The Dunedin Botanical Gardens are located at the northern end of central Dunedin. They are located close to the University of Otago and one of the city’s most historic cemeteries, the Northern Cemetery, on a spur of Signal Hill and on the river plain immediately below it. These two parts of the gardens are known simply as the upper gardens and the lower gardens. The location of the gardens makes them popular with University students, as they lie between the University and the mouth of North East Valley, which houses a substantial proportion of the city’s tertiary students.
The Gardens – New Zealand’s oldest – were established in 1863 on a site surrounding the Water of Leith now occupied by the University of Otago. After extensive flooding in 1868, the gardens were moved to their current site in 1869.
The gardens were extensively enlarged during the early years of the 20th and now form part of Dunedin’s Town Belt – a green belt surrounding the inner city.
The lower garden’s features include rose and herb gardens, a duck pond, band rotunda and Japanese garden – the latter commemorating links with Dunedin’s Japanese sister city, Otaru. There is also a cafe and visitor’s centre. A small tributary of the Leith – the Lindsay Creek -flows through the lower gardens.
The upper gardens are split by a winding public road called Lovelock Avenue (named after former Dunedin resident and Olympic gold medallist, Jack Lovelock). Along each side of this road are bush walks. The upper garden also features an African garden, a wetlands garden, a small aviary and an extensive rhododendron dell. A rhododendron festival is held in the gardens every October.