Bason Botanic Gardens in Wanganui has been acclaimed by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a 'Garden of Regional Significance', so it's definitely worth squeezing into your itinerary. Once part of a farm, the gardens were gifted to Wanganui by Stanley and Blanche Bason in 1996. In spring you'll find a mass of camellias, daffodils, magnolias and flowering cherry trees. In summer, roses and perennials paint the landscape with a rainbow of colours. Walking trails lead around the gardens and the original homestead.Another of Wanganui's natural attractions is Bushy Park Forest Reserve - nearly 100 hectares of native forest eight kilometres from Kai Iwi on the Wanganui to New Plymouth highway. The reserve's hero is 'Ratanui', a rata tree which is estimated to be somewhere between 500 and 1000 years old. With a girth of more than 11 metres and standing 43 metres high, Ratanui is believed to be the largest rata tree in New Zealand. Bushy Park was gifted to the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society in the 1960s. Today it is a predator-free bird sanctuary with a very successful kiwi creche.