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The Botanic Garden brochure and map, available at the Wellington visitor center or Treehouse Visitor Centre within the gardens, will help you make the most of your time in this leafy enclave. Established in 1868, the gardens have been managed by the Wellington City Council since 1891. They cover 25 hectares (62 acres), presenting a mix of protected native forest, conifer varieties, and plant collections with seasonal floral displays. The Lady Norwood Rose Garden is a colorful spectacle from November to May, with blooms flourishing in 106 formal beds. The Begonia House shows off tropical and temperate plants, including orchids and waterlilies, with a gift shop and Picnic Café adjacent. The Bolton Street Memorial Park includes a heritage rose collection and a historic cemetery. The chapel is open daily from 10am to 4pm.

The Carter Observatory, 40 Salamander Rd., Kelburn ([tel] 04/910-3140; www.carterobservatory.org), is another key attraction within the gardens. This is your chance to see the wonders of the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky. It is a world-class attraction and kids will love the chance to spot black holes, the Milky Way, and other star groups through state-of-the-art digital technology. They also have excellent interactive displays. It’s open daily November through April from 10am to 5pm, until 10:30pm on Saturday (closed Dec 25–26); May through October it’s open daily from 10am to 5pm, and until 9:30pm on Tuesday and Saturday. Admission is NZ$18 for adults, NZ$8 for children 4 to 16. It’s a 2-minute walk from the top of the Cable Car.