Government Gardens is a public park located in central Rotorua.
In 1880 Ngāti Whakaue gifted this land to the Crown for the ‘benefit of all people of the world’. Originally the land was a swampy scrub-covered geothermal wilderness. The scrub was cleared and formal gardens were planted, including large imported trees, such as Japanese firs and California weeping redwoods.
Government Gardens is registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a nationally significant historic area. There is a heritage trail with 28 points of interest with information boards. Visitors can follow the numbered boards to explore the history of the park.
The main entrance to Government Gardens (off Hinemaru Street) is framed by the Prince’s Arch Gates. The wooden arch gates were first erected at the intersection of Fenton and Hinemoa Streets in 1901 for the Royal Visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwell.
After the royal visit the gates were moved to be the entrance to Government Gardens.
Also near the entrance is the Te Rūnanga Tearooms and Band Rotunda. Te Rūnanga was built in 1903 as a tea pavilion where Māori girls in traditional dress would serve guests while they relaxed. The tearooms closed in 1933 following the opening of the Blue Baths tearooms. The building was then used as bowling pavilion until 1991. The tearooms were restored and reopened in 1993, exactly 90 years after its original opening.
The Band Rotunda was built in 1900. During the tourist season brass bands would entertain from the rotunda in the evenings. The rotunda was also used to deliver important speeches. New Zealand’s longest serving Prime Minister Richard Seddon (in office 1893 – 1906) once spoke there for an hour and a half.
Between the entrance and the backdrop of the Bath House building, which now houses the Rotorua Museum, is an ornamental pond and landscaped garden. Within in the garden is the Wylie Memorial. This statue unveiled in 1904 commemorates Fred Wylie, who was the son of one the first store keepers in Rotorua and a young soldier who fought in the Boer War. Wylie was killed in action Klipfontein in 26th May 1901.
There are also beautifully maintained lawns for bowls, croquet, and petanque.
As well as the impressive Bath House building there is also the Blue Baths. This Spanish Mission style building was completed in 1933. The Blue Baths were the first public pools to allow male and female patrons in the same pool. The popular baths closed in 1982 but after a restoration project opened again in 1999. It now hosts a heated pool, museum, and tearooms. The Blue Baths are open daily 10am to 6pm.
Another piece of history is the Rachel Pool or Whangapīpiro. The pool, which has a temperature of 212 degree Fahrenheit, was renamed the Rachel Pool after Madam Rachel, an English cosmetician, who claimed youthful complexions as a result of the silica water softening the skin. The water from this pool was originally piped into the Pavilion Bath, and later to the Bath House. Today the water is piped to the nearby Polynesian Spa. The bathing pools at Polynesian Spa are open 10am to 11pm daily.
As well as Wylie Memorial there is also a war memorial located on the corner of Queens and Oruawhata Drives. The Arawa Soldiers’ Memorial was erected to remember the sons of the Te Arawa people who died during World War I. The memorial was unveiled in 1927 by the Duke of York (later King George VI).
A Krupps field gun, which was cast in 1898 and used during World War I, sits next to the memorial. It is believed this field gun was captured by the Pioneer Battalion of Māori soliders in France. After being in storage for many years at Te Amorangi Museum it was restored in 1998.
Behind the war memorial there is also a children’s playground and a rose garden.