Road Trip Diary – Day 1 Hamilton Zoo
We are off on an amazing 4 day tour of the upper North Island in conjunction with Choice Hotels Asia-Pac, Hamilton Waikato Tourism, Destination Rotorua and Destination Great Lake Taupo!
We have been looking forward to this family getaway for a long time! There is nothing Dave and I enjoy more than exploring New Zealand and neither of us have spent any time in the Hamilton, Rotorua or Taupo regions which are all easy driving distances from Auckland, and just perfect for a long, family weekend away.
We left our house at 8.20am, had a surprisingly good run along both the North Western and the Southern Motorway and arrived at The Hamilton Zoo at around 10.30 after a stop in Bombay for a really, really good coffee at the BP Wild Bean.
Let’s just say, the entrance to the zoo is a bit of an illusion. The sign says ZOO, the buildings look quite zoo-ish, but Hamilton Zoo is like no other I have ever visited before.
The animal residents are what you’d expect from a zoo, the staff are just as informative and knowledgable as you’d hope them to be, but the environment is what sets the zoo apart from others. Rather than the purpose built, rather sterile, urban, concrete environment of other zoos we have visited in Auckland, San Diego and Florida, visiting Hamilton Zoo feels like you’re just on a bush walk in any New Zealand national park when you happen to stumble upon a Red Panda or FIVE Sumatran Tigers!
The size and scale of the zoo are mind blowing in comparison to Auckland Zoo. The animals reap the benefit of the 25 hectare facility, as do visitors! I racked up over 8,000 steps throughout the day as did little Nixie and Ethan! Legends.
We were treated to a Face2Face encounter with the Ringtail Lemurs and Ruffed Lemurs and it was seriously one of those very special moments that you didn’t see coming and didn’t anticipate how wonderful it would be. And guys, it costs $15 per person!!! It’s first come first served on the day but it’s mind-blowingly lovely.
- Red pandas, not sleeping in trees but frolicking! Like a good panda should!
- Lemurs, cuddly, cuddly lemurs around my neck
- Most massive aviary you can even imagine, Kaka dive bombing us and witnessing the super stealth HUGE Bittern bird.
- 5 gorgeous Sumatran Tigers frisking around, not yawning!
- A baby chimp seen at feeding time
- Getting to experience the Zoo classroom one-on-one with amazing guide Ken! Thank you!
The latest addition to the zoo’s gorgeous family is a 3 month old female chimp, whose name has been decided via a public competition and was announced today!
Meet beautiful baby Chiku! Thanks so much Tara for allowing me to use this image, check out her work here
We loved this zoo so much I can see us making the drive to Hamilton every time the kids need a wild animal fix. No parking problems, no crowds, a bigger zoo with world class facilities – Hamilton Zoo you have won us over.
When the kids were about to fall over from exhaustion we made the 10 minute drive to our final destination for the day, Quality Hotel Ambassador in Hamilton. This is a truly unique hotel, offering three varying accommodation options (hotel, motel, corporate suites), with rooms to suit every conceivable need. We are staying in a 2 room suite in the Quality Hotel which is perfect for our family of four. We’re on the ground floor which is so considerate when you have kids and a shit-tonne of stuff and there is a king and a single in each room so we are comfy with plenty of space to relax. Which is totally what we needed after our awesome day.
Though there is every amenity and restaurant (including Pak ‘n Save across the street!) in walking distance from the hotel, we kept things convenient and ate at the Retrospect Cafe, Bar & Grill on site. Def stick with the mains guys as the meals are huge! And awesome. We ordered the Kids Cheeseburger meal, the T2 burger, Chicken Carbonara and Aged Scotch Fillet and every bite was amazing. Served on vintage Crown Lynn serveware, the food and relaxed, friendly atmosphere was a perfect match for our family group.
We’ve just finished watching the Crusaders smash the Warratahs live on Sky and now it’s time for sleep.
It’s COLD here in the North Island this weekend so we are pretty much living in our Macpac gear! Dave is wearing the Meteor Jacket which is an amazing hybrid of a jacket and a shirt! Nix is wearing the Kids Astro Hooded Down Vest and LFOH Pick Pocket Long Sleeve and the Bubbles Merino Fleece Pant, Ethan is wearing a Pack-It-Jacket (don’t think we’ll ever leave home without these again!) and I’m snuggly in the Uber Light Long Down Jacket.