Katie and Alan Deare's Hamilton

I am a yoga teacher and Alan is a graphic designer. We turned up in Hamilton in 2006. One beautiful Waikato day we came to look at a house, which we bought and still live in today. I had never been here before —  I was just back from 20 years in Australia — but it struck me on the first day as a handsome, provincial city. It reminded me of a very mini Melbourne with its beautiful river and soulful vibe.

After a few years, I leased a space in Hamilton East and that was the beginning of Lovegrove Lane. Now it is a thriving little creative spot with lots of locally owned businesses. My yoga studio has expanded into a wellness centre with a massage room and a little wholefood lunchtime eatery as well. Alan has a great design studio in an old warehouse space just across the river in town. He and his team produce lots of beautiful art publications as well as brand identities.

Live music at Nivara Lounge

Basement/266 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

This is just a good little joint. Ivan, the owner, has done a great job keeping the mantle going through a tough 2020 and the ever-increasing battle for the entertainment dollar. It’s a small, no-frills, underground venue that feels like it could be in New York - cranky but cosy, with a ramshackle mix of events and genres. Alan’s band, ORBJKS, sometimes plays there. They are unique — quite a big ambient sound with heavier post-rock rhythms and samples lurking underneath.

Inside Nivara Lounge.

IPA in the old Matangi Dairy Factory

452b Tauwhare Road, Matangi, Hamilton

The Bootleg Brewery was started in 2016 and one of our friends Elton Ward is the brewer. Alan is partial to the Apehanger IPA - enough said. The brewery and taproom are pretty rustic and situated at the old Matangi Dairy Factory, which was built in 1919. The precinct has a sweet industrial vibe, and if you squint, it might just remind you of Cockatoo Island in Sydney (without the harbour!).

People dining inside Bootleg Brewery.

Experience a Japanese institution

567 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

A longstanding Japanese restaurant in Hamilton that’s known for authentic food and snappy delivery. It’s a bit of an institution. They’re only open for lunch Monday to Friday and the same two women have been on the floor for as long as I can remember. They are such pros, one is a real sweetie and the other doesn’t have the time to watch a table of Kiwis dilly-dally over the great selection of food. The donburi and the teriyaki and tempura lunch combo are faves. Have it with an Asahi or a green tea, you can’t go wrong.

A plate of sushi.

River ride to Ngaruawahia

Waikato River

This bike ride is spectacular and accessible for all levels of rider. It takes you through unexpected patches of beautiful bush, open spaces, across cool bridges and nifty boardwalks running alongside the mighty Waikato. It’s part of the Te Awa River Trails of New Zealand and leaves right from central Hamilton. Whenever we have friends visit who are keen to ride, we’ll take them on this trail.

People riding bikes along the river.

Homewares at Sunday Society

206 Hooker Road, Tamahere

The old Matangi Dairy Factory is slowly coming to life now with a collection of different businesses, including Sunday Society, a huge, open space selling a bespoke mix of European vintage homewares and industrial furniture. Kristyn, the owner, is all about buying less, better. The name is about taking time for things you love - like lazily browsing interesting homeware shops.

The inside of Sunday Society.

Go up the deep green of Mt Pirongia

Pirongia Forest Park, Waikato

I can’t say enough about Mt Pirongia — it is our maunga ataahua. It’s foreboding in some ways because once you’re on it, you know you’re going up, but when you’re done, you know you’ve had a good walk. The mountain is beautiful - deep green bush filled with vibrant bird life, with various species having been reintroduced. There are four to five different ways to the summit and each track offers quite a different experience. It’s the place we have gone to at pivotal moments in our life so it’s quite special to us. If you look for it, you can see Mt Pirongia from a lot of places in Hamilton.

Mt Pirongia.

A restful view of the river

Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton

Everyone experiences Hamilton Gardens in a different way. We prefer the leafy tracks on the periphery that aren’t as manicured. We often walk up to the cemetery, where there is a tiny forest green weatherboard shelter that overlooks the river and out to Mt Pirongia. It is a spot that feels restful and spacious — a nice place to sit and reflect.

The Waikato River.

Funky finds at Needle in the Hay

300 Barton Street, Hamilton Central

This is a super-cool joint run by Kate Woodcock. She is an extraordinary shopkeeper who is just as vibrant as the shop itself. Needle in the Hay is filled with curios, interesting homewares, immaculately curated vinyl and industrial things. Her husband is one of the owners of Rocket Coffee and she’s always got a pot of coffee on. Kate supports beautiful artists and craftspeople around New Zealand. The shop is in a big old shed with a huge roller door. It’s got an industrial exterior and is super stylie inside.

Records in the Needle in the Hay shop.

Shop handmade at Aoa Clothing

Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

Aoa is run by a Japanese woman who makes all the clothing in the shop, some of it with that super tightly woven cotton in great colours that can only come from Japan. It’s definitely a Japanese vibe, but probably not shibui! There will be some chunky, macrame-style weaving. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but we adore her commitment to her aesthetic, craft and design approach and her English is adorable! Alan is a big fan of her shirts.

Inside the Aoa Clothing store.

Jump in the sea at Raglan


Raglan beach is our beach. It’s only 45 minutes away and as soon as you arrive you feel peaceful. It’s a very beautiful, wild west coast beach with its dark sand and moody feel. It’s a very special, soulful natural place that we love to visit any time of year, but when it’s warm enough for a swim, that’s even better.

The Raglan coast.