Lonely Planet review
One of the finest botanic gardens in the world, the Royal Botanical Gardens are one of Melbourne’s most glorious attractions. Sprawling beside the Yarra River, the beautifully designed gardens feature a global selection of plantings and specifically endemic Australian flora. Mini-ecosystems, such as a cacti and succulents area, herb garden and an indigenous rainforest, are set amid vast lawns. Take a book, picnic or Frisbee – but most importantly, take your time.
During the summer months, the gardens play host to the Moonlight Cinema and theatre performances. Other features include the Observatory for tours of the night sky, and the excellent, nature-based Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden , a whimsical and child-scaled place that invites kids and their parents to explore, discover and imagine.
The visitor centre is at the former centre for stargazers. A range of tours departs from here. Choose from a variety of guided walks through assorted horticultural pockets to learn a bit about history, botany and wildlife. Next to the visitor centre, the National Herbarium, established in 1853, contains 1.2 million dried botanical specimens used for identification purposes.
For visitors who can’t get enough of gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens has a recently developed Australian Garden in the outlying suburb of Cranbourne. The award-winning visitor centre was designed by local architect Kerstin Thompson.