The Hamilton Botanic Gardens is one of the earliest botanic gardens in Victoria and has great historical, scientific (botanical) and aesthetic significance. It received the State's highest heritage protection, following its inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register. After Hamilton was surveyed in 1850, land was set aside for a public garden in 1853 and gazetted in 1870.
William Ferguson, a landscaper from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, undertook the first plantings on site in 1870. However, from 1881, the gardens were developed to a plan by William Guilfoyle, the curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens and one of Australia's greatest garden designers and botanists.
Victoria's fourth oldest botanic gardens, it is one of the State's most intact examples of a 19th-century regional botanic garden, and an important early example of the work of Guilfoyle.
With curved paths, sweeping lawns, perimeter plantings, areas of intensive horticultural interest and a lake, the Gardens exemplify Guilfoyle's ideas about planting.
Today, the original Guilfoyle plan for the Gardens still survives and can be viewed at the Hamilton Art Gallery, along with an accompanying letter from the designer.
Significant plants include the State's only known Gymnocladus dioicus (Kentucky Coffee Tree) and largest known Chamaecyparis funebris (Funeral Cypress), as well as two rare Quercus leucotrichophora (Himalayan Oaks).
Reflecting 19th-century traditions, zoological elements have been a feature of the gardens since 1885, with two aviaries and an animal enclosure remaining.
Set in 4 acres, Hamilton Botanic Gardens is bounded by French, Kennedy, Martin and Thompson Streets, Hamilton.