Australia and New Zealand are two island nations with close ties throughout the more than 200 years of their European settlement. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, they are separated by 2,000km of the Tasman Sea, and both were settled by mostly British migrants during the 19th and 20th centuries who brought with them their love of gardening.
There is such a huge range of public and private gardens to visit throughout Australia and New Zealand, you will find a garden to see for every climate, soil type, size and style.
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"I love Australia and New Zealand as they both have such exquisite and unusual native flora and their gardeners share a love of quality design and a passion for plants."
Garden Travel Guide to Australia and New Zealand
Australian garden style
Australia has a vast land mass (similar to the USA) which means there are many different types of gardens to see, from lush tropical to dry mediterranean, semi-arid to subtropical coastal, and even cool-temperate. Many of its native plants are grown as ornamental plants around the world, including kangaroo paws, callistemon, eucalypts and grevilleas, or edible plants such as the macadamia nut and finger lime.
Australia has a strong gardening tradition both from its British roots and also the many waves of migrants who have brought their own gardening styles, especially from Mediterranean Europe and Asia, creating an eclectic and multicultural mix of old and new influences. Garden shows include the internationally-respected Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, as well as other garden festivals in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Nambour, Darwin and Cairns.
New Zealand garden style
New Zealand is south-east of Australia in the southern Pacific Ocean and has two main islands.The North Island has active volcanoes and thermal areas, forests of giant trees and a vibrant indigenous Māori culture. The South Island has fiords, wet cool-temperate forests, glaciers, snow-covered mountains and arable plains in the east.
New Zealand has a very strong gardening culture which began with the Māori who grew both ornamental and productive plants and developed quite complex and aesthetic architectural and landscape designs. More recent garden styles reflect both a British heritage and also a love of New Zealand’s unique flora, such as flax, coprosma, cordyline and native ferns. New Zealand has many garden festivals in Auckland, Taranaki, Rotorua, Marlborough, Feilding, Akaroa and the Bay of Plenty.
Garden tours to Australia and New Zealand
If you’re coming from the northern hemisphere, you can visit Australian and New Zealand gardens during your winter and enjoy the southern hemisphere’s gardens with plenty of warmth and sunshine. Public gardens are open throughout the summer although many private gardens do not open during December and January.
Garden tours to Australia
A garden tour to Australia tends to concentrate on its natural wonders rather than its gardens, with the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru in Central Australia, the Daintree rainforest of northern Queensland and, of course, seeing its iconic and unusual marsupial mammals like kangaroos and koalas filling most of the itinerary. However there are many wonderful gardens to see! Garden tours to Australia often visit the south-east, including Melbourne, Tasmania and Sydney and will also pack in a good serving of convict history, native wildlife and local culture. Others start with the native plant parks and gardens of Western Australia before heading east to Melbourne and Sydney.
Iconic gardens in Australia include the Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart, the Australian Garden at Cranbourne, Perth’s Kings Park, Brisbane’s Roma Street Parklands and Botanic Gardens, and the private gardens of Cloudehill, Heronswood, Mayfield, and Hunter Valley Gardens.
If you’re looking for some ‘take-home’ lessons for your own gardens, use the Australian city and district locale guides to find climates and gardening styles that are similar to your own – for example, the climate of Perth and much southern Australian is very similar to west coast USA, Southern Europe and South Africa’s Cape Town. The humid Australian east coast has much in common with the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida.
There are limited international garden tours to Australia, but many great garden tours within Australia that you can book in advance to join once you arrive.
Garden tours to New Zealand
A garden tour to New Zealand usually cover both islands, so you get to see a wide range of climates and gardens. If you come from a temperate climate, such as the UK, you will find much in common with New Zealand’s garden style and plant choices. Iconic gardens to see in New Zealand include Auckland Botanic Gardens, Hamilton Gardens, Ayrlies, Te Kainga Marire, Gwavas Garden, Ohinetahi, Flaxmere, Trott’s Garden and Larnach Castle.
