One of Australia’s most beautiful and botanically rich spaces, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is perfect for wandering. There are numerous activities to choose from too, helping visitors better appreciate its wonders. From stargazing to a walk through Indigenous culture, a tropical glasshouse to a surprising volcano, there’s something for everyone.
Look, listen and learn
See with fresh eyes on the Aboriginal Heritage Walk, which reveals plants used for food, tools and medicine by the Kulin Nation. Explore this rich, thriving culture’s ancestral lands, and experience a traditional smoking ceremony. The tour is led by an Indigenous guide, and is available daily except Saturdays.
Founded in 1862, the Melbourne Observatory is still helping us reach for the stars on Monday nights. The Starry Southern Skies sessions are led by experts from the Astronomical Society of Victoria. They will focus the observatory’s historic but still powerful telescopes on Saturn during spring.
Another heritage feature of the gardens still going strong is Guilfoyle’s Volcano, which is full of water rather than lava. This reservoir was built in 1876, fell out of use during the 20th century, and was restored several years ago. It’s integral to the gardens’ water conservation program, and the low-water plants surrounding it show how beauty can flourish in dry conditions.
Explore and exhale
Mr Guilfoyle’s volcano is one of several stops along the Garden Explorer route. This hop-on, hop-off service is great for those with limited time or mobility, and is available daily except public holidays. In a vehicle like a super-sized golf cart, visit this 38-hectare site’s highlights, including the Ornamental Lake and Plant Craft Cottage.
The Garden Explorer also stops at the Tropical Glasshouse, which showcases flora from low latitudes probably not found in your backyard. Significant, spectacular and often both, these rainforest plants thrive in the glasshouse’s warm, humid conditions. Highlights include the aggressive-looking Tiger-spotted Stanhopea, and Titan arum, whose enormous flowers are straight out of Alice in Wonderland.
The Spring Discovery Tour reveals the native and exotic buds and blossoms that make this season so joyous. With a little luck, your guide may be able to point out some young fauna too. Offered twice daily at 10.30am and 2pm, this informative stroll will put a spring in your step.
Ready, set, go!
From shufflers to elite athletes, the jogging track surrounding the gardens is a favourite destination for Melburnians wanting to escape the gym. Universally known as The Tan, this broad path is kind to knees because it’s surfaced with fine gravel. The only exception is the challenging Anderson Street hill. Covered in asphalt, it inclines about 30 metres over a distance of 300 metres. Gasp!
If you need any more excuses for a visit, what about an English-style punt on the Ornamental Lake? Or afternoon tea at The Terrace restaurant? There are also seven foodie gems to discover on Domain Road, which forms one of the gardens’ boundaries.