About Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Before the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne was established by Lieutenant General Charles La Trobe in 1846, the area in which the garden now exists was a mundane stretch of swampland. The area on the South Bank of the Yarra River was filled with craggy rocks, outcrops, marshland and weeds and it is one of the best places to visit in Melbourne.
The first director of the garden- Ferdinand von Mueller- was appointed in 1857. He was also one of the most renowned botanists of the 19th century and was responsible for bringing exotic plants to the Botanical Gardens from all parts of the world.
Mueller was succeeded by the second, and most remarkable director of the Botanical Gardens- Willian Guilfoyle- who was responsible for changing the look and structure of the whole area, to turn it into the natural spectacle that it is today.
He took the National Herbarium, established by Mueller, and the several plants that he brough, and turned the garden into a sprawling mass of winding paths, lakes, pleasant gardens and walkways. Guilfoyle’s efforts to renovate the garden into a modern tourist attraction and natural retreat were aided by the pleasant and mild weather conditions prevalent in Melbourne.
The weather allowed both tropical and temperate plants to flourish, which has led to more than 12,000 plant species thriving in this facility. It has also created a stable, natural ecosystem for local birds and animals to build their homes in, while the people who visit can take advantage of the natural beauty of the trees, as well as interact with indigenous animals, first hand.
An expansion effort was undertaken in 1960 when a piece of land adjacent to the Melbourne Botanical Gardens was purchased. This led to the establishment of the Cranbourne Gardens in 1970, which opened to the public in 1985.
The “Royal” prefix was added to the name of the garden in 1958 by Queen Elizabeth II. Today, both the Melbourne Garden and the Cranbourne Garden constitute the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne.
How to Reach Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
There are several fast and convenient ways via which you can travel to the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne from the Melbourne Airport.
1. By Car: The distance between the airport and the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne is approximately 25km, and the easiest way to ferry between the two without hassle, is by car. You can hire a private car or a taxi, which will take you to the Botanical Gardens via M2, or the Calder Freeway/M27 or via Mascoma Street. The journey should take approximately 25-30 mins.
2. By Bus: You can also avail buses that depart from Terminal 1 of the airport to take you to Royal Botanical Gardens. The SkyBus takes the same route as your car would, and it takes approximately an hour to reach your destination.
3. By Trains: You can also reach the Royal Botanical Gardens by trains. There is an extensive network of tranways operating in Melbourne, and you can take tram numbers 3 and 3A, No. 5, No. 6, No. 16, No. 64, No. 67 and No. 72 to reach the gardens.
Best Time to Visit Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
The best time to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens in the months of spring (September to November) and summer (December to February). Although Melbourne experiences mild weather conditions throughout the year, if you want to experience the true splendour of the Botanical Gardens, you should visit during the spring and summer months to experience the best of Melbourne.
1. Summer (December – February): The summer months in Melbourne are most pleasant, with maximum temperatures staying around 26 degrees Celsius. You can walk around the gardens in the warm sunlight and take in all the views the garden has to offer.
2. Spring (December to February): Spring is the time when the flowers in the garden are in full bloom. The weather also remains pleasant, as the city starts to transition into summer from the cold winter months. It is the ideal time to visit the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne.
3. Autumn (March-May): The maximum temperature averages around 20 degrees Celsius during autumn. While you may not spot too many flowering plants at this time of the year, you can definitely enjoy the gorgeous fall colours that take over the Botanical Gardens at this time of the year.
4. Winter (June – August): The weather in winter is stormy, grey and gloomy with chances of rainfall. Therefore, it is best to avoid visiting the gardens during this time, as you may miss the full natural display that the Botanical Gardens are famous for.
What Not to Miss at Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Apart from the Botanical Garden itself, there are several nearby attractions in Melbourne that can be exciting for you when you are in the area.
1. Shrine of Remembrance: The Shrine of Remembrance is an iconic landmark in Melbourne because of its significance and structure. It is a memorial that has been created to honour the memory of the Australian martyrs of the war. Exhibitions are organized in this building, and despite its sombre nature, it is also an insightful tourist destination.
