Whangarei Quarry Gardens – a subtropical oasis of tranquillity
With New Zealand’s subtropical climate and beautiful landscape, you can find Botanical Gardens pretty much anywhere in the country. However, the Whangarei Quarry Gardens are one of a kind. What was once a deserted stone quarry would have been nothing but a waste of space, until a community came together and hundreds of passionate and dedicated volunteers turned the area into a luscious subtropical paradise.
Everything is governed in a charitable trust and up to this date volunteers run the visitor’s centre and garden clubs maintain the more than 60 acres big space on the edge of the Western Hills. It took 20 years to transform the barren land into the magical place it is today, attracting old and young alike with its colourful plants, astonishing succulents and beautifully landscaped tracks.
You can spend a whole day exploring the extensive trail network around the Quarry Gardens. Simply grab a map from the Visitors Centre and follow the signs throughout the gardens. Start your journey through the Visitors Centre and make your way to the Five Senses Garden. Discover exotic plants and intriguing sculptures with all your senses, before heading further into the subtropical oasis surrounding you.
Stroll over lovingly designed bridges and admire bromeliads, orchids and camellias, or enjoy a picnic down by the lake in front of a stunning scenery comprised by the remnants of the stone quarry, a magnificent waterfall and luscious flora and fauna. Native birds such as tui, kereru and pīwakawaka frequently make their appearance, adding to the wonderful atmosphere of an oasis of tranquillity in the middle of a busy city.
One of the highlights of the gardens is the Arid Garden with a collection of astounding cacti and other succulents, some as tall as a one-storey house, others with colourful flowers and seed pots. Some of these may be harmful, so keep to the tracks and ensure children are supervised at all times.
For those with a bit more time, take a 1.5-hour detour and hike through native forest over the hill to the Quarry Arts Centre and experience the hip creative scene of Whangarei.
Remnants of old times
Between 1940 and 1974 the site of the Whangarei Quarry Gardens was a fully operational stone quarry. Remnants of this time are visible throughout the gardens. Children enjoy running up and down part of the old tunnels that are now open to the public. You can also hike up the track that leads to the old concrete walls and foundations high above the gardens. Where men once laboured in hard sweat, you can now enjoy some beautiful views over the entire area.
Since the grand opening of the Visitors Centre in 2015, the Quarry Gardens also house a boutique café offering delicious coffees, mouth-watering treats and an extensive breakfast and lunch menu. Quail Café is open Wednesday to Sunday from 9am to 3pm.
For those that would like to dive a bit deeper into the history and making of the Whangarei Quarry Gardens and learn more about its conservation project as well as the numerous exotic plants on display, an hour-long tour in a special golf cart is available followed by Devonshire Tea at Quail Café.
The Whangarei Quarry Gardens are accessible via Russell Road and are open to the public 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm. Entry is via gold coin donation to help maintain the beauty of the gardens. There are no dogs allowed in the gardens. The site is also smoke-free and alcohol-free.
The only toilets are located within the Visitors Centre. Parts of the gardens are pushchair friendly and also accessible by wheelchair. There is ample free parking at the entrance to the Visitors Centre. Gates close at 5pm sharp, so make sure you vacate the car park on time to avoid getting locked in. No overnight parking allowed.