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Christchurch isn't called the Garden City for nothing, and taking pride of place among them all are the Botanic Gardens.

Mona Vale, 63 Fendalton Rd. (tel. 03/941-8999; www.ccc.govt.nz/parks/gardencity), has 5.5 hectares (14 acres) of rolling lawns, rose gardens, and fountains, open to the public free of charge. Guided garden tours are held daily from November through March. The Avon River runs along the border of Mona Vale, and a punting excursion will give you a peek into some of the beautiful private gardens on the river. Unfortunately the beautiful Mona Vale homestead was severely damaged by the earthquakes and has been earmarked for demolition. The 2 1/2-hour Garden Drive, described in the Christchurch Scenic Drive Guide brochure at the visitor center, includes both the Botanic Gardens and Mona Vale. Although much of the tour highlights architecture rather than actual gardens, it will give you a good look around the northwest suburbs, where there are many exquisite private home gardens.

Two other self-guided drives in the same brochure cover the Port Hills Drive and the Avon River Drive, which are not exactly garden tours, but will give you an excellent overview of the city and its natural landscape. The Port Hills Drive is especially worth doing for its spectacular views from Alps to ocean.

If you take the spectacular drive up Dyer’s Pass Road and over the Port Hills to Governor’s Bay, you’ll find Barry Sligh at Taunton Gardens (tel. 03/329-9746). Barry is an enthusiastic plant breeder whose stunning 2 hectares (5 acres) of woodland gardens are open September to April Tuesday through Sunday for NZ$15.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.