Garden tours usually include many natural wonders as well, such as a cruise on Milford Sound, bird watching, the lakes around Queenstown, volcanoes, and the thermal area of Rotorua, as well as indigenous Māori cultural experiences. You can also find garden cruises around New Zealand as many of the best-known gardens are near the coast. These are typically 8-9 days, although some originate in Australia, adding extra sailing days.
Fun facts about Australia and New Zealand
New Zealand was part of the colony of NSW until 1841.
The Tasman Sea which separates the two countries is referred to as ‘The Ditch’.
Australians and New Zealanders find each other’s accents endlessly amusing.
New Zealand and Australia have a friendly but intense sporting rivalry, particularly in rugby, netball and cricket.
Australia and New Zealand share a significant national holiday, ANZAC Day, which commemorates the Gallipoli landing in Turkey on 25 April 1915 when the two countries fought together in the First World War as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
Eden Unearthed lives up to the best of contemporary art in the garden. The works, often beautiful, sometimes whimsical, and always enchanting and stimulating, engage with Eden Gardens’ rich resources of spaces, nooks, cliffs and ‘rooms’.
Tropical George Brown Botanic Gardens in Darwin sits close to the centre of this vibrant city in the ‘Top End’ of northern Australia. The town itself has wonderful gardens established since the devastating Cyclone Tracy hit the Northern Territory in 1974. The gardens are easily accessible and extend over many acres.
The new Calyx and its chocolate-themed first exhibition in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney is fun, educational and worthwhile for both chocoholics and plantaholics.
As the coach left the Melbourne Arts Centre the clouds darkened and raindrops spattered on the windscreen, increasing to a deluge as we progressed towards north east Victoria. But we are intrepid gardeners and obsessive garden visitors so we refused to be daunted!
One part of Australia that has some stunning walking and floral displays and that’s relatively safe in summer is known locally as the High Country, in the Alpine and Kosciuszko National Parks. Garden lovers are nature lovers and one of my favourite pastimes is packing my rucksack and saying goodbye to reality before taking off into the Australian bush on my own for a few days of walking.
Scarecrows, chooks, chocolate cake and jam – they’re all part of the fun and festivities of the Leura Harvest Festival held on 1 May 2016 in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia. The festival ads said there would be outstanding produce, fine fare and innovative sustainability initiatives. It all boded well for an interesting and feast-filled time.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the third Koonya Garlic Festival, in Tasmania on a picturesque inlet of Norfolk Bay on the beautiful Tasman Peninsula.
Mayfield, a huge, private, cool-climate garden near Oberon in the NSW Central Tablelands has been described as “marvellous” and its public Water Garden a “masterpiece” and “magical“. I first saw greater Mayfield in 2010 and wasn’t that keen but thought it just needed maturation time.
Growing lawn in coastal gardens can be a struggle due to salty winds and sea spray, but consider the challenges of sustaining a healthy lawn on a ship in the middle of the ocean! I’ve just returned from a cruise and am slightly embarrassed to admit that one of the aspects of ship life I […]
The 2015 Australian Landscape Conference was memorable, with over 600 attendees following the input of landscape designers from overseas and Australia – all expert, energetic, upstanding deep thinkers.
If you have been thinking of visiting New Zealand, don’t miss this one-off opportunity to see the work of some of our top designers in private gardens that bring out the best of Auckland’s iconic landscape
On an already chilly day I made my way into the still colder environment of the Subantarctic Plant House in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) for a glimpse of the native vegetation of Macquarie Island.
Almost off the radar in terms of heritage listings at state or national level, yet uppermost in local communities’ minds and affections and emblems of regional pride as meeting places, beauty spots and centres for social or important gatherings, local public parks across NSW are one of its glories. A handful of the hundreds spring […]
A few years ago, whilst researching Polyscias (commonly called Aralia) cultivars for a magazine article, I came across mention of their discovery and introduction by William Guilfoyle during his voyage on the HMS Challenger in 1868. I was surprised to learn this was the same W R Guilfoyle (1840 – 1912) who later became the […]
I am about to jump on a plane and head off to France to lead a tour of gardens and châteaux of Normandy and the Loire Valley and if you haven’t booked it’s a bit late now! But the idea of travelling across the world to see gardens and gardening that I may well have […]
We’ve long harboured a desire to live in a beautiful house and garden in Tasmania. It seemed like a dream – not something that would actually ever happen – but recently several things changed in our lives and we realised a big move could be a reality.
