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The New Zealand city of Hamilton lies in the northwestern corner of North Island along the banks of the Waikato River. Formerly a heartland for Maori tribal communities, the city was founded in 1864 and is now the country's fourth-largest conurbation. The Waikato region encompasses the Tasman Sea coastline with its three natural harbours, volcanic black sand beaches, hilly Hakarimata Range, natural peat swamps, lakes and pastoral farmland as well as many vineyards.
The city is a good base for a touring holiday with a rented campervan, and several local companies offer a choice of the latest models. Hamilton is a university town, with its main street a centre for lively nightlife and dining out. Many attractions are set in the old Town Belt. Hamilton's popular music festivals attract a wide, younger audience and its malls draw shoppers from all over the region.
The city's historic attractions are somewhat sparse, although the Waikato Museum of Art and History's 12 galleries display many items of interest including a strong Maori presence. The building is on land given by the Tainu tribe, and one of the highlights here is a beautifully-carved, 200-year-old Maori war canoe.
Hamilton Gardens is known for its several themed gardens such as the Chinese Scholar Garden and the American Revolution Garden as well as for its more conventional green spaces. Family visitors will enjoy the well-kept Hamilton Zoo, home to more than 600 species including native New Zealand animals and birds as well as exotic species from across the world. The Hamilton River Walk gives a unique view of the city.
One of the most-loved days out in the entire country is a visit to Matamata, a 45-minute drive from Hamilton. Here you'll find the filming location for the Shire and Hobbiton featured in the amazing Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and its prequel movie, The Hobbit, an Unexpected Journey. Hobbit burrows can be explored, still blending prettily into the local environment, and drinks can be had at the Green Dragon Inn.
Hamilton City Holiday Parkis set amid green lawns and trees just a short drive from the city centre. The site offers two amenity blocks, electric hookups and a children's play area as well as a mini-market, and Lake Karapiro with its swimming, fishing and boating is half an hour away by road.
Narrows Park Camp is set on Airport Road in rural surroundings bordering the Waikato River and close by Mystery Creek. A golf course is a stone's throw away, and the site offers electric hookup pitches and a swimming pool
Cambridge Kiwi Motor Park lies in tree-lined grounds a 15-minute walk from Cambridge town centre and a half-hour's drive from Hamilton on State Highway 1. The site is near Mystery Creek and Sanctuary Hill and offers WiFi internet access and BBQ areas as well as electric hookup pitches.
Driving in the city is straightforward, and congestion isn't a problem outside periods of high demand. However, care should be taken on narrow rural roads as regards wild animals, and travelling in remote areas may take more time than you've allowed. New Zealand drives on the left, and drink driving is taken very seriously by local police.