Historic Homesteads and Gardens to Visit


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The district of Geraldine has a proud pioneering history, with many families still retaining strong ties to the land settled by their forefathers more than 150 years ago.  To take a step back in time and learn more about this past you’ll find plenty of information at the interesting Geraldine Historical Museum and by visiting some of the original homesteads and their unique gardens.

Kakuhu Gardens – Kakahu is a park-like garden with a predominance of English trees, rhododendrons and camellias.  It covers 6 hectares (16 acres) featuring a century-old avenue of English oaks leading to the homestead which sits comfortably among the tall trees.

A grand old English Oak is the feature on the front lawn, believed to be one of the largest in New Zealand.  Planted by the Studholme family in approximately 1896, this tree plus the avenue of Oaks, a wonderful Copperbeech, and two large Lime Trees are a tribute to the family’s foresight.  It is recorded that these trees were bought at Suttons in England and brought out to New Zealand especially for the new homestead, which had not at that stage been built.

For visits please contact in advance on 021 824 050 or by email Located on Winchester Hanging Rock Road.

Mesopotamia High Country Station  – The name Mesopotamia originates from the Middle East and means ‘the land between two rivers’ – the original the rivers were the Tigris and the Euphrates. Mesopotamia Station lies between the Rangitata and Forest Creek rivers and was named by Samuel Butler in 1860. It remains one of New Zealand’s oldest high country stations.

Samuel Butler, English writer and author of the satire ‘Erewhon’, is the most famous former occupant of Mesopotamia while the Prouting family have owned and operated the station since 1945. 

Visit historic sites and the old homestead, stay on the station in former staff quarters, join a hunting part or take a helicopter ride.  For bookings contact the station on 03 696 3738.

Mia Flora at Kavanagh House –Nestled in the grounds of Kavanagh house on State Highway 1 in Winchester, Miaflora boasts a well-stocked garden centre, gift shop and café. Along with beautiful gardens to wander through brimming with art and sculptures you will be amazed by what’s on offer.  Bruce is an award winning horticulturalist from Australia and was awarded best small garden centre in 2003 with over 35 years in the industry.

Here you will find plants and goodies that you rarely see anywhere else in NZ.  John is a gifted pastry chef who creates interesting and different cakes biscuits and scones. Along with a full time chef you will be delighted with the offerings for breakfast and lunch at Miaflora.

Open hours are from 9am till 5pm Thurs to Sun and Mon of public holidays.  Café bookings recommended on 03 615 6150.

Mt Peel Station – Established in 1856 by John Acland and Charles Tripp (see Orari Gorge Station below) the station is one of handful in New Zealand that have retained uninterrupted family ownership to the present day. 

Wishing to recreate a local community like his native Devon, Acland built one of the first permanent material homesteads in Canterbury.  The home, a two storeyed house, constructed in brick with a steep, slate roof and extensive verandas is set among many gracious exotic trees planted at the time. 

Acland also built and gifted to the community the Church of the Holy Innocents, named after four children, including two Aclands, who are buried in the church grounds.  The graveyard, which enjoys sweeping views towards the Rangitatata River, tells an interesting story of the family and the area.  Included in those resting there is famous crime writer Dame Ngaio Marsh, a friend of well-known surgeon Sir Hugo Acland.

The gardens of the homestead open to the public for on one day in December during the Mt Peel Lily (Himalayan Lily) blooming season.  See the events calendar of exact dates each year. 

The Church of the Holy Innocents, a place of interest and beauty, can be visited year round. 

Mulvihill Country Garden – Enjoy a large seasonal country garden, located on the way from Geraldine to Fairlie.  Mulivhill is cared for by two passionate plant collectors and is renowned for its trilliums, and a driveway full of rhododendrons and azaleas, with tulips and irises.  Plants are also on sale at the small nursery.

Travel south on Geraldine-Fairlie Highway for 20 km, turn left onto Mulvihill Road and continue for 2 km to the garden on the right.  The garden is open daily during October and November each year with FREE entry for groups and individuals.  It may be worth ringing ahead on 03 697 4856 just to make sure owner Sandra is available.

Orari Gorge Station – Originally as part of the Mount Peel run, Orari Gorge Station was the first high country land in Canterbury to be developed as a sheep station by Charles Tripp and his then partner John Acland.

 The farm buildings on the Station, commenced in 1859, constitute an important and comprehensive remnant of the significant pastoral history of Canterbury. The Whata (one of the very few survivors of a building raised high on posts as used as station stores in early pastoral runs) adds a special quality as a rare survivor of a particular building type that can be linked to indigenous Maori food stores and English granaries.

