From the moment you arrive at the impressive Australian National Botanic Gardens, you’ll become enveloped in a botanical and sensory world like no other.
It’s the only place you’ll be able to see such a diversity of Australian native plants, all in one location.
Fill your lungs with the fresh air and absorb the natural aromas – you’ll need at least an hour, but probably a whole day, to explore the beautiful flora and fauna.
First stop: Visitor Centre
Before you enter the garden trails, drop in to their Visitor Centre and gift shop.
The friendly volunteers are happy to offer suggested walks to suit your interests, or you can pick up a self-guided brochure to uncover the seasonal flowering plants, the Children’s Discovery Trail or Eucalypt Discovery Walk.
One-hour guided tours provide the best insights into the 6,000-plus native species, and they depart at 11am and 2pm each day from the Gardens’ Visitor Centre. On weekends, public holidays and during school holidays, the cute Flora Explora shuttle takes small groups on 45-minute expeditions around the Gardens.
Also at the Visitor Centre, you’ll find delightful treasures, gifts and books.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens’ distinct zones feature landscapes and species that are typically grouped around a theme or region.
Enter the Red Centre Garden to be immediately transported to central Australia, with the colours, desert plants and design all representing this arid part of the country. Look for Indigenous artworks, the Sturt Desert Rose, and take in the overall design atop the viewing platform.
A short stroll away, you can explore the Sydney Region Flora Garden with its banksias, tea trees and lilly-pillies. Then go via the vast Eucalypt Lawn – the perfect place to stop for a picnic with the kookaburras – to explore the Asteraceae Garden full of Australian daisies, and the Rock Garden with its waterfall and tiny, intricate natives.
The highlight for many visitors is Rainforest Gully, where the temperature and mood shift as you enter. You’ll instantly forget where you are in this calming, misty environment. The Gully recreates rainforests from Australia’s eastern coastline, and the birdlife are exquisite.
And while there’s plenty to see in these and the other parts of the Gardens, there are also activities for the kids and many places to snap a picture, rest your legs or listen to the birds. The Botanic Garden is also home a two-storey Paperbark Treehouse, using wood that has been preserved using charring, or "Yakisugi", a Japanese technique which forms a carbon layer on the exterior of the wood.
But wait, there’s more!
For those wanting to explore even further, try the 3km return Bushland Nature Walk, or the 5.4km return hike up to the summit of Black Mountain for stunning views across Lake Burley Griffin and beyond.
At different times, there are special workshops, talks, after-dark tours and concerts, as well as inspiring school holiday options for the little ones.
Tips for first-time visitors
The Australian National Botanic Gardens is easy to find (enter via Clunies Ross Street), with plenty of on-site parking. You’ll have to pay to park, with a minimum charge of about $3.40.
There’s no entry fee into the Gardens.
Given the Gardens are spread over 35 hectares, wear sturdy walking shoes and protect yourself from the sun. If you require a scooter or wheelchair, you can hire one from the Gardens’ Visitor Centre free of charge.
Don’t be surprised if you come across a lizard, kangaroo, frog or bird (or hear them scurrying about in the bush), but don’t offer the local wildlife any food, especially at the café.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 8.30am to 5pm, with the Visitor Centre open 9.30am until 4.30pm.
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