Melbourne's Royal Botanical Gardens are simply glorious. From the air, the 94-acre spread evokes a giant green lung in the middle of the city. Drawing over 1.5 million visitors annually, the gardens are considered one of the finest examples of Victorian-era landscaping in the world. You'll find a global selection of plantings and endemic Australian flora. Mini ecosystems, such as a cacti and succulents area, a herb garden and an indigenous rainforest, are set amid vast lawns.
In summer the gardens play host to Moonlight Cinema and theatre performances. Other features include the 19th-century Melbourne Observatory for tours of the night sky, and the excellent, nature-based Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, a whimsical, child-scaled place that invites kids and their parents to explore, discover and imagine.
The visitor centre is the departure point for tours, some of which are free and all of which should be booked by calling ahead (see the website for details). Close by, the National Herbarium, established in 1853, contains over a million dried botanical specimens used for plant-identification purposes.
For visitors who can’t get enough, the Royal Botanical Gardens has recently developed the Australian Garden in the outlying suburb of Cranbourne.