier options on this list but we’ve included it because it’s a dream come true for kids!
They call themselves the ultimate playground, which is not a surprise with 65 trampoline-based activities including two ninja courses, a high ropes course, a ball pit and plenty more.
Not only is this a great place to train balancing and climbing skills, it also provides a safe place for your kids to boost their confidence while burning off energy.
And best of all, you can either join in the fun or sit back and relax at the café upstairs.
Considering all of the different facilities on offer, we think a visit to Ninja Valley is still really reasonable value for money.
Advance bookings are encouraged.
11 Norton Road, Frankton, Hamilton 3204
10. Save the date
If you’re after something a little different for your family, you’ll be spoiled for choice at one of the many events taking place in Hamilton.
From things like the annual Balloons Over Waikato festival that draws crowds from across the country and weekly markets offering international cuisine, artisanal goods and the freshest produce, to adrenaline-pumping sports matches and plenty more, there’s something for the whole family to love.
Check out the event line-up of upcoming events in Hamilton to find out what’s on.
Which of the above suggestions would your whānau enjoy the most?