Considered one of the finest examples of Victorian-era landscaping in the world, Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens draw over two million visitors a year. Here you'll find plants from around the globe as well as a strong show of unique Australian flora.
Mini ecosystems, a herb garden and an indigenous rainforest are all set amid vast, picnic-friendly lawns and black-swan-spotted ponds. From the air, these stunning, 38-hectare gardens suggest a set of giant green lungs in the heart of the city.
Events and tours
In summer the gardens play host to Moonlight Cinema, a nightly pop-up cinema where cult classics and new release films are screened under the stars. Open-air theatre performances are another summer highlight from Shakespeare to Wind in the Willows, they’re often child-friendly events.
Children and parents will love the excellent, nature-based Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, a whimsical, child-scaled place that invites exploration and water play.
The Aboriginal Heritage Walk comes highly recommended. This is a site of cultural significance to the local Kulin Nation (there’s a reason this vast green space was not buried under streets and houses when the British descended). On the tour you’ll learn to identify significant native plants with an Aboriginal guide, and gain some insight in the customs and ongoing connection to country of Australia’s First Nations people.
The visitor centre is the departure point for tours but book ahead (see the website for details). Close by, the National Herbarium, established in 1853, contains more than a million dried botanical specimens used for plant-identification purposes.
And finally, the 19th-century Melbourne Observatory runs tours of the night sky here.
Royal Botanic Gardens cafes
This being Melbourne there are a few excellent cafes in and around the gardens including French-Vietnamese inspired Jardin Tan near entrance F.
Cranbourne Botanic Gardens
For visitors who can’t get enough, Royal Botanical Gardens has also developed the Australian Garden in the outlying suburb of Cranbourne which boasts 10kms of walking tracks through bushland and Australian landscapes.