What to see at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney

Set in the heart of Sydney’s urban Central Business District, there is a natural oasis bursting with exotic colours. The Royal Botanic Gardens are a verdant collection of some of the world’s most incredible plant species, all of which can be seen against a picturesque backdrop that feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

The gardens are open till around 5-6:30pm in the cooler months, and till 8pm when the weather gets warmer. If you plan to visit the gardens by public transport, the nearest station is Martin Place and from there it’s a 10-minute walk. The gardens are centrally located in the heart of Sydney making access quite easy for tourists. Once you do get to the gardens, why not get around by the Choo Choo Express, while landmarks and must see attractions in the gardens will be pointed out to you by a guide. Ride duration is around 25 minutes and this option is great for those travelling with little ones.

Don’t forget to visit the Garden shop at the Palm Grove Centre for all your garden inspired gifts. Here you’ll be able to purchase books, paintings, botanical candles and even 100% raw honey made by the bees that live in hives around the gardens. As the bees have such a wide arrange of flowers to choose from, this is truly a honey like no other and all proceeds go to conservation programs for the continuation of the garden.

Royal Botanic Gardens

The gardens date back to 1816 when they were first opened as a scientific hold for some of the world’s most exotic plant species. Today, it remains one of the oldest scientific institutions in Australia and takes the title of one of the world’s most important historic botanical institutions. Access to the public is free. The gardens are home to over 28,000 individual plants and 8,637 unique species. This, combined with its central positioning close to the famous sights of Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House, make it a popular landmark in Sydney.

Covering more than 30 hectares in total, the Royal Botanic Gardens create an impressive natural amphitheatre that wraps around a vibrant “stage” known as Farm Cove. Within its clutches, there are hundreds of different plant species, some dating back thousands of years, and some originating from the other side of the world.

A great architectural feat, the Calyx should be a prime attraction on your trip to the gardens. Currently, this event space holds the Calyx Café where you can grab a quick bite to eat and have a look at the current exhibition of Plants with Bite. This exhibition showcases the carnivorous plants that call the garden home. This free display includes the famed Venus Flytrap and will show you just how these plants digest the insects that they eat. While they might seem frightening, the display will also educate visitors on how the species is currently under threat. The Calyx also features the biggest vertical flower wall in the southern hemisphere.
When it’s time for a lunch break, there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether you’re after a quick snack or a hearty meal, you’re sure to find it at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Piccolo Me offers a range of sandwiches, juices and pastries whilst Garden Cucina, a current pop up restaurant on site serves up delicious and authentic Italian dishes.

The gardens are split up into 4 distinct sections known as the Lower Gardens, the Middle Gardens, the Palace Gardens, and the Bennelong precinct. Each area boasts its own unique selection of plant life and flowers, as well as smaller gardens and ornamental lawns that are well worth a wander through. Throughout the gardens, there are a number of wooden lawn areas for picnics, as well as a couple of eggshell-smooth lakes that break up the greenery. At the centre of it all sits the Palm Grove Centre, where there is an on-site café, visitors centre, and a bookshop.

In the Lower Gardens, visitors can explore the Band Lawn, the main ponds, and the HSBC Oriental Garden, while the Middle Gardens are home to a huge collection of succulents and threatened plant species. The Palace Gardens boasts a series of ornamental gates, including the Palace Garden Gate and the Morshead Fountain Gate, and the Bennelong Precinct showcases Government House and the Australian Native Rockery.

The Succulent Garden is one of the most unique sections of the garden and holds several plants from around the world. This garden is sectioned off into two divisions; the old world and the new world plants. The old-world plants are from different parts of Africa whereas the New World plants come from the Americas. These wonderous plants neighbour a sculptural garden created by iconic Australian TV personality Jamie Durie.

The Herb garden is also a great stopping point on your day as it’s sure to be a sensory delight! Sit amongst the herbed plants and learn more about the way we use herbs in cooking today, is actually a continuance of a 1000-year-old tradition brought about by the Romans. The Fernery is home to ancient plants that are among the first to ever grow on this earth millions of years ago. Today there are over 300 species of ferns on exhibit in the sandstone structure and a tranquil place to relax at.

Perhaps the most impressive and popular landmark within the Royal Botanic Gardens is the age-old sandstone seawall that flanks Farm Cove and stretches from the iconic Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to the world-famous outline of the Sydney Opera House. This separates the gardens from the sprawling expanse of the harbour and provides exceptional views out across the rest of the city.

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