Coloured foliage can certainly make a statement but like anything in the garden that isn’t green it can be overdone. Too many gold leaves can be glaring in strong sun light and could even create the look of a bed full of sick underfed plants. Variegated foliage overused can create a hectic look that has […]
“Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.” A quote by Captain James Cook in reference to him digging for potatoes in his garden? Perhaps unlikely, but the great explorer may have had a greener upbringing than […]
A few months ago I took one of my regular trips down to Melbourne to visit a close girlfriend who lives there. Over the three days I was there, I was struck by how green Melbourne was. Not that it has more parkland that I remembered or that it was mindblowingly sustainable – but that […]
My neighbour, artist Ros Goody, has the best crop of passionfruit ever this year, which is odd as her vine, possibly self-sown, grows under and around a jacaranda. It is very shaded and never watered. It is only fertilised if its roots have roamed into a near by garden bed, although there is plenty of […]
Having been lucky enough to lead more than a dozen garden tours to various parts of Europe, Japan and Australasia over the last 10 years, I’ve recently returned from a garden tour of New Zealand by cruise ship. It’s my first experience of conducting a garden tour this way but I hope it won’t be […]
Last year I overdid it, positively gorged myself, on garden travel. But just after enjoying a wonderful weekend at the Melbourne Garden DesignFest in the middle of November, there was one more tour that couldn’t be missed. For the last couple of years, three friends and I have headed off to Great Barrier Island, just […]
During our recent holiday on New Zealand’s North Island, we saw ecosystems that were so different to South Australia’s landscapes that they seemed positively alien. The apparent darkness of a glow worm cave gradually brightening to become a miniature replica of the Milky Way was memorable… but nothing was more eerie than the geothermal areas […]
I am smugly replete. What an amazing two full-on days of gardens. About 327 gardens all up I think, although maybe that was me feeling a little drunk on the heady elixir of high-quality design. Checking the DesignFest book, I see we made it to 17 of the 26 possible gardens, taking in tiny courtyards, […]
One inner-city garden in New Plymouth, near Mt Taranaki on the west coast of New Zealand’s north isle, defies this English style. Te Kainga Marire is a native garden open to the public by appointment for a modest fee from September to April.
The southwest corner of Western Australia is without doubt one of the world’s greatest spots for wildflowers, with visitors flocking from around the globe to see them. However, I’ve got to say that the picture postcard view of vast expanses of everlasting daisies or kangaroo paws can be rather an elusive one for the uninitiated. […]
The wonderful thing about being a gardener on vacation is that, no matter where you are in the world, you meet people who love plants. The climate may be different, the plants may be different, but that joy of all things green and growing, of creating a beautiful environment, also creates an instant connection we […]
Ask someone to think of a tropical island they’ll usually conjure up images of palm trees, white beaches and crystal clear waters. If you’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in the South Pacific Islands you’ll know that these places actually do exist.
Over three hundred kilometres north of Adelaide in South Australia looms a mountain range with breathtaking natural beauty on a grand scale. As I sit here penning this blog to the sounds of the bird life around me, with glimpses of red rocky outcrops through the trees, I am ashamed to say that like most […]
What is it about a rock in the middle of a desert landscape that can create such a siren call? For years I’ve thought “I just have to go there”. I haven’t and I’m not sure why. But last week I finally got to see and touch the famous rock that is Australia’s heart – Uluru […]
Just back from a week looking at gardens in Tasmania, I am trying to decipher my scribbled notes. But maybe I don’t need the notes to tell you about it. Because certain aspects of the landscape there – designed and natural – come straight to mind. These are, in order, water, rock, plants.