Hamilton is one of our most Insta-perfect cities. We sent Alex and Kseniia for a day trip to scout out the best photo opportunities for social media.

WORDS KSENIIA SPODYNEIKO / PHOTOS ALEX SPODYNEIKO

#TEAWITHAVIEW

To start this one-day pho­to-oppor­tu­ni­ty hunt in the Waika­to, we drove 10 km out of Hamil­ton to the Zea­long Tea Estate.

Local tea lover Vin­cent Chen went to Asia 11 years ago and select­ed 1,500 cut­tings to grow tea in New Zealand. After along stint in quar­an­ti­ne, only 130 of the strongest plants sur­vived. The­se cut­tings quick­ly turned Vincent’s small gar­den into an organ­ic plan­ta­tion of one mil­lion lit­tle sprouts.

Retain­ing their organ­ic sta­tus is a big deal. They aren’t allowed to spray the grass any­where on the estate, and they hire staff to get rid of the bugs, rather than using pes­ti­cides.

We were lucky to be guid­ed around by the amaz­ing Annale­se Web­ber. Cur­rent­ly the admin­is­tra­tor, she start­ed her career as a wait­ress in Zealong’s restau­rant, where she still per­forms tra­di­tion­al tea cer­e­monies. They are an absolute must when vis­it­ing. We enjoyed our high tea on the ter­race, com­plete with a tra­di­tion­al, three-tiered cake stand and a beau­ti­ful view over the plan­ta­tion.

When you vis­it, be sure to wan­der over to the small look­out near­by. Strike a pose, post, and get ready to wake up famous.

You can’t ask for a bet­ter Insta­gram sub­ject than a tra­di­tion­al high tea cake stand

#NEVERSTOPEXPLORING

The colour­ful flow­ers of Hamil­ton Gar­dens are not to be missed.

Fol­low the walk through the grounds and expe­ri­ence gar­dens from round the world. Dive into the Ital­ian Renais­sance Gar­den for impres­sive geom­e­try and sym­me­try. The Japan­ese Gar­den of Con­tem­pla­tion sur­prised with its pic­turesque pond. The Sus­tain­able Back­yard offers a touch of cosi­ness and nos­tal­gia. And the authen­tic­i­ty of the Indi­an Char Bagh Gar­den can con­fuse even the most expe­ri­enced trav­ellers (the best per­spec­tive is from the cor­ner to the left of the entrance).

Per­fect angle on an Indi­an Gar­den

In the sec­ond half of the walk, the Tudor Gar­den tru­ly steals the show! It fea­tures an epic stone tow­er, beast­ly sculp­tures, and instant­ly recog­nis­able green and white stripes (thank you, Jonathan Rhys Mey­ers for turn­ing us into Tudor experts). Stay on the bal­cony to cap­ture the fan­ta­sy atmos­phere of the place with some great angles.

#FOODPORN

A cof­fee close-up nev­er dis­ap­points if you wear sev­er­al rings

When it comes to food, it would seem Hamil­ton can do no wrong. There are vibrant restau­rants every­where. Over­look­ing the beau­ti­ful Waika­to River is the pop­u­lar Gothen­burg, with its fan­cy tapas menu. Crispy pota­to gnoc­chi with blue cheese, wal­nuts and­pear are a win-win: deli­cious and beau­ti­ful­ly pre­sent­ed. By the way, this place is known for the best view over the river. You get the idea.

For a more casu­al lunch, head to Mex­i­co or Igua­na. Locat­ed right across from each oth­er on Vic­to­ria Street, it’s not an easy choice to make. Soft shell tacos filled with achiote plan­cha pork bel­ly and apple chut­ney, or a sea­son­al piz­za with cof­fee-rubbed venison and smoked moz­zarel­la on a plum sauce base? Both, please.

No mat­ter what you choose for lunch, make sure you leave room for a dessert. Duck Island Ice Cream (300a Grey Street) is organ­ic, made in store and is lit­er­al­ly the best ice cream ever! I would swap my left arm for an extra scoop of the ‘maple, hon­ey­comb and smoked almond’. And they have 17 oth­er out­stand­ing flavours. ‘Rhubarb Szechuan pep­per­corn’, any­one?

Make sure you place an object in emp­ty spaces of the pic­ture to bal­ance the image

#SKYISTHELIMIT

We spent the rest of the day admir­ing Zuru Night­glow. The annu­al hot air bal­loon show is part of the week-long Bal­loons Over Waika­to fes­ti­val. This event is huge – Zuru Night­glow alone is said to be attend­ed by 80,000 peo­ple!

At 8 pm, enor­mous bal­loons – in shapes of hug­ging birds, car­toon heli­copters, and rock­ets – start to glow, fol­low­ing the rhythm of pop­u­lar hits. It’s all topped off with fire­works, which make for excit­ing Insta pics – they are as beau­ti­ful as they are hard to cap­ture! You sim­ply can’t beat thou­sands of peo­ple pho­to­bomb­ing your pics.

But there is always a sec­ond chance for some­one fas­ci­nat­ed by the hot air bal­loons in Hamil­ton. They fly over the city every morn­ing through­out the fes­ti­val, and there is always next year!

#REALLIFE

Te Aro­ha Min­er­al Spas: Fed by the world’s only known hot soda water gey­ser, the­se spas offer pri­vate wood­en tubs and relax­ing beau­ty treat­ments at the foot of Mount Te Aro­ha.

The Base: The largest shop­ping cen­tre in New Zealand is def­i­nite­ly worth a vis­it. Loved by beau­ty moguls for The Body Shop, Lush and L’Occitane – all in one place.

Waika­to Muse­um: Dinosaurs, tourism posters, milk pro­duc­tion – the Waika­to Muse­um exhi­bi­tions are a fas­ci­nat­ing record of our young his­to­ry.