In the late 1800s, the Maori people gifted 50 acres of this land to the Crown "for the benefit of the people of the world". The land was a geothermal area with several therapeutic pools. Formal gardens were planted and several large trees remain from those early days, including multi-trunked Japanese firs and an unusual Californian weeping redwood. Following the ratification of the original gift in 1883, the reserve was vested in the Government of New Zealand in 1898 as an area where the thermal waters could be used and promoted as a health spa similar to those in Europe.

Today, the Rotorua Lakes Council operates a nursery in Government Gardens which annually produces 420,000 bedding plants for display within the city’s 150 flower beds. The nursery also grows around 6000 potted plants for display work and 15,000 trees and shrubs annually.

The Gardens provide facilities for bowls, croquet, petanque and golf (the Motutara course is leased to private operators); and a soldiers' memorial for servicemen belonging to the local Te Arawa tribe, the Klamath Falls Rose Gardens, Te Runanga Tearooms, a band rotunda and various buildings of historic interest are also located here.

Klamath Falls Rose Gardens
The Klamath Falls Rose Gardens are situated on Queens Drive and are named after Klamath Falls in Oregon, North America – a sister city to Rotorua. Roses are in bloom from mid-November to June and are at their best during the summer months.

Te Runanga Tea House
Te Runanga (The Meeting House) was built in 1903 and was originally intended to be a tea pavilion. It served as a social centre of spa facilities where tourists could relax and drink mineral waters from the local springs.

Band Rotunda
Situated adjacent to Te Runanga Tea House is the Band Rotunda. This was built in 1900 overlooking the bowling greens and more recently was shifted to its current location.

The Government Gardens is also home to the famous Rotorua Museum and the restored Blue Baths.