Wellington Botanic Garden ki Paekākā
Whether it’s your first visit or your hundredth, there's always something new to surprise and enchant you at one of Aotearoa's oldest botanic gardens
101 Glenmore Street
There’s something to be said for flat, orderly gardens, with rows of trees and manicured flower beds stretching out in all directions – but that’s not Wellington’s style. Wellington Botanic Garden ki Paekākā, like the city itself, is a bit wilder, a bit more unpredictable, able to surprise and enchant you whether it’s your first visit or your hundredth.
The central-city garden – all 25 hectares of it – is a wonderland of winding paths and breathtaking views, thrumming with bird and insect life. Around every corner, you’ll find something to make you gasp: a tumbling waterfall, an exquisite orchid, a spiky succulent straight out of Dr. Seuss.
There are several ways to access the garden from Thorndon, Kelburn, or the CBD. The grand Founders’ Entrance on Glenmore Street launches you straight into the main garden, which is as old as Wellington itself. The New Zealand Company set this land aside in the 1840s when it was planning the city, and the Botanic Garden was officially opened in 1868; where some of the Botanic Garden’s oldest trees are still standing on Druid Hill and Magpie Spur.
The main garden is where you’ll find the Treehouse visitor centre and gift shop, the duck pond, the much-loved Joy Fountain, and the Soundshell, where community events and concerts are held in summer. There are magnolia trees with wild zigzag branches, a fragrant garden designed to awaken your senses, and the old stables, which look like something out of a fairy tale.
The seasonal flower beds are redesigned and replanted twice a year; Spring Festival events kick off here in September when the tulips are at their prime. The main garden also houses one of Wellington Botanic Garden ki Paekākā’s best-kept secrets: glow worms, which you can spot after dark, especially after a spring rainfall. Head up the path beyond the duck pond toward The Glen - you'll see them hiding down by the creek.
We sought views and shade on a hot summer day. We got both with abundance and for no charge. This should be in the top three Wellington attractions in my opinion.
Tripadvisor review 2018
Begonia House and Lady Norwood Rose Garden
The Centennial Entrance on Glenmore Street is accessible by car. It leads to several of the garden’s main attractions: Begonia House conservatory, which houses hundreds of beautiful indoor plants, many of which are rare, exotic varieties that change seasonally.
Begonia House is located right beside the picturesque Lady Norwood Rose Garden. This award-winning garden has 100 formal beds, each representing a different variety of rose. The orderly display of manicured flowers is a striking contrast to the wild gardens surrounding it. Nestled between the two is Picnic Café, a beautiful nature escape with the convenience of a café, surrounded by the sights and smells of hundreds of native plants and gorgeous flowers. Grab a coffee in the sun and soak up the gardens, or take a snack to go and find a perch on the lawn. Right behind the café is The Dell and the entrance to the Bolton Street Cemetery – Wellington’s oldest European cemetery.
Sculpture Trail and Discovery Garden
Set off from Begonia House for the easy sculpture walk, which loops around the garden, taking in works by Henry Moore, Chris Booth, and more. Deep in the native bush, it's easy to forget that the CBD is 10 minutes away and cast your mind back hundreds of years, before European settlement, when this area was a crucial food and medicine source for early Māori. In 2019, mana whenua power associated with possession and occupation of tribal land Māori | Noun gifted the Māori name Paekākā to the Wellington Botanic Garden precinct to acknowledge this history.
The entrance to the uppermost section of the garden is on Upland Road, a short stroll from Kelburn Village. The best way to get there from downtown is via the iconic Wellington Cable Car, departing from Lambton Quay. Hop off and you’re immediately hit with an unbeatable view of the city and harbour, and an easy downhill stroll into the gardens.
From there, you'll find the hillside playground that has delighted generations of Wellingtonians and visitors. Venture a bit deeper to the Discovery Garden, where kids can wander among the plants and learn about the natural world.