The Hatley Park gardens at Royal Roads University are now and forever free to the public.

The gardens frequently attract tens of thousands of visitors per year and have appeared on lists of top places to visit on the island.

“The vast majority of the 565 acres of oceanfront, walking trails and old-growth forest that comprise Hatley Park National Historical Site have always been free for our neighbours and tourists to enjoy. Now the gates to the gardens are open as well,” said university president Philip Steenkamp.

“It’s a magnificent setting for people who learn, teach and work here. I’m delighted that more of our community will now get to enjoy the artistry of the gardeners and groundskeepers who care for our botanical and historical treasures.”

Looking out over the Olympic mountains, the 10-acre heritage gardens can be found between the century-old Hatley Castle and the Esquimalt Lagoon.

“We have about 1,500 recorded plants, from the venerable Douglas fir in the forest, estimated to be 1,000 years old to the 198 David Austins, Old Garden roses, musk roses, climbers and ramblers in the Rose Garden,” said Royal Roads head gardener Barrie Agar. 

“Right now the 200 feet of herbaceous borders, traditional loggia and twisted Wisteria in the Italian Garden are quite spectacular. As is the cool, contemplative Japanese Garden with its blossom- and gazebo-mirrored lake.”

Guided tours of the gardens and castle are still available for a charge.