Best Botanic Gardens in Australia
When it comes to botanic gardens, it seems most of us love them. In fact, according to the Australian National Botanic Gardens network, they are the second most popular cultural venue after cinemas.
There are more than 140 of them in Australia. Apart from being an oasis of calm (particularly if they are in the heart of a city), botanic gardens also offer a fascinating opportunity to clap your eyes on the exquisite, the unusual, the beautiful and the new in the world of plants.
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But you certainly don’t need to be a fanatical plant lover to visit one. At these ‘gardens of Eden’, you can enjoy a host of activities and events with your family, learn more about horticulture, ecology and botany, or simply relax.
The major botanic gardens across Australia tend to have an incredible range of cultural activities spanning the arts, theatre, music and cinema so there is something to appeal to everyone. It’s a far cry from the early botanical gardens in medieval Europe, which were largely created for medicinal and healing purposes.
Regardless of why you feel drawn to visiting a botanic garden, it’s clear they are a place of divine beauty which will bring you great joy. Here are some of the major gardens worth visiting:
Australian National Botanic Gardens (Canberra)
These gardens are sited on Black Mountain in the nation’s capital. Since 1970, the Australian National Botanic Gardens have wowed visitors with the largest living collection of native Australian plants. There are more than 5,500 species to discover. From rainforest plants to eucalypts, wattles and waratahs, the gardens have long played a crucial role in encouraging plant biodiversity and protection. This year, visitors will be treated to a brand new, visually stunning Red Centre Garden, which aims to inspire interest in Australia’s distinctive desert plants and landscapes, particularly from Central Australia.
Royal Botanic Gardens (Sydney)
The Royal Botanic Gardens are the most central of three such gardens in Sydney. With a history dating back to 1816, these gardens hold the prestigious title of being the ‘oldest scientific institution’ and ‘oldest botanic garden’ in Australia. Set against the magnificent backdrop of the Sydney Harbour and unfenced recreational and sporting parkland (aka ‘the Domain’), the gardens are a much-loved part of the city. Pop into the Herbarium and Library or catch one of the special events, walks, lectures, exhibitions or workshops regularly held at the site.
Adelaide Botanic Garden (Adelaide)
A lot is packed into this delightful place. In a primo position in the inner city, the Adelaide Botanic Garden boasts a number of highlights. The highly popular and spectacularly designed International Rose Garden, for example, is a feature garden which includes a gorgeous collection of 5,000 roses (it’s hard not to be swept away by the sweet fragrances). Next door is the Bicentennial Conservatory, an architectural landmark in itself. The impressive structure is the ‘largest single span glasshouse in the southern hemisphere’ and is home to different birds and insects living in a dense canopy of rainforest foliage. Yet another highlight is the intriguingly named Santos Museum of Economic Botany. The colonial style building displays temporary exhibitions as well as longstanding collections all bound by a common theme – the celebration of plants from the past, present and future. Equally delightful is the Amazon Waterlily Pavilion. Inside this transparent glass palace, you’ll find the Victoria amazonica waterlily known for its unique massive form and beauty.
Royal Botanic Gardens (Melbourne)
Walkers and joggers take to the running track around the perimeter of the Gardens in droves. Inside, the Gardens also attract the crowds with good reason. Site on the banks of the Yarra River a hop, step and a jump from the CBD, the Royal Botanic Gardens host more than 10,000 different native and non-native plant species. First opened in 1846, the site has been transformed from swamp land to beautifully landscaped areas full of sweeping vistas. Special zones include the Camellia Collection, Cacti and Succulents, Tropical Display Glasshouse and Australian Forest Walk. To inspire the kids, bring them along to the magical Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden. This space encourages the little ones to get their hands dirty while learning about ecology.
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