The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne is globally recognised and is located close to Melbourne’s centre on the south bank of the Yarra River. Consisting of 38 hectares of landscaped gardens, they contain an amazing mixture of plant life both native and exotic, numbering some 10,000 individual species. A beautiful way to spend a few hours in Melbourne’s city, the Royal Botanic Gardens are a unique urban juxtaposition and must-see natural attration.
- Guilfoyle’s Volcano – Built in 1876, Guilfoyle’s Volcano is a water reservoir once used to store water for the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. However, after it had been left out of use for 60 years, it was restored and remodelled into what is now known as the Working Wetlands. Located in the south-east corner of the gardens, it features boardwalks and viewing platforms, low-water use plants and amazing views of the city.
- Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden – The Royal Botanic Garden Melbourne’s children’s garden is perfect for kids wanting to learn about the natural world. Inside the special area, they can explore the many fun places including a Wetland Area, Bamboo Forest, Plant Tunnel, Kitchen Garden and more. Within the children’s garden kids are free to play, dig, build, splash and enjoy.
- Lakes and Islands – A part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne is a lake system which pre-dates the European settlement of the area. This system includes Fern Gully, Nymphaea Lilly Lake, Ornamental Lake, Central Lake and other surrounding catchment areas. These areas were once a food source for local Aboriginal people, and now act as a habitat for many beautiful aquatic flora and fauna, as well as being a gorgeous natural backdrop of the gardens.
- National Herbarium of Victoria – This amazing plant collection houses around 1.2 million dried plant, fungi and algae samples from all over the world. Most of the plants do come from Australia, and there is a strong Victorian theme, but the collection is a must see for those visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Seeing the National Herbarium is a historical exploration into flora, as more than half of the samples were collected before 1900.
The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne are free to enter, and all the highlights we’ve listed can also be visited within the gardens free of charge. Throughout the year the gardens do run paid events, the specific details of these can be found on their events calendar.
- Visitors Centre – When you arrive at the gardens, find the Visitors Centre, located at the Observatory Precinct on Birdwood Avenue. Within the centre, information is available on the gardens, tour bookings, umbrellas and wheelchair hire. There is also a cafe and shop.
- Events – There are a regular variety of events happening at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, many of which would prove interesting to both visitors and locals. These include expert and specific guided tours, workshop, talks and other events. Full details of these events can be found on the garden’s events calendar, which is easy to check prior to your visit.
- Eating and Drinking – There are areas available within the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne for getting food and beverages. Of course, all visitors are welcome to bring their own, and picnics are common, especially in or around the many shelters and rest houses. However, if you would prefer to dine out, The Terrace is a lovely spot, serving food, wine and beautiful views of the gardens.
- Royal Melbourne Observatory – The management of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne also manages the Royal Melbourne Observatory, located just outside the gates of the gardens. This observatory is another iconic Melbourne attraction, and runs night events and programs.
- Bus – The Melbourne Visitors Shuttle stops at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne on its route, which costs $5. The gardens is stop 13.
- Bike – There are dedicated cycle paths along the Yarra River and Melbourne CBD leading to the gardens, however riding inside the gardens is not allowed. Bike parking is available.
- Car – There is metered street parking for up for four hours available near the entry gates, but parking conditions can vary.
The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne began in 1846 with Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe at the helm. What was once a swampy site evolved over the next 60 years into the world-class landscape garden it is today.
1857 saw the instatement of Ferdinand von Mueller as director. He created the National Herbarium of Victoria and introduced many new varieties of species of flora. Directors changed in 1873, with William Guilfoyle, who worked on changing the garden’s style to make it more picturesque and varied. Over the next 80 years most of what happened in the garden was maintenance, due to small budgets.
It wasn’t until 1960 that programs were put into place to see more Australia plants were cultivated. Then in the 1980s the gardens began to shift its focus towards the people and education, seeing the creation of the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, The Australian Garden, Guilfoyle’s Volcano and many more.