2. La Trobe’s Cottage: Lieutenant General Charles La Trobe’s Cottage is one of the primary attractions around the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne. It is especially interesting after you have paid a visit to the garden. He was the founder of the garden, and his cottage also houses many mementoes from his personal life, which can amount to an interesting tour.
3. The National Gallery of Victoria: Paying a visit to the oldest and the most visited gallery in all of Australia is an absolute must when you are in Melbourne. Installations related to everything, starting from art to fashion, have found a place in this gallery. Over 40 exhibitions, on various subjects, are organized here every single year.
4. Eureka Skydeck: If you are into sightseeing and you want a panoramic view of Melbourne to take home with you as a fond memory, then you must check out the Eureka Skydeck. It is open on all sides, with a gorgeous view of the entire city, including an incredible aerial view of the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne.
Things to do in the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Apart from the incredible natural beauty of the place, there are many specific attractions in the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne that you can check out when you are in the area.
1. Guilfoyle’s Volcano: This section of the park, found in the south-eastern side of the garden, was initially constructed as a water storage facility, named after the second director of the park- William Guilfoyle. During the Working Wetlands initiative, the area was converted into a vast garden with low water-use plants such as succulents.
It is one of the best places in Melbourne to learn more about the vegetation that grows in the area. You can also walk through the gardens and catch an impressive view of the Melbourne skyline.
2. The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden: This is the perfect place to bring your children if you want them to spend some time connecting with nature, getting their hands dirty, scaling carefully constructed hills and playing in several nature-based zones. There are pathways, games and activities that keep kids occupied, all the while keeping the natural philosophy of the park intact.
3. Aboriginal Heritage Walk: The Aboriginal Heritage Walk, that is led by a member of the indigenous aboriginal community, is one of the most culturally insightful activities in the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne. You can explore the ancestral lands of the famous Kulin tribe who used to reside in the area while learning more about their way of life.
4. Punting on the Ornamental lake: Ornamental Lake is one of the central attractions of the Royal Botanical Garden, filled to the brim with sparkling waters and marine life. A punting boat ride on the lake is a unique way to experience the natural surroundings, go bird-watching and discover turtles and birds along the way.
5. Melbourne Observatory: The Melbourne Observatory used to previously serve as the time calculation centre but is now an observatory and a fascinating place from where astronomical tours are organized. Every Monday, you can sign up for a tour of the facility, which will take you through their history, fascinating facts and much more.
6. National Herbarium: Founded in 1853 by Ferdinand von Mueller, the National Herbarium is the oldest scientific institution in the state of Victoria. The Herbarium consists of several million samples of dried and preserved algae, shrubs, herbs and plants, over half of which were collected and brought to Australia by Mueller himself.
It is also a major centre of learning for students and researchers and botanists, who want to learn first-hand about rare plant species that can’t be found anywhere else in Australia.
Other Essential Information About Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Location: Birdwood Ave, South Yarra VIC 3141, Australia
Timings: Monday to Sunday (7:30 am – 6:30 pm)
Entry Fees: Free entry
Medical Facilities: For emergencies, you can visit the Mayne Pharmacy, which is a short walking distance from the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne. You can also visit The Alfred, St. Vincent’s Private Hospital, Epworth Richmond and The Avenue Hospital, which are located close to the botanical gardens.
What is there to explore in the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne?
There are several interesting aspects of the garden you can check out when you are visiting:
1. Lakes and islands: The natural structure of the garden is an aspect of history that has remained the same over centuries. Before the Botanical Gardens were converted into a proper tourist attraction and natural centre, it used to be a swampland, where much of the lakes and gardens formed waterways and islands.
The same structure has been retained, even today. The lakes in the garden consist of Ornamental Lake, Central Lake, Lily Lake and Fern Gully. Of these, Fern Gully and the Ornamental Lake are the two which have remained untouched in terms of structure throughout the years. They form small ecological islands between them, which is home to many birds and animals.
2. Shelters and rest houses: Because of the large expanse of the Botanical Garden, there are many rest houses and shelters where you can recuperate and relax in between your tours. Apart from rest houses such as the Fern Gully Rest House and the William Tell Rest House, you can also relax in one of the 8 well-constructed pavilions that are spread throughout the area of the park.
