Just across Domain Road is Melbourne’s preeminent natural treasure, the Royal Botanic Gardens. Frequented by almost 2 million visitors every year (but seemingly never crowded), these extensive 36-hectare gardens are filled with gentle walks and soothing discoveries. One can easily spend a half-day ambling around Ornamental Lake and investigating unique living collections such as Fern Gully, the Australian Forest Walk and the Tropical Glasshouse. Two cafés – Shannon Bennett’s French-Vietnamese Jardin Tan at the Melbourne Observatory, and The Terrace beside the lake – provide perfect rest stops during any walk.
From United Places Botanic Gardens the nearest entrance is Gate D. Nearby, Guilfoyle’s Volcano makes an excellent start to a garden adventure. Built in 1876 as a reservoir for the gardens, it lay dormant for many years before being restored with the addition of boardwalks and a low-water cacti garden. From the top you can enjoy great views of the city.
Ornamental Lake is a central feature of the parklands; book with tour company Punting on the Lake to see it from an elegant wooden punt as a professional punter, dressed in traditional waistcoat and straw boater hat, describes the gardens’ history, environment, wildlife and plants.