Botanical Hill (Centre of New Zealand)
The Centre of New Zealand is located atop Botanical Hill (147 m), on the eastern edge of Nelson city centre. A network of tracks cover the hill and give access to Sir Stanley Whitehead Park and Branford Park in the Maitai Valley. The hill summit offers fantastic views over Nelson City and Tasman Bay.
Botanical Hill is immediately east of the city centre. The main access points to Botanical Hill Tracks are Botanic Sports Field and Branford Park. There is plenty of parking around the edge of Botanic Sports Field, on both Milton Street and Hardy Street East. To access the hill from Maitai Valley, there are two car parks in Branford Park.
There are multiple ways to reach the summit as there are many links between the tracks (see the map). The well-graded main track begins at the base of Botanical Hill on the far side of Botanics Sports Field (the site of New Zealand’s first ever rugby game in 1888) and zig-zags up the western aspect of the hill for 1 km to the summit. Turn right at the information panel at the base of the hill to take this route and follow the signposts. Turning left at the information panel will take you up a short gully where there is a Kauri tree. Botanical Hill is covered in a mixture of exotic and native vegetation. The bottom half is well-shaded amid the trees, allowing for pleasant walking on warm, sunny days.
Near the top of the hill there is a junction where tracks head north into Sir Stanley Whitehead Park (linking to Walter’s Bluff and Bayview) and east into Branford Park (via the East Ridge Track). At the summit there is a monument and lookout platform, allowing great views across the city, Tasman Bay, and inland up the Maitai Valley.
Note that the top of Botanical Hill is not the actual ‘centre’ of New Zealand. Given its prominence and location next to the city centre, the top of the hill was used as an starting point for trigonometrical surveys by Chief Surveyor of Nelson, John Spence Browning in the 1870s. The true geographical centre of New Zealand lies in the Golden Downs Forest, a few kilometres south of Kohatu.
Park at Riverside Pool and follow Maitai River Walkway to the pedestrian bridge at Hardy St East. Head up the main track to the summit of Botanical Hill, but on the return leg take the East Ridge Track to Branford Park. Cross the Maitai Valley Road bridge and follow the Maitai River Walkway back downstream to where you started.