Government Gardens Rotorua

Government Gardens is a public park located in central Rotorua.

Government Gardens

Government Gardens

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.

Government Gardens Heritage Trail Map

Government Gardens Heritage Trail Map

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.

Prince's Arch Gates

Prince’s Arch Gates

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.

Te Rūnanga Tearooms

Te Rūnanga Tearooms

Band Rotunda

Band Rotunda

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.

Ornamental pond and garden

Ornamental pond and garden

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.

Blue Baths

Blue Baths

Rachel Pool

Whangapīpiro – also known as the Rachel Pool

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.

Te Arawa Soliders' Memorial and Krupp gun

The Arawa Soliders’ Memorial and Krupp gun

Waitūkei Scultpure by Lyonel Grant (2001)

Waitūkei Scultpure by Lyonel Grant (2001)

Government Gardens

Government Gardens

 

Rotorua Museum

NOTE: As of November 2016 the Rotorua Museum has closed for earthquake strengthening.

Rotorua Museum is a local history museum and art gallery located in Government Gardens in Rotorua.

Rotorua Museum

Rotorua Museum

The museum is housed in the historic Bath House building. The Bath House opened it 1908 offering therapeutic geothermal spa treatments. It closed in 1966 and the museum opened in the south wing in 1969. Later in 1977 the art gallery opened in the north wing.

The museum is open from 9am daily (except Christmas Day). March to November the museum closes at 5pm and December to February it closes at 6pm. Entry is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $8 for children (5-15 years). Admission is free to Rotorua residents with relevant ID.

Museum staff also offer one hour guided tours, which is included in the admission price.

A good place to start is the cinema. Rotorua Stories, is a short film presented by actor and former Rotorua resident Temuera Morrison, which explores Rotorua’s volcanic landscape, the Pink and White Terraces, the Mount Tarawera eruption and history of the Bath House. The film runs every 20 minutes and although the special effects are now dated it is still very informative and entertaining.

Taking the Cure: The story behind the Bath House building is a permanent exhibition, which outlines the history and purpose of the Bath House. Visitors can view the remains of the baths, pools, and cooling rooms.

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Taking the Cure: The story behind the Bath House building

The mud bath basement is located under the building and is accessed through a basement walkway. Hard hats are provided as the ceilings are low. There are four remaining mud baths pretty much as they were when the building first opened.

In the attic visitors can see the lighting and ventilation operations used in the Bath House. From the attic there are stairs to a rooftop platform offering views of Government Gardens, Lake Rotorua and Sulphur Bay. It was closed when I visited due to weather conditions.

Ngā Pūmanawa o Te Arawa – The Beating Hearts of Te Arawa is the other main permanent exhibition, which explores the Te Arawa people’s journey from Hawaiki to Aotearoa. There is also exhibits on the Pink and White Terraces and the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and the aftermath. No photography is permitted in this gallery.

There is also a short documentary B Company Remembers with WWII veterans from the B Company 28 Māori Battalion and their families. It plays every half from 9.30am.

On the ground floor on the north wing is the Rotorua Trust Galleries, which features changing exhibitions. When I visited there was an exhibition Corrugations: The Art of Jeff Thomson, a sculptor best known for his work with corrugated iron. Thomson created the famous corrugated iron gumboot sculpture in Taihape.

There was also an exhibition Whiria: Weaving Global Connections, which explores indigenous weaving in New Zealand and internationally.

Garden (2010-2013). Corrugations: The Art of Jeff Thomson

Garden (2010-2013). Corrugations: The Art of Jeff Thomson

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Whiria: Weaving Global Connections

Upstairs on the level 1 there are two more art galleries, the Southern Trust Gallery and Chamber of Commerce Gallery. Both these galleries have changing exhibitions.

Also on the upstairs level is an exhibition on Tudor Towers, detailing the space’s transition from a restaurant to a cabaret venue and to a night club from 1965 to 1990.

Essential Details:

Rotorua Museum

Oruawhata Drive, Government Gardens, Rotorua