Story: Waikato places

Page 9. Hamilton west of the river

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Lake Rotoroa

Lake south-west of the city centre, popular for recreation, including yachting. It is also known as Hamilton Lake.

Its margins were planted in exotic trees in the 1920s and 1930s, and it is now encircled by a walkway.

Waikato Hospital

Regional base hospital, located on a hill overlooking Lake Rotoroa. Nearby is Hockin House, built in 1893 for the hospital superintendent and named after later superintendent Munro Hockin.


Locality downstream from Victoria Bridge. River steamers once moored at Ferrybank, and there were freight wharves upstream of the bridge. Ferrybank was planted in trees in the early 1900s, and a band rotunda and rowing club were built.

Shopping and shaking

It’s easy to spot the out-of-town visitors to Centreplace, a large shopping mall in Hamilton’s Victoria St. They look terrified when they hear a loud rumbling underfoot. This comes from the trains passing along the subway, which was built in the 1960s to replace the railway line across Victoria St.

Victoria Street

Hamilton’s main street, once called ‘the golden mile’. Victoria St stretches from Victoria Bridge to beyond the Fairfield Bridge, but the commercial section ends before Whitiora Bridge.

At the Victoria Bridge end, the Waikato Brewery, built in 1930 to replace an earlier structure, once produced the local beer: Waikato Draught. It was run by the Innes family, whose firm constructed a soft-drink bottling plant across the road in the 1950s. Designed by modernist architect Henry Kulka, this factory is now the Meteor Theatre.

Nearby is St Peter’s Anglican cathedral (1926), built over the Hamilton West Redoubt and backing onto the former Hamilton courthouse (1931). Other notable buildings include the Bank of New Zealand (1878), the post office (1901) and the Hamilton Hotel (1923), all now used for different purposes. The historic Municipal Pools, known to generations of Hamilton children as ‘the Munies’, opened in 1912.

Further along Victoria St is Garden Place, carved, after much debate, out of a hill in the late 1930s. Opposite is the Skycity casino, which opened in 2002 behind the former central post office building (1940) with its art-deco dome.

At the northern end, the elegant brick New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company building (1920) recalls the industry on which the wealth of the golden mile was based.

Founders Memorial Theatre

Fine modernist theatre, west of the city centre, built in 1963. The front facade was graced by a fountain, and another ‘dandelion head’ fountain was constructed nearby in 1978, at a time when Hamilton was calling itself ‘Fountain City’.

Waikato Stadium

Sports stadium built on the site of the former Rugby Park, north of Founders Memorial Theatre, in 2002. The stadium can accommodate nearly 26,000 spectators. The home of Waikato rugby, it also hosts other sports and events.

Te Rapa

Suburb 8 km north-west of the city centre. The South Auckland (later Waikato) Racing Club moved there from Claudelands in the 1920s. Te Rapa became the main industrial area in the 1960s, and railway facilities were developed. As part of the 1995 Waikato raupatu (confiscation) settlement, land there was returned to Waikato-Tainui.

The Frankton tornado

A freak weather event devastated the suburb of Frankton in 1948. A major tornado swept through and in 10 minutes killed three people, injured many others and destroyed or damaged up to 150 houses.


Suburb 2 km west of the city centre. After the railway line from Auckland reached Frankton in 1877, a settlement developed. The completion of the main trunk line in 1908 increased Frankton’s strategic importance, and that year it acquired a town board, achieving borough status in 1913. In 1917 Frankton amalgamated with Hamilton, but retained a separate working-class identity. The Railways Department was a major employer, and from 1920 to 1929 the Frankton Junction railway house factory made prefabricated railway houses which were erected throughout New Zealand. The ageing Frankton Junction complex closed in 1975, and Hamilton railway station was built further south.

Temple View

Temple, college and farm complex established in the 1950s by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) south of the city (now within its boundaries). In 2009 the church closed the college. The temple remains a prominent landmark.

Hamilton Zoo

Zoo located north-west of Nawton. It was developed from Hilldale Game Park, established in 1969. In the early 2000s it housed over 400 mammals, reptiles and birds in enclosures modelled on natural habitats.

Taitua Arboretum

Collection of around 1,500 exotic and indigenous tree species covering 20 hectares, located west of Dinsdale. Established by private owners in 1968, in the 2000s it was administered by the Hamilton City Council.

How to cite this page:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Waikato places - Hamilton west of the river', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 27 May 2024)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 31 May 2010, updated 11 Jun 2015