GARDENS OF THE COROMANDEL
Take a day and take your pick from a number of well-established gardens in the Hauraki and Coromandel region; known New Zealand-wide and noted “Gardens of Distinction” award winners. Reflective of the sub-tropical environment and weather systems, the gardens of Hauraki and The Coromandel emphasize creative and innovative use of water, landscaping and New Zealand native flora.
As you might expect, gardens are often seasonal. so please check opening times when you are planing your visit.
Option 1: Near Thames
Located 30 minutes north of Thames on the Tapu-Coroglen Road, Rapaura Water Gardens makes a great day trip and destination in its own right. Rapaura Water Gardens offers boutique accommodation, a licensed restaurant and park-like surroundings all in one tranquil location. It is open daily from October-May.
Take your time meandering through abundant native bush and ferns and noticing the sight and sound of Tuis, Fantails, Silver Eyes and Wood Pigeons. Take a gentle walk over bridges and streams to arrive at a shimmering waterfall, before returning to Koru restaurant to enjoy a lunch of local favourites like Hauraki Flounder or Coromandel Mussels.
Spend the afternoon exploring seasonal displays of native and exotic flowers. Expect to see Irises and Bog plants in spring, Azaleas and Rhododendrons followed by Orchids, Begonias, Hydrangeas and Water Lilies from November to April.
Option 2: Near Waihi
The Waterlily Gardens are well worth a visit, simply to discover how this well-tended landscape has evolved over its 60-year lifespan. Planted in 1950, The Waterlily Gardens span fifteen acres of mature trees, lawns, lily ponds and a lake. Mature trees including giant oaks, liriodendrons, maples, liquid ambers, meta sequoias and swamp cypress stand tall alongside New Zealand rimu, kahikatea, lancewood, miro and kauri.
Waterlilies of all colours scatter the surface of the 20 ponds in the gardens; they are the defining feature of this well-established location. Experience for yourself the serenity of this vast and tranquil paradise, and you will see why it is a popular wedding venue.
Nearby, at the Waihi Lavender Farm, you will have the opportunity to stroll through the purple fields and to learn more about the other benefits of the flowers. The sweet floral lavender has many functional benefits, apart from smelling so good. It's known to be an effective calming agent, and its antibacterial properties make it helpful in treating skin irritations, eczema and fungal infections. The farm shop has skincare products and soy candles, plus spectacular blueberry lavender ice cream! Open in season, early December through to mid-January.
Option 3: Near Coromandel Town
The Waterworks is a delightfully fun garden the entire family will be sure to enjoy. With over 70 water-powered attractions to look at, play on or interact with, The Waterworks is a ‘Coromandel-style’ amusement park in a vast garden setting. A true place of discovery, you will be fascinated by the ingenuity of the water attractions, enchanted by the quirky art and sculpture, and soothed by the tranquility of the native foliage growing throughout the property.
Pack a picnic and make use of the free gas barbecues and picnic areas alongside the Waiau river waterholes - great for a post-lunch swim. Alternatively, enjoy tasty refreshments and excellent local Coffee LaLa at The Waterworks’ Cafe after completing your day’s excursion.
While at The Waterworks take a short drive down the 309 road to visit the Kauri Grove and Falls. If time permits you might also like to head into Coromandel Town for a visit through the 1.6-hectare predator-free fenced wildlife sanctuary and sculpture park at Driving Creek Railway or take a night barbecue glowworm tour (in summer only).
Option 4: Ngatea
Take a trip with a difference to Ngatea Watergardens; a destination combining picturesque gardens, charming scenes and quirky attractions. Water features abound at this property, with water lily ponds, waterfalls, waterwheels and fountains to view and admire as you wander the wide paths throughout the gardens. In amongst the flora, you may even find some friendly fauna. Hand feed the resident birds and fish and introduce yourself to possibly the oldest turtles in New Zealand. Another unexpected delight on this garden expedition is the on-site Can Museum, displaying over 11,000 different beer and soft drink cans from all over the world.