Row Boat Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne

Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne

The Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne was established in 1846.

A haven of green foliage and exotic plants in the middle of a fast paced city. The Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne is free and a delight for young and old.

The central lake of the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Lawns plus lakes equals lazy days in the sunshine. The Melbourne botanical gardens also have rockeries, garden beds, rotundas, rustic bridges and avenues of trees.

Taking a stroll in nature and then spreading out a picnic blanket, overlooking a lake is our idea of a great way to relax. Doing this in the heart of a city with over 4 and a half million inhabitants is still possible in the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne. 

Spread over 89 acres the landscaped gardens are a must see attraction when visiting Melbourne. 1 million people visit the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne every year. Are you one of them?

Quick Index Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne


Location, getting there and Parking

The Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne are, you’ve guessed it, in Melbourne! They are a short walk from the CBD (central business district). 

You can get here by tram, on foot, by bicycle or by car and taxi. Since we have a base in Melbourne, we always cycle or walk if we’re feeling energetic. If we have a picnic planned and need to bring food and drinks, we take the car and park just outside the gardens.

Parking at the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Parking at the Gardens is free on Sunday and Public Holidays. On Australia day there is usually a classic car show just outside the gardens. Also, Government House is open on Australia day and is next to the gardens.

Parking is not free (except on Sundays), but the gardens themselves are. Melbourne has a parking system that must be read very carefully. Often there are time restrictions, such as a 2 hour maximum period. The closer you are to an attraction, the shorter time period you get to park. So, if you want to spend about 4 -5 hours in the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne, you will need to park further away from the entrance gates. There’s nothing worse than worrying about a parking fine!

gardens Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Amazing gardens full of colour abound! The botanical gardens contain over 8500 species of plants.

The botanic gardens are of historical, scientific, social and architectural significance to the state of Victoria and Melbourne, in particular. There is an elm tree that has been growing since 1846. See if you can find it.

Herbarium Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
The Herbarium of Victoria tracks the biodiversity of the gardens. It is of great scientific value.
map Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
A map of the gardens can come in handy if you get lost! There’s plenty to see.
Signs Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
There are signs throughout the royal botanical gardens, to help you orientate yourself.


The Lake

It’s just like going to Venice when you see the lake in the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne. OK, we’re just joking, but you can go for a gondola ride! OK, OK, it’s a boat, not a gondola. The lake is a central point and you can admire the views from outside seating areas or from the restaurant. Often you’ll see ducks, swans and other birds swimming and sometimes chilling on the edges, doing some people watching! 

The central lake of the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
The central lake is a great spot for the picnic rug and relaxing. Many people bring their own food and drinks and relax in the picturesque surroundings!

In the warmer months, you will often see a wedding ceremony near the lake. 

A boat on the central lake of the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
A guided tour on a punting boat on the central lake is a popular option.


The Rain Forest walk

This is a really cool walk that makes you think you’ve gone back in time to the Jurassic era! The rain forest walk is completely enclosed like a true rain forest. The trees are really tall and it has a humid feel to it, all year round. Ancient ferns are the main plants at ground level. A walkway has been introduced for easy access and for those with mobility issues.

Rain Forest Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
A small picturesque rain forest near the centre of the gardens is a must see.

If it all gets too much, you can now relax in a swinging seat. You’ll have to fight for it however, children seem to like it a lot!!!

Swinging seat Rain Forests Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne.
There is a swinging seat in the middle of the rain forest. See if you can find it!


The Herb Garden

You can easily miss this little pocket of delights if you don’t look for the signs. There are many types of herbs that you can rub gently and inhale. Our favourites are the pineapple and chocolate mint varieties. They really do smell of mint and pineapple and chocolate and mint. Don’t try and take a sample to grow yourself, there are huge fines for those caught stealing! Children will find the herb garden particularly fascinating. It is actually very educational for everyone as the little placards tell you the scientific names and uses of each herb. The herb garden is one of our favourite areas when we visit the botanical gardens.

Our top tip – If you love taking bee shots, like we do, the herb garden is the place where most of them hang out.

Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Thyme for a bee shot! Excuse the pun. The herb garden is the best place to shoot these little honey makers.

You will find rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, chives, lemon verbena and much more. A couple of benches have been strategically placed to take in all the aromas!

Herb Garden Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
An astrology statue sits in the centre of the Herb Garden. Scratch n sniff all the usual kitchen herbs!


