Location: Hill Road, off SH1 (Southern Highway), Manurewa
Access: Car-park outside visitor centre inside main gates to gardens; open 08.00-20.00 (summer); 08.00-18.00 (winter); free access
Length: up to 7km (can be extended by link to Puhunui Steam Forest Trail)
Configuration: Complex network of tracks
Grade: Flat with some undulating sections; formal paths and grassy tracks
Status: on leash (with large off-leash area)
Cafes and restaurants: Miko Cafe at visitor centre
More information: http://www.aucklandbotanicgardens.co.nz/visitor-information/garden-map.cfm
If you're passing through Auckland, there can be few better places to walk the dog than the Botanic Gardens. In fact it's well worth going to Auckland just for that - a better place by far than the rather tatty shopping area or business district. It not only offers a huge variety of plants to gaze at and walkways to explore, but a large off-leash dog-exercis area. So whenever we can we stop off there for an hour or so - to wander, learn, relax, and afterwards have lunch in the more than ample restaurant.
We've no particular route we take, at least not be deliberation. But often as not we head off north from the car park in a clockwise fashion, visiting the collection of threatened New Zealand plants first, then wandering through the bush along the western edge of the gardens until we reach the palms, after which the dogs can have a good run in the off-leash area, where there are always lots of smells. From there, it's good to head into the area of native bush along the northern boundary, and if we've the time and inclination we don't loop straight back into the garden but continue on, following the stream towards Totara Park. Finally, it's a zig-zagging trip back to the information centre, calling in to see the roses or camelias or spring blossom according to the time of year.
We don't like Auckland. It's too big, too noisy, too full of traffic and has got no architecture to speak of. It's just a built-up area that gets in the way of going north or south to where we want to be. (Sorry Aucklanders - no disrespect!) But The Botanic Gardens are nice - no argument, and as we struggle down SH1 they give us a goal to aim at.