Balloons over Waikato

Balloons over Waikato is an annual hot air balloon festival that is held in Hamilton in early autumn.

Balloons Over Waikato

This free event, which is now in its 17th year is running from today Wednesday March 16th until Sunday March 20th.

This morning the festival kicked off with the Hamilton Mass Ascension, with a mass inflation of the balloons at Innes Common at Hamilton Lake. Unfortunately due to the fog the balloons did not take off.

There are four special shaped balloons in the festival this year – the Resene Ele-fantastic Pea-nut Elephant, Baby Dino, Race Car, and Princess Carriage. There are over 30 hot air balloons with pilots from USA, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand.

Baby Dino & The Resene Elefantastic Pea-nut Elephant

Baby Dino & The Resene Elefantastic Pea-nut Elephant

Race Car

Race Car

Princess Carriage

Princess Carriage

Balloons Over Waikato

Balloons Over Waikato

Balloons Over Waikato

Balloons Over Waikato

There are plenty of opportunities to see the balloons over the next four days. On Thursday there is the Wel Energy Trust Breakfast at Dawn at Innes Common at Hamilton Lake at 6:30am. A free breakfast is offered to the first 2,000 visitors as they watch the balloons inflate. The balloons will also be visiting several local schools on Thursday.

On Friday the balloons will take off again at 7:30am from Innes Common. In the evening the balloons will visit Tokoroa (Balloons Visit South Waikato, 6pm – 8pm, Tokoroa War Memorial Sports Ground) and Te Kuiti (Balloons Visit Te Kuiti, 6pm – 8pm, Te Kuiti Domain). On Friday night in Hamilton city there is the City Burn & Markets between 6pm and 8pm at Garden Place.

The Smartrak Cash Bullseye Competition, will be held on Saturday morning at Innes Common, where balloon pilots will attempt to throw a marker into a bullseye to win $1,000. Zulu Nightglow is held on Saturday evening, between 4pm and 9pm at the University of Waikato. This is the biggest event of the festival and includes food, live entertainment, carnival rides and games, and the Balloon Glow Show, which features the balloons lighting up to music. The night ends with a fireworks display.

The final morning will see the balloons take off for one last time from Innes Common at Hamilton Lake.

It is amazing sight to see these balloons, so if you miss the festival this year check out 2017, planning is already under way.

Northern Explorer to Wellington

The Northern Explorer is a long distance scenic tourist train that runs from Auckland to Wellington.

Northern Explorer at Hamilton

Northern Explorer at Hamilton

The train travels 681 kilometres (423 miles) from Auckland to Wellington via the North Island Main Trunk.

The Northern Explorer departs on Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 7:50 am from Britomart Transport Centre and Papakura at 8:40 am. The train stops at Hamilton, Otorohanga, National Park, Ohakune, Palmerston North and Paraparaumu before a scheduled arrival in Wellington at 6:25 pm that evening.

If departing Britomart passengers check in at the Kiwi Rail Scenic Counter at the ground (street) level of Britomart Transport Centre. The train normally departs platform 4 at Britomart. After boarding passes are issued passengers can check their luggage in with staff at the rear of the train.

Check in at the Kiwi Rail Scenic counter, Britomart Transport Centre

Check in at the Kiwi Rail Scenic counter, Britomart Transport Centre

The train has 3 passenger cars A, B, D. The C car is a café car serving meals, snacks and beverages. KiwiRail Scenic Journeys currently serves prepackaged meals from catering company Wishbone. Staff can heat up meals. The meals are reasonably priced but as it is a full day trip it would be advisable for passengers to bring some of their own food, particularly if travelling with children.

Speaking of children the café also sells activity packs that include playing cards, colouring-in, origami and other activities to keep them occupied and entertained.

The first car is an open viewing car, offering the best opportunity for photos and a breath of fresh air.

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Cafe car, Northern Explorer

Cafe car, Northern Explorer

View from outdoor viewing car

View from outdoor viewing car

There is an excellent automatic onboard commentary, which plays at certain points of the journey. Headphones, which plug into a seat jack are provided. The commentary is provided in English and Mandarin.

The views offered on the Northern Explorer are a plenty, including green lush farmland, bush and native forest, the mighty Waikato River, small picturesque country towns, the National Park and its snow capped mountains, and rocky coasts.

