4 Mar 2019
When you think of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, images of the picturesque lawns near the CBD might come to mind. You may be surprised to learn it’s actually an organisation dedicated to conserving and showcasing flora and fauna in two separate locations. The next time you’re in town, why not head to the lesser-known but equally impressive Cranbourne Gardens, for a day out in nature that’s uniquely Australian. This gem is made up of two areas. The Australian Gardens is a creative display of landscaped plant life, while the Bushland is an almost untouched reserve that many of our native animals call home.
Aussie plant life meets architecture and design at the Australian Gardens. Be inspired by the creative, contemporary landscapes and arrangements, and take in the juxtaposition of linear shapes against the coarse yet beautiful foliage. This award-winning garden is made up of many smaller gardens, each with its own motif, and about 170,000 plants from 1,700 plant varieties. Collectively, these gardens tell the story of water as it weaves its way through Australian landscapes to the coast. Trails, food kiosks, picnic spots and barbecues make it a great place to spend a day out with family or friends. Start at the visitor centre where you’ll find maps. From here, you can plan what you want to see or freestyle it and see where your path takes you. Here’s a taste of what’s waiting to be experienced.
If you’re not sure where to start Howson Hill is a great spot. Here you can take in sweeping views of the Australian Gardens and perhaps pinpoint what you’d like to visit next from afar. In particular, you’ll see Melaleuca Spits, a section inspired by Australia’s coastal topography and features aquatic reeds, sand spits, and bands of melaleuca shrubs. As you ascend the hill, notice striking yellow Mallee Eucalypts and the rare Western Australian Christmas Tree, a distant member of the mistletoe family, with sunflower-yellow foliage.
Visit Gibson Hill and take in the stunning view over the Red Sand Garden that pays homage to the Red Centre. This particular garden is closed to the public, but this elevated point lets you take in a complete view of the dry, red sand and the artistic arrangements of grey and green shrub. From this point, you can also see Rockpool Waterway that mixes nature with geometric sculptures.
If you have the littlies in tow and they’re looking for a break, take them to this spot on the eastern edge of the gardens. It has a wading area that they can cool off in if the weather calls for it. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the sculptures and plant life in the area. Keep an eye out for the impressive Gymea Lily — it’s tall stem can grow up to six metres and is crowned with exquisite red flowers.
If you love plants with a bit of quirk and character, this section is calling your name. Home to Australia’s beautifully bizarre natural wonders, you’ll want to have your camera at the ready. You might have heard of the Queensland Bottle Tree and its bulbous trunk — here, you can see nine of them each taking a unique whimsical shape.
After exploring the Australian Gardens, appreciate Australian plant and animal life in its natural form at the Bushland. A contrast to the curated and styled greenery of the Australian Gardens, here the rugged beauty of Australia speaks for itself. Look out for the tracks of the wildlife that live in the bushland and see if you can spot any furry friends. Wallabies often make an appearance, as does unique birdlife like the White-bellied Sea Eagle and the Superb Fairy-wren with its electric blue feathers. The Stringybark and Woodland picnic areas offer a place to unwind and enjoy a bite to eat, while bike and walking trails that weave throughout the 363-hectare site will keep fitness buffs and explorers happy.
Cranbourne Gardens is located in, you guessed it, Cranbourne and is a 50-minute drive from the city. If you’re in town minus the wheels, check out one of the many car hire companies throughout the city. If you’re without a car and don’t mind taking a little extra time to get there, catch the Cranbourne line to Cranbourne Station. From there you can either take a taxi or the 795 bus (plus a half hour walk). Our tip? Driving is easiest.
7 May – 12 May, from 10am
Bag makers from all around Australia showcase their botanical-themed creations at this exhibition. See more than 200 bags taking different shapes and sizes, expertly crafted from various textiles. See displays and demonstrations on how bags are designed and made and cast your vote for the Viewer’s Choice Winner. Many of the pieces on display will be for sale, and there will also be a pop-up shop full of textiles and bag making kits. You’ll also have the chance to hear from Australian designer Leesa Chandler, who will host a high tea and talk on all things handbag design on 7 May at 2pm and 11 May at 11am. Bookings essential on 03 9587 3958.
16 March, 8 April & 11 May, 10–11am
Get yourself in on this free walk to identify some of the birds often spied in the Australian Garden and hear stories about how they’ve shaped the forests and wildflowers of Australia. Listen and look for birds flying, feeding and nesting as you explore the garden with your guide. Bookings essential.
16 & 17 March, 10am – 4pm
Want to add some greenery to your home or garden? This is your chance to shop an impressive range of Australian plant varieties, including many that you’ll find in the Australian Garden. A plant list will be available on the website approximately one week before the sale.
Enter via corner Ballarto Road and Botanic Drive, Cranbourne
All information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication.
This story has been produced in partnership with Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.