Children’s Garden

A place for big kids as well as small kids. When you go through these gates after the sign, a wonderful, interactive world awaits. It’s a space for children to discover and explore the wonderful world of plants, including vegetables. There’s a water fountain that sprays upwards (perfect for hot days), various trails, possums hiding in the roof and a vegetable garden to explore. Many educational school trips spend part of an excursion in this area. Therefore, avoid going on a Monday or a Tuesday, during Victorian school term times. 

Children's Garden sign Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Children’s Garden sign. Bring the little ones into this amazing landscape. Hours of fun to keep their young hands and mind occupied.

Use this excellent checklist – 50 things for kids to do, if you run out of ideas!

Children's garden and observatory house Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Children’s vegetable garden and observatory house. School excursions use this space to teach children about where food comes from! There’s also a little sand pit in the centre.


The Glasshouse

When you’re feeling cold in Winter, pop into the glasshouse for a reminder of warmer climates! The glasshouse is small and you can go through it in 5 minutes. We particularly like the pitcher plants and the orchids. Whilst nothing like the amazing orchid gardens in Singapore, you get to see native Australian orchids and some plants from all over the world.

the Glasshouse it's hot and humid in here. Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Get that hot and humid feeling inside the Glasshouse.
Chris in the Glasshouse Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Huge tropical plants live inside the glasshouse.


The Volcano

Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
A burst of colour at the bottom of Guilfoyle’s volcano.

Guilfoyle’s volcano is the most recent addition to the Melbourne botanical gardens. Guilfoyle was a director of the botanic gardens in 1873. Originally created as a water reservoir it was dormant for 60 years before recent restoration.

Volcano Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Steps take you up to the volcano and past many types of colourful succulents.
Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
It’s amazing what you’ll find hiding in the tall cacti! There’s also an easy path up to the ‘top’ of Guilfoyle’s Volcano. You can get to the ‘summit’ using stairs too.
Volcano top Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
The top of the Volcano in the Botanical Gardens. That’s a water filtration system in action around the clusters of plants.

At the ‘top’ of the volcano there is one information board we love standing in front of.

Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Compare the painting with the current view of Melbourne. At the ‘top’ of Guilfoyle’s volcano.
Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Looking down from the volcano it’s quite a view.


cactus Garden

All things prickly and drought resistant live here. We’re not just talking about that man in the photo below!

Cactus Gardens Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Cactus Gardens Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne.

Melbourne had a terrible drought in the last decade. Keen gardeners are encouraged to grow water saving plants such as cacti and succulents. Unsurprisingly, the cacti gardens came out of the drought unscathed.

Cactus Gardens Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
Cactus Gardens Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne. These hardy plants just love the dry Melbourne summers.


Restaurants and Facilities

The gardens are used for concerts, plays, and movies under the stars! To find out what is going on at the gardens click here

There are plenty of toilets dotted around the gardens. They are well maintained. The biggest and best ones are just behind the building in the picture below.

There are two main places to grab a bite to eat. The more informal cafe Jardin Tan, focuses on the paddock (farm) to plate philosophy. You can get coffee here and ice cream as well as a full meal. The cuisine is from the Indo China area (modern Vietnam). Drool over crunchy  coleslaw with prawns or get that authentic bahn-mi you miss from Vietnam

Pho (pronounced ‘fur’) something more substantial, how does Flinders Island lamb shoulder, pickled vegetables, firecracker sauce and steamed buns sound? Er, hello, book us a spot online now!

Restaurant and visitor centre Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
A restaurant, facilities and the visitor centre are just outside the east entrance of the Royal Botanical Gardens. The ice cream is very good. We recommend it!

If you happen to enter through Gate A of the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne, you will be closer to the Terrace. This is the place for clotted cream scones and high tea. You have to book well in advance for high tea. Also touted as Melbourne’s best kept secret for wedding and corporate events.

Breakfast is served from 9 to 11.30 am. We don’t have any breakfast pictures, sorry, we’re not up that early!!! Lunch is from 11.30 to 3 pm. 

At certain times of the year, there is an electric mini bus for people with mobility issues. You can catch it just after the Herbarium. We hope you visit these magnificent gardens and love them as much as we do!

tour bus royal botanical gardens
Take a tour bus around the royal botanical gardens. You can hop on or off and various stops around the gardens,

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