In the Gardens
The Hamilton Gardens were first created in 1960 and since then the 54 hectare site has evolved from a bleak city rubbish dump covered in blackberry to become an internationally acclaimed garden paradise. This is not a botanical garden but more a museum of garden history, encapsulating the story of gardens and their design in different cultures over the centuries.

Our guides led us through ten of the individual gardens, including the classically formal Italian Renaissance garden, the brilliantly coloured Indian Paradise garden, the serene Japanese Zen temple garden and the romantic English Flower garden.  The Herb garden was enchanting but the great favourite was the huge walled kitchen garden with its amazing giant sunflowers.

Hamilton Gardens is still a work in progress. Several new gardens are under construction including a Katherine Mansfield garden inspired by The Garden Party, and will include a replica of the family home in Karori.’  Elizabeth Kay

At the Museum
‘We received a warm welcome at the Waikato Museum, a modern building featuring 13 galleries over five levels.  We had a most interesting and instructive visit. Highlights included learning the history of the 200-year-old, 30 metre long Te Winika, a magnificent waka housed in a gallery which juts out over the river.  Our guides Stephen Pennruscoe, Collections and Exhibitions Manager and Curators Leafa Wilson and Dr Dan Morrow added to this moving occasion by singing a beautiful waiata alongside Te Winika.  Whenua Ora / Upon the Land  was a dramatic exhibition of contemporary Māori art from the Museum’s impressive collections, more of which we saw when we descended into the depths of the building for a specialised look at the back-of-house storage.  This building is so well designed that no air-conditioning or temperature control is needed in the space. A big thank you to Director Cherie Meecham and her staff for a fabulous visit.’ Beverley Eriksen

Climbing in the Sculpture Park at Waitakaruru Arboretum
‘After a warm welcome from owners John and Dorothy Wakeling we set off on a one and a half hour walk through the park. This truly separated the sheep from the goats, the sheep shooting up the hills and going the extra distance, and the goats, of which I was one, omitting some of the longer and steeper climbs. We enjoyed seeing a large collection of sculptures in such a lovely setting, and admired the Wakelings’ success in transforming what was probably an ugly quarry into a park with such lush vegetation.  I enjoyed the tour and am glad I was persuaded to go on it!’ Ann Mallinson 

On the River
‘Sunday morning brought just the right weather for the Waikato River Explorer cruise. The return journey from Hamilton Gardens upstream to The Narrows near Mystery Creek took a 90 leisurely minutes.

We saw the European impacts on our longest river. Flowing at about 5 km per hour, the banks are mostly lined with imported willows and elms. The dark and mysterious look of the water is caused by the weed, but you can see the bottom as the water is relatively clean. The rate of hydro generation can vary the water level by two metres, but the dams must keep the water level above its minimum two metres depth. That is the river bottom’s average depth.  When we reached The Narrows the river halved in width becoming faster and considerably deeper. The cruise boat slipped between two underwater rock shelves only metres from its sides.

Enjoying a leisurely brunch on board, we mainly had the river to ourselves, cruising by fascinating riverside properties, old and new, large and many palatial. Other river users were a few bathers, dogs and anglers.’ Crispin Kay