Hamilton Gardens is a public garden located on State Highway 1 just south of Hamilton Central.
The gardens are open from 7.30am. They close at 7.30pm in the summer and 5.30pm in the winter. There is access from Gate 1 or 2 on Cobham Drive. The Information Centre and Shop is open from 9am to 5pm all year round.
Alternatively you can also walk along the edge of the Waikato River from the city to Hamilton Gardens, which is what I did. After crossing Victoria Bridge I turned right and followed the path along the river.
Along the way I passed Wellington Street Beach and Hayes Paddock.
Wellington Street Beach is Hamilton’s own inland beach on the edge of the Waikato River. The small sandy beach has a jetty, which local youth jump from and there is a large grassy area suitable for picnics.
The beach has significance with local Māori. It was an important waka (canoe) landing site for earlier Māori traders. Many Māori who swim in the river at this spot today perform the ritual or tohi, where they splash the water on their face. This is done five times as a blessing to each of the Tanui Māori kings – Potatau Te Wherowhero, Tawhaio, Mahuta, Te Rata, and Koroki.
Hayes Paddock was developed as a garden suburb of state housing. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 200 houses were along seven streets, which were mainly named after former Governor-Generals. Macfarlane Street, named after James MacFarlane, is the only street not named after a Governor-General. MacFarlane was partner in the company Henderson and MacFarlane.
Hayes Paddock is named after William Hayes, who farmed the area from 1903 to 1925. The area is now a protected heritage precinct under the Council’s district plan.
In 1960, four acres of land was put aside for the purpose of a public garden. Those original four acres make up what is the Victorian Flower Garden and the Hammond Camellia Flower Garden. Over time the gardens expanded to what it is today.
The gardens present the theme – the ‘story of gardens’. There are five themed collections, which are Paradise, Productive, Fantasy, Cultivar and Landscape. Within each of these collections are individual themed gardens.
The Paradise Collection is my favourite. It is like you are visiting another part of the world. The Paradise Collection includes an American Modernist Garden, Chinese Scholars Garden, English Flower Garden, Japanese Garden of Contemplation, Indian Char Bagh Garden and an Italian Renaissance Garden.
The Productive Collection are edible gardens. The Kitchen Garden is a traditional European productive garden with a variety of vegetables and small fruits. Students from Waikato Institute of Technology maintain this garden as part of their studies. There is also a large herb garden, that is designed around four rectangular plots. The Sustainable Backyard is a garden that is designed around sustainable gardening principles. The Te Parapara Garden is a traditional Māori horticulture garden.
The Fantasy Collection includes a Chinoiserie Garden, which has European interpretations of Oriental design that were fashionable in late 18th and 19th Century gardens. The Tropical Garden uses plants from other climatic regions. Hamilton Gardens currently has two fantasy themed gardens under development – a Tudor Garden and Surrealist Garden.
Although it was spring when I visited it was still very much winter so there was not a lot flowers blossoming in the Cultivar Collection, which includes the Hammond Camellia Garden, New Zealand Cultivar Garden, Rhododendron Lawn, Rogers Rose Garden, Victorian Flower Garden.
The last themed collection is the Landscape Collection offers nice short nature walks. This collection includes Bussaco Woodland, Hamilton East Cemetery and Valley Walk.
Another prominent feature of Hamilton Gardens is Turtle Lake, which is nice area for picnics. Located nearby is the Hamilton Gardens Cafe, which is open 9am to 6pm in the summer and 9.30pm to 5pm in the winter.
Hamilton Gardens, which recently won International Garden of the Year at the 2014 Garden Tourism Awards, receives over 1 million visitors a year. So next time you are in the Waikato region check out what is one of New Zealand’s best gardens!