About Us

Telling the story of gardens

Rather than focusing on plant collections, at Hamilton Gardens the emphasis is on different types of garden design. Traditional botanic gardens concentrate on plant collections, conservation, research and education, while Hamilton Gardens has the unique concept of showcasing the cultural meaning and context of gardens over the past 4,000 years.

Throughout history, gardens have been a way of expressing the important philosophical ideas of their time. In some respects the story of gardens reflects the story of civilisation and attitudes to the natural world.

The collections of gardens at Hamilton Gardens explore the history, context and meaning of gardens. Each tells a story and offers an insight into a different civilisation.

Our history

Hamilton Gardens is located alongside an attractive stretch of the Waikato River, merging old landscape features with creative development and design. In its earlier history, the area was home to Ngaati Wairere chief Haanui, and was a centre of horticulture with crops along the riverside.

After European settlement it was variously used as a rifle range, a dog dosing strip, sand quarry and go-cart track. During the 1960s the central gully section served as the city’s main rubbish dump, covered in blackberry weeds with seagulls circling above. No one could have imagined that such a barren mess could one day become an award-winning public garden and the Waikato’s most popular visitor attraction.

The Gardens are owned and managed by Hamilton City Council and strongly supported by the local community. In the 1950s the Hamilton Beautifying Society lobbied for a public garden on this part of the town belt and initially it occupied 4 hectares. The design of that top area was and still is planted in the gardenesque tradition with specimen trees and flower beds set in flat lawns.

Most development of Hamilton Gardens has occurred since 1980, growing in scope and vision to become a unique showcase for the story of gardens. 

Supporting local community

Over the past forty years Hamilton Gardens has been transformed into a world class garden, not through a massive Council budget but through a sustained community effort. Our community is essential to our existence so we give back in a number of ways.

All New Zealand Charitable organisations receive a 66% discount on the venue hire rates at Hamilton Gardens and local gardening groups or other local specialist groups receive a generous discount on Guided Tours.  We provide the Friends of Hamilton Gardens with a special Christmas shopping day once a year when they receive additional discount off their purchases in our Gift Shop. Hamilton Gardens is a major sponsor of the annual Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.

We are active members of Botanic Gardens of New Zealand (BGANZ) and Hamilton and Waikato Tourism. All our staff receive one paid day each year to volunteer at a community organisation. We also provide work experience opportunities to local students at Wintec and The Unversity of Waikato.

All surplus produce from the Kitchen Garden is given to Kaivolution, a local charity that provides fresh food to local people in need:

"Hamilton Gardens has very kindly donated beautiful fresh produce from the gardens to Kaivolution Food Rescue.  Since we started in 2014, this produce has been given out to literally thousands of very grateful people and families throughout the Waikato.  We are extremely grateful for Hamilton Gardens support, in both helping people in need and in the very important task of minimising food waste."   
Simon Gascoigne, Co-ordinator, Kaivolution Food Rescue

Flying a kite or drone at Hamilton Gardens

Because we are on the flight path for the air ambulance the Hamilton Airport control tower has requirements for flying kites and drones at Hamilton Gardens. 

Kites: Kites less than two metres in size can be flown under the tree line during daylight hours. Kites larger than two metres or to be flown above the tree line need permission from the control tower at Hamilton Airport. Call the air traffic control tower on 07 843 1876 at least one day in advance to inform air traffic control, and also on the day just before launching the kite, then again when flying is complete. 

Drones: Drones require written permission from the control tower at Hamilton Airport. You can do this online through airshare.co.nz . This must be provided to Hamilton Gardens staff before approval will be given - to avoid conflict with a booking or photography shoot. For more information please visit the Hamilton City Council unmanned aircraft/drone webpage

View more details on the CAA's rules

Education opportunities

Hamilton Gardens is an ideal location for educational opportunities, from geometry in the Italian Renaissance Garden to history in Te Parapara, New Zealand's only traditional Maaori productive garden..