Inspirational new Visitor Centre an interesting new Gardens Tour stop
Welcome Aboard’s popular Christchurch Botanic Gardens Tour has got even better. The reason? It now stops outside the stunning new Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre. Designed to appear like a large airy glasshouse, the Visitor Centre is certainly compatible with its garden surrounds. Design of the $16.4 million complex was put out to competition and awarded to local architects Patterson Associates, with Leighs Construction the builders.
It was opened by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on April 14, becoming the first civic complex in Christchurch to be inaugurated post-earthquakes.
The new Visitor Centre provides a modern working complex for Botanic Gardens staff along with previously behind-the-scenes working displays for visitors to see. Features include a functions room overlooking the river, a fascinating exhibition about the story of Christchurch shown through plants and gardens, a working nursery, botanical library, toilets and gift shop, as well as a café scheduled to open in mid-May.
For staff, it is a far cry from their previous workplace where separate areas catered for men and women, and chicken wire covered the chimney to keep possums out. The new centre had been planned prior to the earthquakes to coincide with the Botanic Gardens 150th anniversary, commemorated during 2013.
Caterpillar Botanic Gardens Tour
This last week of April and the following week are best time to visit the Botanic Gardens to enjoy the peak of autumn. The colours are turning very well. Taking a Gardens Tour aboard the appropriately-named electric-powered Caterpillar vehicle is not just for those unable to walk around the extensive Botanic Gardens. The tour drivers/guides are a mine of fascinating information: hear the stories of the plants and trees, why one tree would puzzle a climbing monkey, the best tree from which to make a bow and arrow, which tree grown for its cork bark and see why the silver fern, symbol for some New Zealand sports teams, is so named. And of course, take some time for a self-guided tour of the new Visitor Centre. A pleasant hour can be passed there until the next Gardens Tour arrives.
Caterpillar Gardens Tours depart on the hour (11 am to 3 pm) from just inside the Christchurch Botanic Gardens entrance. The tour calls at the Visitor Centre on the half hour.