Garden of significance: Efil Doog, North Island, New Zealand

When PR man Graham Bell, from The Butchart Gardens (BC Canada) tells me about some local gardens I ‘absolutely need to see’, I believe him. After all I have seen the Canadian gardens so know what he’s comparing them with.

One of the founding “Garden of Regional Significance” awarded by the New Zealand Garden Trust, the  Efil Doog Gardens are in the Akatarawa Valley (near Upper Hutt, Wellington – 11.5k from State Highway 2 and about the same from State Highway 1 on the west side of the island. see directions and prices here )

As well as the owners love, devotion, and passion, one of the other advantages this garden has is the clear Akatarawa River which runs through the native bush, hills, farmlands, and Efil Doog. The Akatarawa Valley is home to several other popular tourist attractions related to nature and country lifestyles. These include gardens, nurseries, a wildlife park, emu and blueberry farms, and a holiday park.

I was confused about the name as I hadn’t seen that Efil Doog is ‘good life’ read backwards.  The owners, Shirley and Ernest Cosgrove, have had the property since 1976 and moved onto it some twenty years later and for them it is, and has been, ‘the good life’.

At 300 metres above sea level, these 11-acres of gardens have magnolias, azaleas, about 2,000 rhododendrons and other exotic flowers.  Trees and shrubs provide the bones of this “Garden of Art” and have fifty sculptures by contemporary artists scattered throughout. The artists are both national and international, can be found throughout the gardens. Ernest is a skilled bonsai gardener too and has a fine collection on show. This property is well worth visiting for a day (take a picnic lunch).

When I first arrived I thought ‘how peaceful and quiet’ until I heard all the noise the birds and bees where making. So yes, it’s ‘peaceful and quiet’ in the country until you stop and really listen – it’s just wonderful.

Another surprise for me was the purpose-built art gallery that displays a fine collection of original and (mostly) early New Zealand paintings and famous works by New Zealand artists such as Frances Hodgkin, Charles Goldie, John Steele, Margaret Stoddard, James Nairn, Dorothy Kate Richmond, Elizabeth Kelly, Claus Fristrom, Isobel Field, Mina Arndt, William Baker, Alfred O’Keefe, and many others.

I will be returning – and have already told a friend it’s on our ‘to-do’ list when she comes to Wellington in January.

Let me know what you think of this great place by leaving a comment.


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Author: Heather - the kiwi travel writer

Nomadic travel-writer, photographer, author & blogger. See more on and Amazon for my books (heather hapeta)

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