Hillcrest / Riverlea

9 Aug 2023 The Lodge Real Estate Team

Hillcrest and Riverlea are close to Waikato University, Ruakura Research Station and schools. Here, you'll find houses range from 60s vintage homes to infill housing and subdivided properties to accommodate the student population.

As much, homes in this suburb are popular as investments for families and university students. Local attractions include the Hamilton Gardens, Clyde Park, various sports facilities, and Hillcrest shops. The Ruakura Inland Port will be nearby once construction is complete.


Hillcrest dates back to before 1900. The Bretton Homestead was built in 1869 in an orchard of the same name in the area in which Bretton Terrace now exists. Much of the area was covered in orchards in the early 1900s. However, significant development throughout the 1950s and 1960s changed that. Hillcrest High School was built in 1962, reflecting the areas rapid growth. In 1965 the University of Waikato was established and shaped the development of the area over the next 40 years. As the University grew, so did the need for student accommodation. Infill housing and student accommodation blocks began to overtake the acre sections that were a character of Hillcrest. Today, Hillcrest is divided between the 10000 students who study at the university and family homeowners who are often drawn to the area for the educational opportunities that are available.

South of Hillcrest is Riverlea, an established suburb named after Riverlea House, which was built between 1870 and 1875, and still exists today. While the suburb has been in existence since the early 1900s, most of its housing stock was built during the 70s.

Key attractions and notable landmarks

With numerous schools, facilities and with easy access to the city, Waikato University and the upcoming Ruakura Inland Port, Hillcrest and Riverlea are ideal region for students and working professionals.

The Waikato University off Hillcrest Road or Knighton Road occupies about 67 hectares.

Agricultural research facilities dominate the north-eastern side of the region, and includes the Ruakura Research Centre, AgResearch, the New Zealand Food Innovation Network Waikato, and Plant and Food Research Ruakura and the Waikato Innovation Park, which is a hothouse for innovative Waikato companies. The soon to be built Ruakura Inland Port will continue to turn this area into a major industrial and business precinct.

Southward, the Hamilton Gardens along Cobham Drive is Hamilton’s most popular tourist attractions, attracting over 1 million visitors each year. Set on 58 hectares beside the river the unique theme of Hamilton Gardens is 'the story of gardens', which is explored through a series of 21 themed gardens.

Hammond Park offers a nature walk along the bank of the Waikato River, while Riverlea Theatre is a popular community attraction with dance, musical and theatrical arts gracing its stage.

Real estate and design

Much of the Cameron Road/Knighton Road area has been developed to provide student accommodation. Extensive subdivision has created a village flavour just next door to the university grounds. 

Over the hill and surrounding the university, houses are typically three-bedroom weatherboard from the 1960s. In Riverlea, behind the shopping centre on Cambridge Road, there are larger, more substantial homes, many with gully or river outlooks.

Shopping and amenities

There are numerous clusters of shops across Hillcrest and Riverlea, with the shops at the Cambridge Road roundabout being the most significant. Here you’ll find your groceries, bank and post office. Further north on the corner of Cambridge Road and Masters Avenue is another cluster of shops with a few takeaways and a medical centre. On Clyde Street, you’ll find The Warehouse and a Four Square.

Local medical centres:

Restaurants and cafes

The Hillcrest Tavern on York St/Clyde Street corner is a long-standing favourite watering hole for students. Down at the Cambridge Road shopping centre, Hillcrest Haven is popular for an ale and steak. In the same complex, various fast food options are available including Burger King and Dominos Pizza.

Further afield, Jacks Coffee Lounge is a popular coffee and cafe stop for the locals. While the Royale Indian Restaurant in north Hillcrest is the go-to place for curry.

Sports and fitness

The Uni Rec Centre on campus caters for students and non students alike. A fitness gym, sports hall, squash courts and basketball court offer the best indoor facilities. Outdoors, you’ll find a swimming pool, tennis and netball courts, and open fields.

Eastlink Sports at Hamilton East Tourist Park hosts a range of activities from badminton to martial arts, bowls and inline hockey. Waikato Tennis in the same area is open daily.

At Marist and Clyde parks, you’ll find cricket and rugby fields while Jansen Park hosts five sports fields for soccer and cricket.

Local sport clubs and facilities:

Schools and education

Local schools*:

*Many schools have zoning policies, please check the geographical boundaries of a preferred school with a Lodge salesperson.

Distance from CBD

Hillcrest and Riverlea range from 4 to 7km from the Hamilton CBD. 

Catch the Route 2 bus route from the Transport Centre for a ride to Silverdale, or catch Route 10 or Route 20 out to Cambridge or Morrinsville Roads. Route 13 will take you to Waikato University. Route 17 also travels between the city and university, but runs through the Hamilton Gardens.

Alternatively, it’s about a $15 to $24 taxi fare to the CBD.

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