An engineering marvel is the Raurimu Spiral, near National Park, that was built in 1898. The Spiral allows the train to climb the 132 metre height difference between the Whanganui River and the Volcanic Plateau. The train travels 6.8 kilometres in a spiral, a distance that would only be 2 kilometres long if travelled in a straight line.

View of Waikato River, just past the township of Taupiri

View of Waikato River, just past the township of Taupiri

National Park

National Park

South Rangitikei Viaduct

South Rangitikei Viaduct

Sun setting as the train approaches Palmerston North

Sun setting as the train approaches Palmerston North

Wellington Railway Station

Wellington Railway Station

The train returns from Wellington on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Departure from Wellington is 7:55 am; arrival time in Auckland 6:50 pm.

The Northern Explorer is an excellent way to see this country at a slower and more relaxed pace. The train trip from Auckland to Wellington is longer and more expensive than other forms of transport but the journey is the attraction, and one well worth making.

 

Disclaimer: My employer paid for my travel on the Northern Explorer. Neither my employer or KiwiRail Scenic Journeys are affiliated with this blog post. Opinions are my own.  

 

Hamilton Zoo

Hamilton Zoo is a 25 hectare zoo located on Brymer Road in the Hamilton suburb of Rotokauri.

Giraffes at Hamilton Zoo

Giraffes at Hamilton Zoo

The Zoo is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9am to 5pm. Last admission is at 3.30pm.

Prices are adults $20, children (3-15) $9, tertiary student, beneficiary, senior citizen $14.50. There are also family pass and annual pass options available as well.

Up close with a chimp

Up close with a chimp

Hamilton Zoo was formed in 1969 as the Hilldale Game Farm by Murray and Gloria Powell. By 1987, the pheasant farm was in financial difficulty and facing closure. The Hamilton City Council brought the zoo and began developing it into what it is today.

There is plenty to see at Hamilton Zoo with over 600 animals. It also boasts the largest walk-through aviary in New Zealand. There is onsite cafe, Flavours, and several picnic and BBQ areas throughout the zoo.

The Zoo offers ‘Meet the Keeper’ talks throughout the day. I attended talks and feedings for the Southern white Rhinoceros, Sumatran Tiger and Chimpanzee.

Southern white rhinos feeding

Southern white rhinos feeding

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Sumatran tiger hunting for food

Sumatran Tiger playing in the water

Sumatran tiger playing in the water

Chimp waiting for food

Chimp waiting for food

 

 

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens is a public garden located on State Highway 1 just south of Hamilton Central.

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens

The gardens are open from 7.30am. They close at 7.30pm in the summer and 5.30pm in the winter. There is access from Gate 1 or 2 on Cobham Drive. The Information Centre and Shop is open from 9am to 5pm all year round.

Alternatively you can also walk along the edge of the Waikato River from the city to Hamilton Gardens, which is what I did. After crossing Victoria Bridge I turned right and followed the path along the river.

Along the way I passed Wellington Street Beach and Hayes Paddock.

Wellington Street Beach is Hamilton’s own inland beach on the edge of the Waikato River. The small sandy beach has a jetty, which local youth jump from and there is a large grassy area suitable for picnics.

The beach has significance with local Māori. It was an important waka (canoe) landing site for earlier Māori traders. Many Māori who swim in the river at this spot today perform the ritual or tohi, where they splash the water on their face. This is done five times as a blessing to each of the Tanui Māori kings – Potatau Te Wherowhero, Tawhaio, Mahuta, Te Rata, and Koroki.

Wellington Street Beach

Wellington Street Beach

Hayes Paddock was developed as a garden suburb of state housing. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 200 houses were along seven streets, which were mainly named after former Governor-Generals. Macfarlane Street, named after James MacFarlane, is the only street not named after a Governor-General. MacFarlane was partner in the company Henderson and MacFarlane.

Hayes Paddock is named after William Hayes, who farmed the area from 1903 to 1925. The area is now a protected heritage precinct under the Council’s district plan.

Path to Hamilton Gardens

Path to Hamilton Gardens

In 1960, four acres of land was put aside for the purpose of a public garden. Those original four acres make up what is the Victorian Flower Garden and the Hammond Camellia Flower Garden. Over time the gardens expanded to what it is today.

