These well-landscaped gardens were once a quarry manned by prison labour. The gardens were developed in 1974 to commemorate the centenary of the establishment of Napier as a borough and a city.
Initially prisoners and later Council gardeners transformed the bare former quarry into the present verdant gardens. All the soil had to be moved onto the site.
Now, paths of crushed limestone wind through rock gardens and ground-hugging planting.
Water is another significant landscaping feature. From the lower pool, water is pumped to the main pool and then to the top of the cliff where it cascades in down the 40-metre rock face.
Spray from the waterfall has encouraged the growth of plants on the limestone cliff face. At night, when lit with green illumination, the scene is one of almost primeval beauty.
Opposite the gardens on a hillside across Coote Road, the historic former prison has been preserved and now has a new life as a tourist site and backpackers accommodation.
Many of Napier Hill's roadside retaining walls were built by working parties of prisoners. Dressed limestone from the quarry was known locally as "shell rock". In the 1920s and 1930s, it was very popular with local architects and builders who specified it for ornamental walls and pillars.
When the quarry was closed, this local supply of "shell rock" dried up.
Parking and Disabled Access
The car park is on the seaward site of the gardens, off Coote Road. Wheelchair access is by way of the path at the Hill end of the car park.
Centennial Gardens Images
Centennial Gardens Location Map
At the foot of Bluff Hill where Coote Road meets Marine Parade