These are ideal places for bird-watching or to go on a nature walk where you can get uninterrupted views of the many lakes that exist in the park.
3. Sculptures: As part of the beautification efforts by the authorities in charge of the park, there are many sculptures and installations that can be found in various points throughout the park. One of the most remarkable structures includes The Magic Pudding Sculpture, which is a delight for children who visit the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Park.
If you are walking towards the Observatory gate, you can also come across the famous Neutrino Sculpture, which is a complex, metallic sphere. There is also an impressive sundial near the Herb Garden.
4. Plant Craft Cottage: The Plant Craft Cottage is located in the oldest building in the entire Royal Botanical Garden in Melbourne. It is a heritage building, where volunteers come together to preserve the art of plants crafts and to educate people about its significance.
It is an interactive workshop where you can learn more about rare plants and their various, unique utilities. Plant Craft Cottage is open every week, from Tuesday to Friday, and also on every 3rd Sunday of the month.
5. Flora and fauna of Garden: The flora and fauna of the garden itself is an important attraction of the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne. The many plants and exotic trees that have grown or have been cultivated in the area have led to the growth and flourishing of various rare and exotic fauna.
You can find exotic Australian birds such as the black swan, Superb Fairy Wren, Bell Miner, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Australian Reed Warbler as well as Indian Mynahs and blackbirds in the lake area. The flora of the park is also representative of the ecosystem of Australia, with a wide range of succulents, tropical plants, deciduous plants, flowering trees and shrubs planted all over the property.
6. Cafés in Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne: There are several comfortable, quaint and quintessentially Australian cafés on and near the premises of the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne, where you can grab a bite to eat or a comforting drink.
7. The Terrace: The Terrace is the perfect location to enjoy some high tea when you are in the Royal Botanical Garden. They offer splendid views of the garden from their café balcony, as well as the Melbourne skyline. Because of the quaint setting, the gorgeous view and the perfect natural location, it is also a very popular wedding venue for a lot of locals.
The café is known for its baked items including biscuits, scones, macarons, muffins, chips and much more.
8. Jardin Tan: Jardin Tan is another great café located on the premises of the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne. You are greeted with an expansive menu containing delicacies from the Indo-Chinese cuisine.
While you can get fresh meals and curated dishes in the main seating area, there is also an outdoor spot where you can enjoy drinks with your party outdoors. While you can enjoy fine-dining in this café, you can also experience casual dining with their beverages, outdoor seating and range of games available for your entertainment.
9. Kiosk: The kiosk is an extension of the Jardin Tan café. It is a small outlet located on the outer side of the café, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee from a wide selection of homemade gelato and other comforting beverages.
This is the perfect place to relax with a drink when you are tired after touring the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne. You must definitely try their cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, apart from their crafted coffees when you are there.
10. Royal Domain Café: Located right outside the premises of the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne is the Royal Domain Café, which is the perfect place to catch a healthy meal. With their range of fresh salads, smoothies, coffee, tea, sandwiches and baked goods, this is the best possible place to grab a quick (but satisfying breakfast) during your tour of the Botanical Gardens.
Tips for visiting Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne
1. Even though the Royal Botanical Garden Melbourne is a well-planned facility, keeping a few tips handy can enrich your experience and make your visit memorable:
2. For information, you can go to the Visitor’s Centre which is at the Observatory precinct. This is also where you can hire wheelchairs and make your enquiries.
3. Daily tours are organized on the premises of the garden. Some of the best daily tours are the Aboriginal Heritage Walk, Garden Explorer and the Free Guided Walk.
4. There are several rest points, rest houses, pavilions and benches throughout the park so you don’t have to worry about recuperating and relaxing.
5. Volunteers are available throughout the area to help guide you to all the right places. You can also ask for a map of the park from the visitor’s centre.
6. Even though the park is relatively safe, you must be careful, and be mindful of your own safety. Things like gathering mushrooms, venturing into unfamiliar territory and going too near water bodies are prohibited and cause accidents.