Malaysian friends lose track of time in NZ garden

Imagine doing an Instagram photo session at the Indian Char Bagh Garden in New Zealand. — Photos: MELODY L. GOH/The Star

“Let's go to that garden, ” a travel buddy said on a road trip in New Zealand’s North Island a few years back. We were at Hamilton in Waikato district; we’ve just had lunch and were looking for a place to rest before continuing our journey back to Auckland.

“Garden? So boring, ” I said.

We checked it out anyway, and I was wrong – the Hamilton Gardens is anything but boring.

This garden is so exquisite and interesting you can actually spend a long time traipsing in fields of wild flowers, and walking among herb gardens, sculpted bushes, mini forests and giant trees, without realising it. In fact, tourism brochures and websites recommend that you spend at least 75 minutes here.

The Hamilton Gardens, one of the top 10 things to do in Waikato (another popular attraction is Hobbiton), has been around for more than 40 years. In the 1980s, the garden started to be developed into the world-class structure that we see today.

What’s unique about Hamilton Gardens is that it focuses more on garden designs rather than on collection of plants. Here, there are five collections of gardens, and each one has at least four mini gardens or sections.

Our favourites were the Indian Char Bagh Garden and Italian Renaissance Garden, both of which are under the Paradise Collection, as well as the Victorian Flower Garden, under the Cultivar Collection.

The Chinoiserie Garden and Surrealist Garden (Fantasy Collection) were also fun discoveries.

At the Kitchen Garden, we saw lots of kiwi fruit – it was only then that we realised they grew on woody vines.

Since we did not go on a guided tour, a lot of the information we got on the gardens and plants were from the signboards there. But you can also read about the history of the place, its designs and other details from the official website (

Hamilton Gardens is open to the public daily, and entrance – as well as parking – is free. It’s a great place for the whole family, in any season. There are fun educational playgrounds for young kids, large spaces for bigger kids to roam around or just chill (if you’ve always wanted to roll around in the grass and not get too dirty, this is the place to do it) and quiet corners for folks who just want to sit down, relax and maybe read or meditate.

The place has a list of scheduled events and festivals up to March 2022 on the website, so you can plan a visit once it is safe for us to travel abroad again.

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