I must have driven past the sign for the Ngatea Water Gardens at least 50 times before I finally went in. And once I did the first thing I thought was how on earth did it take me this long to explore this magnificent spot! Don’t put it off like me though – I’m going to try and convince you in 1,000 words and a fair few pictures why you have to go to Ngatea Water Gardens.
When James and I first started dating he was living on the Hauraki Plains at the foot of the mountains, just out of Ngatea, and I was living in Auckland. It was a well worn path between my city and his mountains in the early days. Always racing to get to James house for that precious time together or back to work on a Monday morning there was never enough time it seemed so each time I headed past the sign with a promise that one day I would explore the Ngatea Water Gardens.
That day transpired in the form of a quite Sunday in February when James (who now lives up in Auckland with me) was visiting his Dad in Matatoki and I decided to head off by myself to finally check out the gardens and take some photos.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but my first sign that I was going to love it was literally that – a sign. A couple of them in-fact. As I pulled into the car park I saw what looked like reserved signs, but on closer inspection were actually quite hilarious!
I couldn’t find any that fitted me so I apologise to Fishing Inspectors, Tax Collectors or Strippers whose carpark I stole…
I particularly loved this one and I’m not sure quite where else you’d pull this one off…
Feeling pretty confident that I was going to love it I headed in to pay my $12 entry fee. At the front desk I met Roger Blake – owner and it would seem very talented gardner and engineer (along with wife Emma) at the Ngatea Water Gardens.
Roger asked me if I would like to take along some food for the very friendly birds and fish. I declined, telling him I’d do it when I had the kids. Apparently no one told this guy though as he waddled over the bridge and right up to me as I walked in. He looked mightily annoyed that I seemed to have forgotten his food. The birds are incredibly friendly (in a very nice way) so don’t be like me – say yes to the food!
I’m a little bit geeky when I get to places like this. I get so excited that it’s all that I can do to stop myself doing a little happy dance and a few twirls. It’s why I love going with the kids because I can pretend I’m just entertaining them! This particular happy dance was on account of spotting a tiny glimpse of a castle off in the distance…
And there it was, a castle. Complete with resplendent grounds perfect for both happy dancing and twirling!
Heading in for closer inspection there was a series of buttons. Including one that said ‘do not press’. I did what I imagine you all would do and I pressed it. And then I got squirted. And that was me, I couldn’t stop laughing. I did get a bit smarter when I saw the ‘do not stand here’ sign later on and had a laugh when someone else stood on it (I’ll leave you to find out what happens there).
Heading down the gently winding (and flat!) path I came across an old barn with vines creeping all over the sides. I can absolutely see why these guys hold weddings here – what a spot!
Further on and you get to the man made lakes and you realise the scale of the transformation of this piece of farmland. It’s absolutely stunning but it’s the little quirks like the parking metres for boats in the water that really give the gardens their unique charm.
I don’t know what it is about this part of New Zealand that breeds this irreverent sense of humour and kiwi can do attitude but it instantly put me in the mind of Water Works and Driving Creek Railway further up in the Coromandel Peninsula.
There’s a waterfall with some impressive engineering that involves an upside down bath to slow the water…
More quirky signs that will make you really laugh out loud….
And of course there is the can museum. Collected by Rogers Dad, Arthur over a lifetime and from around the world, there are over 6,000 cans. It’s more than just cans though – it’s like stepping through history. Back to the cans I remember coveting in my childhood. To the ones you know they would never get away with today.
And then I got to the fork in the road (get it??) and it was all over. It’s like a great meal – I was a bit sad it was finished and totally wanted to do it again. If I had the time I actually would have gone around again but I’d already spent an hour and a half wandering around and I had to get back for dinner with James parents.
So I know that we say this with everything we write about (we only write about the things we like after all) but seriously – go and check this place out! It’s awesome!! Take a picnic and spend a day. There’s a park for the kids to play at and so much to look at.
But I’m going to stop talking now and let the pictures do the talking. If you want to find out more about the gardens and their opening hours – it’s all over here…