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127km (79 miles) S of Auckland; 107km (66 miles) NE of Rotorua; 107km (66 miles) E of Tauranga

Unfortunately for Hamilton, its proximity to Auckland (just a 1-hr. drive) means it's often overlooked as a sightseeing destination. Many travelers pass through the city heading south, usually to the famed Waitomo Caves in south Waikato or to Rotorua and Taupo.

If you want to linger awhile, though, you'll discover the hot springs and horse-racing world of Matamata township; the rich Maori culture of Ngaruawahia and more hot springs at Waingaro; the surf and beaches of Raglan; and the antiques and Kentucky-like thoroughbred world of Cambridge.

Hamilton - the country's largest inland city (urban pop. 145,000) - is a commercial and industrial center. There's something bland about the place despite its pretty face, but there's always a hint of change in the air.