The gardens present the theme – the ‘story of gardens’. There are five themed collections, which are Paradise, Productive, Fantasy, Cultivar and Landscape. Within each of these collections are individual themed gardens.

The Paradise Collection is my favourite. It is like you are visiting another part of the world. The Paradise Collection includes an American Modernist Garden, Chinese Scholars Garden, English Flower Garden, Japanese Garden of Contemplation, Indian Char Bagh Garden and an Italian Renaissance Garden.

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American Modernist Garden – a late 20th Century garden designed for outdoor living, in the American West Coast tradition.

Chinese Scholar's Garden

Chinese Scholar’s Garden – an interpretation of the 10th – 12th Century Sung Dynasty gardens

English Flower Garden

English Flower Garden – designed in the style of an English 19th Century Arts and Crafts garden

Japanese Garden of Contemplation

Japanese Garden of Contemplation – an example of the 14th – 16th Century Muromachi Period gardens

Indian Char Bagh Garden

Indian Char Bagh Garden – an interpretation of a 16th – 17th Century garden built for the Mughal aristocracy.

Italian Renaissance Garden

Italian Renaissance Garden – an interpretation of the 15th – 16th Century Renaissance Gardens

The Productive Collection are edible gardens. The Kitchen Garden is a traditional European productive garden with a variety of vegetables and small fruits. Students from Waikato Institute of Technology maintain this garden as part of their studies. There is also a large herb garden, that is designed around four rectangular plots. The Sustainable Backyard is a garden that is designed around sustainable gardening principles.  The Te Parapara Garden is a traditional Māori horticulture garden.

Te Parapara Garden

Te Parapara Garden

The Fantasy Collection includes a Chinoiserie Garden, which has European interpretations of Oriental design that were fashionable in late 18th and 19th Century gardens. The Tropical Garden uses plants from other climatic regions. Hamilton Gardens currently has two fantasy themed gardens under development – a Tudor Garden and Surrealist Garden.

Tropical Garden

Tropical Garden

Although it was spring when I visited it was still very much winter so there was not a lot flowers blossoming in the Cultivar Collection, which includes the Hammond Camellia Garden, New Zealand Cultivar Garden, Rhododendron Lawn, Rogers Rose Garden, Victorian Flower Garden.

The last themed collection is the Landscape Collection offers nice short nature walks. This collection includes Bussaco Woodland, Hamilton East Cemetery and Valley Walk.

Another prominent feature of Hamilton Gardens is Turtle Lake, which is nice area for picnics. Located nearby is the Hamilton Gardens Cafe, which is open 9am to 6pm in the summer and 9.30pm to 5pm in the winter.

Turtle Lake

Turtle Lake

Hamilton Gardens, which recently won International Garden of the Year at the 2014 Garden Tourism Awards, receives over 1 million visitors a year. So next time you are in the Waikato region check out what is one of New Zealand’s best gardens!

PS Rangiriri

The remains of the Rangiriri, a historic paddle steamer sit back from the Waikato River between Memorial Park and Parana Park.

Waikato River

Waikato River

The PS Rangiriri was commissioned by New Zealand’s colonial Government in 1864 for use on the Waikato River during the Land Wars.

The Rangiriri was never fitted with guns, but it did have a steel pipe, that was connected with the main boilers, that was fitted around the side. If an enemy tried to board the Rangiriri, a lever could be pulled and scolding steam would be released through holes in the pipe.

The scolding steam was never needed as the Rangiriri arrived too late and was never used during the Land Wars. It was instead used as a transport and supply vessel. It brought some of Hamilton’s earliest militia settlers to the city.

P.S. Rangiriri

P.S. Rangiriri

The Rangiriri was in Government service until it was sold to a private company in 1868. In 1889, the Rangiriri ran aground and spent the next 90 years abandoned in the river suffering damage from erosion and river silt. In 1981-82 it was raised from the river floor and left on the river bank.

In 2009 a preservation projection began. In March 2010 a civic cermony was held to mark the official ceremony. It is now sheltered by a canopy and fence around it to protect it from damage.

A viewing platform has been built for visitors to view the wreck.