The buildings all provide important information about station life in what was the first (as originally part of Mount Peel Station) high country run in Canterbury.  Orari Gorge Station is strongly associated with the Tripp family, and descendants of Charles Tripp, the original owner of Orari Gorge Station, who retain ownership of the station today.

Visits to the farm buildings and homestead garden are strictly by group booking only, on a limited basis.  Please contact Rosa on 03 692 2853 for bookings or visit the website to find out more about Orari Gorge Station today.

Another way to enjoy this historic station is to sign up for the Woodbury Hill Country Challenge.

Orari Estate – The Orari Estate is farmed by the Morten family, descendants of the Macdonald brothers who took up a sheep run in 1854.  It was located between the Orari River, the Rangitata River, the coast, back to the Arundel Bridge, Proudfoot Corner and across to the Rangitata River and named Matatiki.  After 1857 the name was changed to Orari.

Orari Estate is one of four stations in South Canterbury which has never changed hands except by inheritance. The others are Te Waimate, Mount Peel and Mount Cook. 

Each year the estate opens its gardens for private tours and to the public on one day in December to view the stunning display of Himalayan lilies.  See the events calendar for the exact dates of the lily day each year.  For group bookings please contact Rosie on 03 693 9058.

Talbot Forest – Just a 5 minute walk from the centre of Geraldine this remnant of ancient podocarp and hardwood forest contains a number of lovely short walks connected by scenic picnic areas and features an 800 year old Totara tree.   See here for other walks in the area. 

Waikonini – Waikonini Homestead (shown at the top of the page) is a stately Victorian home listed with The Historic Places Trust. The house was built in 1882 by W.E Barker, son of A.C Barker who came to NZ on The Charlotte Jane and was the first Doctor in NZ.   Mr. J.P Pritchard was the architect from Darlington U.K.   The homestead is nestled at the base of Mt Peel.

 The home is cherished and has been painstaking restored by its current owner who is motivated to share this fine home on extensive gardens with local people and visitors from all parts of the world.  Pritchard’s original plans have been honored by having the conservatory constructed in 2014.

The gardens of Waikonini are majestic and hold the original charm that was bestowed by William Barker.  There are oak, Atlantis pine and Tasmanian Blackwood trees, along with Himalayan lilies, rhododendrons, primroses, violets and hydrangeas.   The original pear and apple trees continue to bear fruit today.

The Homestead and gardens are available to pre booked groups for B&B, gatherings (christenings and birthdays), morning and afternoon teas, lunches and dinners.  Contact Mary on 03 6963868 or email at /waikoninihomestead@rualnet.co.nz

Victorian Woodworks – Home to the famous ‘pole people’ and other wooden garden art created by James Foster, Victorian Woodworks also boasts a stunning one acre seasonal garden.  Enjoy strolling around the pond which blooms with water Irises from mid November and is home to an amazing array of wild life, browse the gift shop and admire the various pole people characters.

Booking required for groups and visitors always welcome when the sign is out.  For contact please ring Liz on 03 696 3568.

Waihi River Walk – Located in the centre of Geraldine this leafy walk winds along the edge of the Waihi River and can be accessed directly across the road from the Visitor Information Centre or next to the War Memorial on Talbot St.

During October and November the walk is festooned with colour from the rhododendron and camellia plantings, with a lovely piece of native bush to provide peace and respite on hotter summer’s days.

Woodbury Rhododendrons – The extensive and tranquil gardens of Joy and Bernie O’Keefe, owners of Woodbury Rhododendrons, are best enjoyed from October to mid- November but also well worth a visit during the spring and summer months to see maples, flowering cherries and other trees interplanted among more than one thousand rhododendrons.

A large pond surrounded by irises and hostas is a feature with roses, peonies and border of lavender, heuchera, stachys, and alchemilla mollis all adding to the overall effect. 

Please contact to make group booking.  Entry fee $3 pp. 16 Burdon Road, Woodbury, Geraldine.  (03) 692 2864.

A visit to local gardens is well rounded off with a browse at the Geraldine Garden Centre which stocks a great range of trees, shrubs, perennials, roses as well as the usual indoor gardening products.

For interesting options slightly further afield do consider the internationally acclaimed Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden in Timaru’s Caroline Day.  The garden is set around arbours and water features and boasts nearly 1200 roses.  It really is a ‘must see’ when in bloom.

Also in Timaru is are the Botanic Gardens, 19 hectares of a photographer’s delight, these gardens were laid out in 1864 and are now recognised as a ‘Garden of National Significance’ by the NZ Gardens Trust.  

South Canterbury is blessed with lovely gardens and keen gardeners so you are bound to find something to interest and delight. 

Categories: GardensVisitor Attractions