The Royal Botanic Gardens contain twelve thousand different plant species and over fifty thousand individual plants, as well as native wildlife such as cockatoos and kookaburras, in an extensive landscaped setting. Melbourne’s much-maligned climate is perfect for horticulture: cool enough for temperate trees and flowers to flourish, warm enough for palms and other subtropical species, and wet enough for anything else.
Highlights include the herb garden, comprising part of the medicinal garden established in 1880; the fern gully, a lovely walk through shady ferns, with cooling mists of water on a hot summer’s day; the large ornamental lake full of ducks, black swans and eels; and various hothouses where exotic cacti and fascinating plants such as the carnivorous pitcher plant thrive. Families should head to the dedicated children’s garden, which features snaking paths, bamboo thickets, water channels to jump in and a lily pond. The painstakingly restored Observatory Gate, a group of nineteenth-century Italianate buildings next door to the visitor centre, can be visited on one of the tours that leaves from the centre.