Image: Hamilton Gardens
New Zealand certainly isn’t short of beautiful gardens. It has so many that a ‘top ten’ list would be quite impossible to write. Instead, here’s a list of ten gardens that I thought were really nice. Each one would make a lovely addition to any trip around New Zealand.
1) Hamilton Gardens
Hamilton’s number one visitor attraction was named International Garden of the Year in 2014 – not bad for somewhere that used to be a rubbish dump! I absolutely adore the Hamilton Gardens. Each section represents a different country, gardening style or period in history. My favourite is the Italian Renaissance Garden, but they’re all gorgeous. They cover a huge area, so be prepared to spend all day there if you want to explore everything. If you’re short on time, though, head straight for the Paradise and Fantasy Collections. They’re free to enter, so you can easily come back again.
2) Christchurch Botanic Gardens
The Christchurch Botanic Gardens were one of the highlights of my family’s South Island campervan tour. Walking through them felt like meandering through heaven. They’re nestled in the gentle embrace of the Avon River, along which you can pay for a punt ride, or go for a kayak. I did both – it was wonderfully relaxing. Christchurch is known as the Garden City, a reputation very well deserved. The whole place has an old-fashioned, English vibe… absolutely beautiful.
3) Te Puna Quarry Park
This place is just outside Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much, but ended up utterly enchanted. What was an ugly, abandoned quarry is now a fantasy paradise with amazing views. Te Puna Quarry Park is free to enter – although donations are appreciated – and I highly recommend you go. It’s filled with quirky sculptures, including fairytale towers and a dragon statue that kids can climb on, and so much more. It’s simply a delight to explore.
Tupare is an old-fashioned country house and garden on the outskirts of New Plymouth. It’s owned by the council and free to enter now, but was built in the 1930s by a Kiwi couple that admired English architecture. The whole place is marvellously twee, on a hillside overlooking a river. The garden has lots of winding paths and perfectly manicured flowerbeds. It felt quite magical, really. I recommend taking a picnic, and you can swim in the river too.
5) Dunedin Botanic Garden
There are a few nice gardens around Dunedin, but the nicest is perhaps the Botanic Garden, admission to which is free. As New Zealand’s first public garden, it’s been in development for over 150 years. While many of the gardens on this list are best viewed in the warm sunlight of summer, the Dunedin Botanic Garden becomes quite striking during autumn.
6) Kerikeri Mission Station
Up in Northland, Kerikeri lays claim to both the oldest European building and the oldest stone building in New Zealand. Around these Victorian edifices, in the beautiful Kerikeri Basin, you’ll find the oldest European gardens in the country. They’re proper old-English cottage gardens and they’re bloomin’ lovely. You can take a tour, but I just walked through on my own. They’re quite small, but wonderfully tranquil and, of course, steeped in history.
Government Gardens in Rotorua are surprisingly gorgeous. They’re situated on the shore of Lake Rotorua, overlooked by the beautiful, Tudor-style building that is now Rotorua Museum. They’ve got pretty ponds, statues and beds of roses, but also fascinating geothermal features, such as a bubbling, steaming hot pool. Rotorua is a hotbed of volcanic activity! The gardens are a relic of Edwardian, colonial grandeur and well worth taking the time to walk around.
8) Auckland Botanic Gardens
Two of my friends considered getting married at the Auckland Botanic Gardens. They’re relatively new, having only been open since the 1980s, but they’re pretty impressive. I love all the different sections, and the Potter Children’s Garden kind of makes me wish I had kids. (But not really!)
9) Auckland Domain Wintergardens
The Auckland Domain Wintergardens are beautiful all year round. Next to the Auckland Museum, they’re a great place for a picnic, though the Victorian-style glasshouses can be sweltering in summer! The fernery is really cool, and I love all the classical statues.
10) The Giant’s House
This place in Akaroa, by Christchurch, calls itself ‘the happiest garden on earth’ and it certainly is quirky. It’s so colourful, being full of mosaic sculptures and bright flowers. It costs $20 to get in, but it’s well worth it. It’s somewhere truly different. My nana said it was one of the best places she’d ever been.
List compiled by Abigail Simpson