The Royal Botanic Gardens is a 38 hectare park, located just south of Melbourne CBD. With over 8,500 plant species, numerous trails and peaceful corners, it’s the perfect escape from hectic Melbourne life. There’s always a new area to discover, or path to get lost down, making it a great place to revisit again and again. Here are some things to do at the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.
Things to do at the Botanic Gardens
This is a list of some of my favourite things, but there are plenty more part of the Gardens to explore outside of this! I’d suggest checking out one of the maps at the park’s entrances and going from there.
One of the best things to do in the Botanic Gardens is stroll around the various trails and paths. If you’re coming in the from the Shrine of Remembrance side, you’ll be able to pick up a coffee or gelato to enjoy whilst you’re wandering around. Check out the map of the Royal Botanic Gardens to see some of the main trails in the gardens.
Additionally, there are free guided walks around the gardens that you can join. These are led by professional guides, and range from general tours around the Botanic Gardens to specialised tours focusing on specific areas. All internal paths are wheelchair accessible.
The Australian Forest Walk
The Australian Forest Walk extends over half a kilometre and is home to one of the largest collections in the Botanic Gardens. Located along the southern boundary, these trails will take you through a stunning rainforest where you can explore some of Australia’s most iconic animals and plants. You can enjoy this walk all year round, but some species are pruned during winter.
The Ornamental Lake
One of the best spots in the Gardens to relax with a picnic and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere is at the Ornamental Lake. There’s a trail that loops round the entire lake, giving you great views
If you’re looking for a place to eat around here, check out the Terrace. This cafe serves food all-day and gives you stunning views overlooking the Ornamental Lake and people punting around the lake. I would say I’ve had mixed experiences here, with the food being quite expensive and the service sometimes slow.
Punting Along the Ornamental Lake
If you’re looking to do something a little different, go punting around the Ornamental Lake. You can relax on an elegant wooden punt and enjoy listening to the history of the Botanic Gardens from a professional guide. I’ve yet to do this, but apparently it’s BYOB/food, you’re provided with a little food table in the boat and it can be rescheduled or refunded in bad weather. I’ll update once I’ve been!
Tours operate between September – May, and close during the winter months and Christmas Day. To learn more about their pricing and availability, check out the official Punting On The Lake site.
My favourite part of the Botanic Gardens and a place I’d highly recommend visiting during a trip to Melbourne! It’s predominately filled with water plants, succulents and a beautiful water feature. I stumbled on this area accidentally, so it was definitely a pleasant surprise. And I place I regularly go back to. It’s at the highest point of the Gardens (so be prepared for a little exertion haha) which will give you great views around the park and the CBD in the background.
The Arid Gardens contain an incredible selection of cacti and drought-tolerant plants to explore and get lost in. There’s a wide range of unique plants here, and like most parts of the Gardens, information plaques to educate you on each one. The paths are clear of any cacti but it’s still advised not to touch them! Along with the Guilfoyle’s Volcano, this is my favourite part of the Gardens and i’ll regularly pop in on weekends with a coffee for a walk. There are a number of seats available here if you wanted to catch up with friends or just watch the world go by.
The Tropical Glasshouse can be found towards the south of the Gardens. It’s very small, but showcases some amazing plants and provides lots of information on each one. I personally prefer the actually Gardens, to the Tropical Glasshouse, but it’s worth visiting if you time. Particularly if it’s a cold day in Melbourne….this will be the closest you’ll get to tropical weather in the winter.
The Botanic Gardens is also home to various fixtures and features throughout the year, including the famous Moonlight Cinema. The Moonlight Cinema has movies on throughout the summer and can found on the Central Lawn of the Botanic Gardens. Check out their official site here for more information on what’s on.
The Shrine of Remembrance
After you’ve had a wander around the gardens, head over to the Shrine of Remembrance. It’s a free memorial museum dedicated to honouring Australians who have fought in war. It’s a really beautiful tribute that also has an incredible rooftop you can walk around for stunning 360 views over the city.
The Tan Track
The Tan Track is a famous 3.8km running loop of the Botanic Gardens. You’ll find a number of different running groups heading here throughout the week, including the Run The Tan club. However, it’s not just limited to runners. Whether you decide to walk, jog or run this loop, it’s worth checking out.
I wanted to include my favourite parts of the Botanic Gardens, but there are other areas to visit, including; a herb garden, the National Herbarium of Victoria, Garden House, Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, and the Grotto – just to name a few!
I’ve been to the gardens many times now, and I still stumble upon new areas, or sections that change with the seasons! Another fantastic garden to check out whilst in Melbourne is Fitzroy Gardens, based just east of the CBD.
If you’re in the area, why not check out the South Melbourne Market – a 25 minute walk away.