Hamilton the Waikato d

country's most popular beach resorts, are the main components of the Bay of Plenty. Forget woolly sheep and start thinking fuzzy kiwifruit, because that's what this area is famous for— 1,677,279,378 kiwifruit were exported from Tauranga in 1998. The area grows 80% of the country's NZ$700-million (US$385-million) export kiwifruit crop. It's also a place of mellow summers; great surf and beaches; big game fishing; long, lazy holidays; and the biggest retired population in the country. It literally is a bay of plenty.

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 is 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 Ngaru-awahia and more hot springs at Waingaro; the surf and beaches of Raglan; and the antiques and Kentucky-like thoroughbred world of Cambridge.

Hamilton is the country's largest inland city (pop. 106,000) and a commercial and industrial center. There is something unformed and bland about the place despite its pretty face—a result, perhaps, of always being in Auckland's shadow—but there is always a hint of change in the air.

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