Bossing a Rainy Day in Hamilton

We are faced with a classic backpacker problem: what to do on a rainy day? Hamilton is famous for its outdoor attractions, such as the Hamilton Gardens and the Zealong Tea Estate (which we did yesterday). But, like any good city, Hamilton has a museum. It would be the biggest crime in the world to not visit a museum on a rainy day!

Hostel cake!

Before we take a stroll into the city, we are first cordially invited to have cake with the staff at Backpackers Central Hamilton for a leaving party. Little do we know that that it would be this same cake that we had seen some girls making in the kitchen the night before, to which Robin had asked: “Is this cake burnt?” Ah, the tact of the French never ceases to amaze. No it wasn’t, Robin. It is delicious!

One of the great things about backpacker hostels is that you meet people from all over the world. Around our cake-gorging table we have Spanish, German, Danish, South Korean, Kiwi and us, French and English. The guys here at Backpackers Central Hamilton are a friendly and welcoming bunch. We definitely get good vibes in this hostel!

On the banks of the mighty Waikato River

Cake consumed, it’s now time to check out what’s going on in Hamilton!

Although the Waikato Museum (Te Whare Taonga O Waikato) is just a little further down the street from the hostel, we decide to take the scenic route along the Waikato Riverside Walk. The Waikato River is often named the Mighty Waikato River, and it’s pretty Goddamn obvious why. The Waikato River is huge not only in length (it’s the longest river in New Zealand) but in width too. It’s an awesome sight right next to the Riverside Walk, which is rich with autumn colours at the moment. In fact, things get weirdly too autumn when we stumble upon a pumpkin sitting on a park bench. How random! We mean, we didn’t want to disturb it. It probably came down here to get some fresh air and spend some time alone, but we just use it to take some stupid photos, then leave it to carry on with its business.

The Forest Gump of Hamilton The Forest Gump of Hamilton
Autumn taking over Hamilton city centre Autumn taking over Hamilton city centre
The Waikato waka The Waikato waka
Eyeing the Tongue of the Dog Eyeing the Tongue of the Dog

Waka, Matariki and neon Maori Art

A section of the Riverside Walk that we approach is closed for maintenance, so we walk the rest of the way to the museum down the streets of Hamilton. A cool little place we find is Garden Place, Hamilton’s city centre square. There’s a light show water fountain going nuts in the middle of the square, while there’s a few sculptures around to photograph too. The journey continues to the Waikato Museum, which has an interesting sculpture and water feature of its own, the Tongue of the Dog. The water rolling from the mouth of a colourful square does indeed look like the tongue of a dog. (We like it when art makes sense).

What we like more about the Waikato Museum, other than the fact that it’s free entry, is the huge waka (Maori canoe). We’ve seen quite a few of these boats used by the Maori to cross the Pacific Ocean, but none as impressive or as decorative as this one. There’s a huge emphasis on Maori art throughout the museum, we especially like some neon contemporary art by Zena Elliott.

As the Maori New Year is fast approaching, we also enjoy an exhibit on Matariki, which is a cluster of stars marking the new year. There’s an artsy light show reflecting off pillars of woven rope in the centre of the room used to help tell the Maori legend behind Matariki.

The most European street in New Zealand

We eventually peel ourselves away from the Waikato Museum and slowly head back to the hostel, making sure to explore the city centre of Hamilton on the way. As we pass all the enticing bars and restaurants of Victoria Street we have to tell ourselves: “No, we are on a backpacker budget! We cannot keep eating out!” Victoria Street actually looks like a great place to party. Dare we say it seems miles ahead than the party scene in Auckland?!

Another street catches our eye on the way down: Casabella Street. Did we just walk into Greece right now? One end of the street is decorated in the Greek flag colours, with shop walls covered in plants, while the street progressively turns Italian with a hint of France in there too. The far end of the street even has a posh water feature churning away. Hamilton loves a good water feature.

We have to congratulate Hamilton on actually having free things for us to do on a rainy day! We still go back to the hostel feeling like we’ve seen a great side to Hamilton, despite the gloomy weather. Luckily for us (or not so lucky depending on how you look at it), we will be returning in a few days to get the rust on our campervan fixed. Until then, we’re heading to Raglan where we have a few exciting things planned: a waterfall walk, eel conservation and, of course, surfing!

See you then!

Laura and Robin

Want more?

We’ve touched on a few backpacker travel themes today. How lovely! One of which is hostel life, so take a look at these hostel articles to get to know a bit more on backpacker life in New Zealand:

We also couldn’t help pinning our way around Hamilton. (If you know what “pin” means in French, that sentence may just make you laugh). So check out our recommendations in the city on HerePin. We are also super stoked to see Facebook is showing 360 photos now, so hop onto our Facebook page to take the virtual tour of New Zealand!

See you around!

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