The site for the gardens was set aside in 1853 and first planted out in 1870, making the gardens amongst the earliest provincial botanic gardens set aside in Australia.
From 1881 the Council at the time employed William Guilfoyle, curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, to draw up plans and design the layout of the gardens. His design approach was to introduce sweeping lawns, curved paths, lakes and islands, rockeries with cacti and succulents, colourful plants and contrasting foliage into the Hamilton Botanic Gardens. Guilfoyle’s first list of sketch plans and suggested plantings, now more than 100 years old, are held in the Hamilton Art Gallery. His creative ability has created a unique landscape style and his gardens today are considered a vital part of Victoria’s heritage.
Set in four hectares, the Gardens as a complete entity were classified by the National Trust of Victoria in 1990 and contain eight tree species listed in the Register of Significant Trees. The Gardens have areas of scientific interest, fountains, decorative fences and gates, animal and bird enclosures and are built in a manner of merging surrounding streetscapes to give pleasing vistas both inwards and outwards.