Established in 1846 by Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe, Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens is a 94-acre urban sanctuary comprised of almost 50,000 individual plants, representing over 8,500 native and exotic species. What was once a swamp has been transformed into a sprawling oasis encompassing 11 picturesque lawns, an ornamental lake, a children’s garden, two restaurants, a walking track and 31 plant collections. Whether you want to blissfully explore the living collections, walk your dog, unwind on one of the many lawns or take part in a unique experience, the Royal Botanic Gardens is one of Melbourne’s most outstanding attractions.
Named after William Guilfoyle, botanist and architect of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Guilfoyle’s Volcano lies in the south-eastern corner of the gardens. Built in 1876 for water storage, Guilfoyle’s Volcano was transformed during the Working Wetlands project and now features low-water-use plants, including succulents and cacti. There’s also circling boardwalks and viewing platforms that offer views of Melbourne’s skyline.
Described as ‘the perfect place for kids who love getting their hands dirty’, The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden is an interactive and educational environment where kids of all ages, backgrounds, physical abilities, and cultures can play within a specifically scaled natural habitat. With an emphasis on conversation, children will discover the importance of caring for the environment. The garden includes a variety of zones, plants, water features and pathways and is open to the public from Wednesday to Sunday, on public holidays, and seven days a week during the Victorian school holidays.
Explore ‘the ancestral lands of Kulin nation’ – the traditional custodians of Melbourne – with the Aboriginal Heritage Walk. Led by an Indigenous guide, the experience begins with a traditional smoking ceremony. You’ll then discover traditional uses of plants for medicine, food, and tools before the walk winds down with a refreshing cup of lemon myrtle tea.
Behold the Royal Botanic Gardens from an entirely new perspective with a traditional punt cruise through the Ornamental Lake. Carrying up to eight people, the 30-minute punt boat ride is a splendid way to see the birdlife and aquatic plants, and you may even spot a friendly turtle as you glide around the bays and islands.
Overlooking the Ornamental Lake, The Terrace serves traditional High Tea with outstanding views of the gardens. The affair begins with a glass of sparkling wine followed by an array of sweet and savoury treats including ribbon sandwiches, tarts, scones, chocolate-covered strawberries and miniature sweets – all of which are served on an elegant three-tiered stand. Offering two sessions daily, High Tea at The Terrace also includes a selection of tea and espresso coffee.
Encircling Kings Domain and the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Tan is Melbourne’s most popular running track. Stretching 3.8 kilometres, the mostly-gravel track is a favourite amongst footballers and Olympic athletes. The official starting point of the clockwise lap is at the Pillars of Wisdom on the Yarra River side of the gardens.