Oamaru is a small town in North Otago on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Oamaru Public Gardens are more interesting and beautiful than you would think.
We had three children with us, who could sniff a playground from a mile away and so we arrived at Oamaru Public Gardens. There were ducks – a pixie table – bridges – and some well tended bird aviaries (a nod to Victorian times) and even a Wonderland Statue.
The Wonderland Statue created by the famous Scottish sculptor, Thomas Clapperton, was donated to the children of Oamaru in 1926 by Robert Milligan, the then Mayor of Oamaru. He commissioned Clapperton after seeing the Peter Pan statue in London’s Kensington Gardens.
While the London statue is of Peter Pan looking down on the fairies and animals, the Oamaru statue is of a random boy and girl, on a tree stump looking down to the fairies, birds and animals at the base of the sculpture. It was impressive and reminded me of the Alice in Wonderland statue in NYC’s Central Park. Way back in 1858 there was provision made to develop 13 hectares of public reserve (today’s garden) when Oamaru was surveyed. It seems that planning and foresight is prevalent here – Way to go Mr. Milligan and Oamaru.
It was Spring time and although the rose buds had not yet opened, the gardens were looking wonderful. The hot house was brimming with begonias and bromeliads , that grow back home in our tropical garden all year round. They may be living in foreign climes, but those plants were sure loving all the hot house pampering.
While the vibrant colours and warmth of the hot house, and the Red Japanese Bridge were spectacular, the gardens, begun in 1876, were meant to be a botanical expression of Oamaru’s Victorian history, so I was looking for some floral romance, like maybe a Rose of Sharon bush, or a formal garden fit for a Queen or even a hunting scene.
The children had talked with the cockatoo, scampered over bridges, inspected the Wonderland statue and explored the garden’s nooks and crannies enthusiastically and patiently, knowing full well that their reward – the playground – was yet to come.
But wait, I can’t resist sharing two more of my favourite shots from the gardens.
Things to Know
Entrance to the Gardens is free.
What to Do – Purchase an artisan cheese from the Whitestone Cheese Factory beforehand, and have a refined Victorian garden picnic.
Where to Stay – Gumtree Farmstay on Airbnb is a 90 acre cattle and sheep property only minutes out of Oamaru. A warm Kiwi/Australian family welcome awaits at this large modern farmhouse complete with landscaped gardens, picture windows and private bathroom.
Oamaru Public Gardens : Entrances off Severn Street (S.H.1) and Chelmer Street
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