New Zealand Golf Magazine

HAMILTON, SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

Start your holiday on a high with a hot air balloon ride over the city. The region has perfect conditions for flying and hosts the country's premier ballooning festival, Balloons Over Waikato, each summer.

- WORDS BY KIM BOWDEN

We visit the Hamilton region with Avis.

Head undergroun­d to marvel at the glow-worm studded caves of Waitomo, an hour south of Hamilton. Don a wetsuit and gumboots for a subterrane­an black water rafting adventure, or keep your shoes on and your feet dry with a guided tour through some of the area's awe-inspiring cave network.

Feet firmly on terra firma, make your way to the old St George's church, home to the Good George Brewery and Dining Hall, where award-winning brewers craft excellent beer and cider on site. More sophistica­ted tastes? Chim Choo Ree is a ‘must-do' Hamilton dining experience - Cuisine Magazine rates it one of the region's finest.

Head undergroun­d to marvel at the glow-worm studded caves of Waitomo, an hour south of Hamilton. Don a wetsuit and gumboots for a subterrane­an black water rafting adventure, or keep your shoes on and your feet dry with a guided tour through some of the area's awe-inspiring cave network. Nab yourself a seat by the wood burner at Huhu Café, where their homemade rewana bread is perfect dipped in olive oil and dukkah, served up with a view to the bush-clad hills.

There's more culinary treats instore in unlikely Putaruru, a small town in rural South Waikato. Boutique cheese factory Over the Moon creates the country's widest range of specialty cheeses from locally sourced goat, cow, sheep and buffalo milk. They're open for tastings, demonstrat­ions and cheesemaki­ng courses. Grab a wedge of something delicious for the road, along with some gourmet accompanim­ents from their factory shop and deli.

Antique collectors and window shoppers alike are spoilt for choice in the Waikato – Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Te Aroha, Matamata and Tirau are popular spots to trawl for preloved treasures as well as more contempora­ry homeware and gifts in charming rural settings. In Hamilton, stroll the Spanish-style Casabella Lane, a shopping strip in a unique setting.

Middle-earth fans are indulged in Matamata. Peter Jackson found inspiratio­n for the Shire, home of the hobbits, in the green rolling paddocks, rugged limestone outcrops and undergroun­d caverns of the Waikato region. Nestled on a sheep farm near town, the set for the Hobbit movies has been kept intact. Visitors can explore more than 40 hobbit holes, including the iconic front door of Bilbo Baggins' house Bag End, before finishing with a mug of ale in the recreated Green Dragon Inn.

Splurge on a memorable high tea, perched above a

sprawling tea plantation just north of Hamilton. Zealong Tea Estate is New Zealand's only tea plantation and the first commerical growers of Oolong tea outside of Asia. They're doing something right – there's been a string of internatio­nal accolades, supply deals with Harrods of London, and their product was chosen to be served at the Official State Banquet for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who knows a thing or two about a good brew. Take a tour to learn the fascinatin­g story behind Zealong, see how tea is made, and experience a traditiona­l tea ceremony.

Escape to Raglan. This relaxed west coast surf spot is 40 minutes from Hamilton but a world away. Visit the beaches that make the area a surfing mecca, including Manu Bay, which boasts one of the longest left-hand breaks in the world. Browse the town's boutique cafes and shops, kayak or paddle board the flat waters of the harbour, or find a private patch of black sand to park your towel and simply relax. Don't miss a feed of super-fresh fish and chips at a local favourite right on Raglan's recently restored wharf, about a kilometre north of town.

And if you're visiting from out of town, pick-up an Avis rental car from any of the following convenient locations, and earn Fly Buys and Airpoints rewards with every booking. Plus, join Avis Preferred today and eliminate the paperwork and save time when picking up and dropping off your vehicle.

• Avis Hamilton Airport, Terminal Building, 07 839 4915

• Avis Hamilton Downtown, 4 Vialou Street, 07 839 4915

 ??  ?? Balloons over Waikato Festival, Nightglow.
Balloons over Waikato Festival, Nightglow.
 ??  ?? Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
 ??  ?? Hamilton Gardens, Te Parapara.
Hamilton Gardens, Te Parapara.
 ??  ?? Beach fun at Marokopa.
Beach fun at Marokopa.

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