The glowworm caves in Waitomo are on everyone’s “must see” list, but the town of Waitomo is not a destination where you would choose to stay. See our post on the Glowworm Caves if you have not already. The usual practice is to stay in Hamilton, a small city about an hour drive away.
Hamilton has fine hotels and restaurants, but then we heard about their Gardens. Wow!
These gardens would be enough to make Hamilton a destination city. In 2014 they were the International Garden of the Year for Tourists. We planned a quick stop on Thursday morning February 9, then delayed our departure from Hamilton to allow more time for the gardens. I suggest planning on spending at least a half day.
The Hamilton Gardens consist of 130 acres based on garden design, rather than being a botanical garden (defined as being organized for scientific study). Admission and parking are free, but the docents apologetically ask for a dollar (US$0.70) for a map, to help support the gardens.
The 30 gardens are organized in 5 groups – if you are interested in details see Wikipedia for a wonderful description, especially starting 40% of the way down the Wiki page.
- Paradise collection of 6 gardens, based on building a special enclosed space
- Cultivar garden collection of 6 gardens of plants that were specially bred and cultivated for gardens, such as the rose garden and the camellia garden
- Productive garden group of 4 gardens – including an herb garden, a kitchen garden, and a sustainable backyard garden (lots of recycling), and a Māori garden with native farming techniques.
- Landscape garden collection of 6 spaces – such as a woodland walk and the large Hillside lawn that is, in fact, the reclaimed city garbage dump.
- Fantasy gardens – there are 9 current or proposed gardens such as tropical and medieval gardens.
Beyond the gardens there is a conference center on the facility, with a turtle lake outside the restaurant.
This is the temporary end of the travelogue, but eventually there will be more!