Getting Lost in Fantasy Gardens

If you’re travelling around New Zealand and you like gardens, visit Hamilton. Hamilton Gardens won International Garden of the Year 2014 and it’s still growing.

The wonder of Hamilton Gardens lies in its layout. It has many different collections of gardens within it. I’ve already blogged about the Paradise Collection (and in particular the Italian Renaissance Garden,) so this time I’ll be focussing on the Fantasy Collection.

Tropical Garden

Enter through the Tropical Garden. On a sunny day you’ll be dazzled by colour and succulent smells. Luscious greenery frames a long pool. Cross the bridge and pass under the archway…

Hamilton Gardens

You’ll find yourself in a circular courtyard with many more archways; many paths to choose from. A certain set of bronze sculptures serves to remind you that you’re in a fantasy world…

Alice in Wonderland

Alice, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare taking tea in Wonderland


The Chinoiserie Archway

Choose one arch and you’re in the Tudor Garden; another and you’re in the Chinoiserie Garden. The Tudor Garden is a blend of history and fantasy: a period building and hedge patterns surrounded by poles, on the top of which perch various mythical beasts. The Chinoiserie Garden is a recreation of what eighteenth-century Europeans thought Chinese gardens looked like – a sort of Oriental fantasy. It’s possibly the least interesting garden in the complex.

Here’s a picture from the actual Chinese Garden (in the Paradise Collection…)


Next to the Fantasy Collection, which has more gardens under construction, is the Productive Collection. This includes a traditional Maori garden, an enormous vegetable garden, a herb garden and the charming Sustainable Backyard.

The Herb Garden is beautiful, but probably not anything you haven’t seen before.


The Sustainable Backyard is a quirky working garden showcasing many interesting ideas.

Couch Sustainable Garden Hamilton Gardens New Zealand

Yup, that couch has old remote controls stuck in it. Among other things.

Hamilton Gardens is free to enter. It’s got other collections, as well as a café overlooking a lake. Well worth a visit anyway. I go all the time.

Another Reason to Visit Hamilton

Sumatran Tiger Hamilton Zoo New Zealand
Brown Capuchin Monkey Hamilton Zoo New Zealand

Brown Capuchin Monkeys

Hamilton Zoo is a lot more than it first appears. It may not be as grand as Auckland Zoo, but it is certainly as good. Many say better. I went with my parents and boyfriend last weekend, and we found it more pleasant to walk around than Auckland Zoo. More intimate; more trees shading the paths.

Chimpanzee Hamilton Zoo New Zealand


Auckland Zoo has more animals than Hamilton Zoo, but Hamilton Zoo is almost twice as large as Auckland Zoo in terms of land area. In fact it feels deceptively large. Entry into Hamilton Zoo costs $22, which is an absolute bargain, and it’s wonderful to see the animals in such massive enclosures.

Sumatran Tigers Hamilton Zoo New Zealand

Sumatran Tigers – aww!

The Sumatran tiger exhibit was especially impressive. When we arrived, three of the tigers were sleeping all snuggled up together. It was a mother and two cubs, although the cubs were a year old and didn’t look like babies anymore! I spent a long time ‘awwing’ at them, but was soon reminded that tigers aren’t always so cute.

Ostrich Hamilton Zoo New Zealand


One of the other tigers looked like it was actually trying to stalk the keepers that had come to feed them! The keepers were safe on the other side of the fence, of course, but it was only a few months ago that one of the Hamilton Zoo keepers was mauled to death by one of the tigers.

Cheetah Hamilton Zoo New Zealand


Thankfully, the tiger in question wasn’t euthanized. It was just being a tiger.

Hamilton Zoo doesn’t have any lions, but it does have some rather majestic cheetahs.

Giraffes Hamilton Zoo New Zealand


It also has giraffes, rhinos, monkeys, meerkats, red pandas, chimpanzees and an array of other creatures, including native New Zealand birds and reptiles.

Hamilton Zoo has the largest free flight aviary in New Zealand, complete with pond and waterfall.

The meerkats were adorable. One of them seemed intent on digging a tunnel to Spain, (Spain being the antipode of New Zealand,) and was already well on its way.

Meerkat Hamilton Zoo New Zealand


The giraffes were spectacular, but their limelight was stolen by the rutting blackbucks that shared their enclosure, almost beneath their notice.

Rutting Blackbucks Hamilton Zoo New Zealand


The kea were amusing – as if one could expect anything else. They are, after all, New Zealand’s funniest birds. One of them was playing dead right next to the fence. Very convincing. It even had a wing cocked at an odd angle!

Kea Hamilton Zoo New Zealand


And no, it wasn’t actually dead. It realised we were onto it and shook its head in annoyance. Apparently, it pretends to be dead a lot. Maybe it’s part of an elaborate escape plan.

All in all, we were walking around the zoo for three hours. We needed all day, really. We only just got round everything before the place closed, and we could have spent so much longer with many of the animals. I definitely want to go again at some point.

The gift shop and the café are nothing special, but there’s a playground and some okay picnic areas. The main focus is on the animals, which is as it should be.

Sleeping Peacock Hamilton Zoo New Zealand