Royal Botanic Gardens
Lonely Planet review for Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens was established in 1816 as the colony’s veggie patch. The attitude is relaxed – signs say: ‘Please walk on the grass. We also invite you to smell the roses, hug the trees, talk to the birds and picnic on the lawns’. Go exploring, take a free guided walk, or jump on the trackless train if you’ve overdone things.
Highlights include the rose garden, the South Pacific plant collection, the prickly arid garden, a rare Wollemi Pine (an ancient tree only discovered in 1994 in the Blue Mountains), and a colony of bats. Management periodically tries to oust the bats because they destroy vegetation, but they just keep hanging around… The Sydney Tropical Centre comprises the interconnecting Arc and Pyramid glasshouses – a great place to warm up on a wintry morning. The Arc has a rampant collection of climbers from the world’s rainforests; the Pyramid houses Australian species.
The gardens’ northeastern tip is Mrs Macquaries Point, a functional lookout long before Europeans arrived. It was named in 1810 after Elizabeth, Governor Macquarie’s wife, who ordered a chair chiselled into the rock from which she’d view the harbour. Government House governs the gardens’ northwest sector.
Free 1½-hour guided walks depart from the information booth at the Gardens Shop. Book ahead for an Aboriginal Heritage Tour, which includes traditional music, dance and bush-food tastings. You can also download self-guided tours from the RBG website.
Estimated walking times on signs are pessimistic (if a sign says something is five minutes away, bank on two). The park’s paths are mostly wheelchair accessible.