Viewing platform over PS Rangiriri

Viewing platform over PS Rangiriri

Basic Facts:

Length: 90 feet  6 inches (27.5 metres)

Breadth: 20 feet (6.1 metres)

Draught: 2 feet 6 inches (76.2 cm)

Wheel diameter: 9 feet (2.74 metres)

Speed: 8.5 knots maximum. Cruising speed 6 knots.

Designed by James Stewart

Parana Park

Parana Park is a children’s playground located on Memorial Drive in Hamilton East.

Parana Park

Tui chick and egg sculpture, Parana Park

Parana Park, was gifted to Hamilton City by George Parr. In his will Mr. Parr gifted the house located at 3 River Road to be used as a home for children recovering from illness. The land surrounding the house was to be used as a children’s playground. It became apparent that home was not suitable for a children’s convalescent home and the 1958 Hamilton City (Parana Park) Empowering Act was established to give the Council more control over managing the park.

The name Parana does not have anything to do with piranhas in the pond. That is a joke. The name came from a combination of Mr. Parr’s name and that of Annie McPherson who planted the trees on the property.

Parana Park

Parana Park

In April 2012, the playground reopened after an extensive upgrade, which included new paths, sculptures and a viewing platform.

The park has been designed with a kōwhai theme. There is a 300-jet fountain shaped liked a kōwhai seed, a slide shaped like kōwhai flower and viewing platform overlooking the Waikato River shaped like a kōwhai leaf.

Kōwhai tress are a small legume trees with yellow blooms native to New Zealand. Kōwhai is also the Māori word for yellow, a reference to the colour of the flower. Although not officially recognised the kōwhai flower is often seen as New Zealand’s national flower.

300 jet Kowhai seed shaped fountain

300-jet kōwhai seed shaped fountain

Kowhai shaped slide

Kōwhai flower shaped slide

There is also a small amphitheatre, playhouse and an aviary in the park.

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Aviary, Parana Park

Aviary, Parana Park

Victoria Bridge to Memorial Park

Victoria Bridge is a steel arch vehicle and pedestrian bridge that crosses the Waikato River connecting Hamilton Central with Hamilton East. The Bridge was first known as the Hamilton Road Bridge. It was later renamed Victoria Bridge but it is now more commonly known to locals as Bridge Street Bridge.

Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge

The bridge, which was completed in 1910, was built to replace the wooden Hamilton Union Bridge, which had become so rickety it was deemed unsafe.  The steel arch was manufactured by the Cleveland Bridge Company in the UK and shipped to New Zealand. The structure has a central span of 103.6 metres.

After crossing the bridge I turned left and took the steps down and followed the path along the Waikato River bank to Memorial Park.

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Memorial Park is the site of the landing of the Pioneers Fourth Waikato Regiment in August 1864.  There is a plaque commemorating this on a brick wall in the park.

Tablet commemorating the landing of Pioneers Fourth Waikato Regiment

Tablet commemorating the landing of Pioneers Fourth Waikato Regiment

After the First World War the park was developed into a War Memorial Park. In 1920 the park was named Memorial Park. The park was later further developed to include a memorial to World War II. Later a roll of honour was added for those who tragically lost their lives in Korea and Vietnam.

On ANZAC Day each year the Hamilton RSA dawn parade and service is held at the Hamilton Cenotaph in Memorial Park.

Cenotaph, Memorial Park

Cenotaph, Memorial Park

'We will remember them'

‘We will remember them’

There are also monuments in the park dedicated to the armed services. There is a life-size replica of Spitfire MK XVI as a memorial to the New Zealanders who served in the Air Force during both World Wars.

A BL 5.5 inch Mk3 Artillery Gun is on permanent display dedicated to the Royal New Zealand Artillery Gunners, past and present.

The anchor from the HMNZS Waikato is displayed in the park. The ship was in service from September 1966 to July 1998. The anchor was presented to the City of Hamilton by the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Life-size replica of Spitfire  Mk XVI

Life-size replica of Spitfire Mk XVI

BL 5.5 inch MK3 Artillery Gun

BL 5.5 inch MK3 Artillery Gun

Anchor from HMNZS Waikato

Anchor from HMNZS Waikato