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10 Top Gardens in Greater Melbourne

Home > Melbourne > Parks | Outdoor | Lakes | Gardens | Day Trips | Lists
by Gayle Beveridge-Marien (subscribe)
Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published August 26th 2015
Explore ten remarkable and magnificent gardens
10 Top Gardens in Greater Melbourne

They don't call Victoria the Garden State for nothing and Melbourne does it proud. From formal gardens to native bushland, Melburnians are spoilt for choice. For 150 years, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Williamstown Botanic Gardens have showcased thousands of plants in tranquil settings. Australia Garden shows us the diversity of our native landscapes and the plants that thrive there. Alowyn Gardens are reminiscent of the grounds of European castles.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Perennials, Gardens, Perennial border, Melbourne gardens,
Perennial Border at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne (Image from the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Facebook Page)

Beautiful all year round and particularly stunning in spring and autumn, each and every one is worth a long and restful visit.

City and Inner Suburbs

1. Royal Botanic Gardens - Melbourne
Join generations of Melburnians who have visited this city oasis since the Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1846. Only a short walk from the CBD, you will find 38 hectares of sprawling gardens, lakes and lawns and over 50,000 plants.

Highlights include Guilfoyle's Volcano, an historic water reservoir built in 1876, the Children's Garden with its small river beds and edible plants, Fern Gully, Central Lake, Nymphaea Lily Lake and Ornamental Lake, the Canna Bed Rain Garden, a grey water recycling system, Nareeb and Observatory Gates, the Tropical Glasshouse, the National Herbarium of Victoria, the Plant Craft Cottage, and a wonderful collection of sculptures.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Ornamental lake, Melbourne, Melbourne gardens, lake,
The Ornamental Lake (Image from the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Facebook Page)

Discover more than the plants. The gardens are home to many splendid creatures. Encounter black swans and ducks on the lakes. Spot fairy wrens, rosellas and parrots. Perhaps you will pass a turtle on the path or see fish and eels beneath the waters. The gardens are also home to possums, foxes, bats and an abundance of butterflies.

Guilfoyle's Volcano, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Melbourne gardens, reservoir, Guilfoyle,
Guilfoyle's Volcano (Image from the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Facebook Page)

Allow two to four hours to do the gardens justice. There are picnic tables near gate A and rest areas and pavilions scattered throughout.

Click here for visitor information to The Royal Botanic Gardens and for further details and a history of the gardens can be found on their website.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, City view, Melbourne gardens, formal garden,
Royal Botanic Gardens Mebourne (Image from Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Facebook Page)

2. Maranoa Gardens - Balwyn
Are Maranoa Gardens Balwyn's best kept secret? Maranoa's dedication to Australian native plants was unusual when it opened in the 1920's and a daring departure from the traditional English Garden. Plants are laid out in Australian habitat zones, traversed by a circuit path. Zones and plants are labelled. See wattles, banksias, grevilleas, hakeas and more.

Enjoy the cottage garden, the rainforest, the dry forest, the arid zone, the temperate woodland and heathland, the arboretum and the indigenous display. Marvel at the birds and butterflies. Climb the tower for amazing views of Melbourne. Watch children on the play equipment or in the wooden maze. Wander in the shade of trees or relax at one of the many picnic tables.

Click here for visitor information to Maranoa Gardens.

3. Williamstown Botanic Gardens – Williamstown
Perhaps Melbourne's only gardens to enjoy a sea breeze are popular Williamstown Botanic Gardens, nestled by the beach. An inspirational respite from the city for more than 150 years, and frequently chosen for weddings, the gardens also host a range of local activities such as reading corner and heritage garden tours.

Williamstown Botanic Gardens, Williamstown, pond, Melbourne, Melbourne gardens, water feature,
The Pond at Williamstown (Image from Friends of Williamstown Botanic Gardens Facebook Page)

Enter through The Gates of Ceremony or The Gate of Earthly Delights, stroll along Palm Avenue beneath the soaring Skyduster Palms, and sit in the shade on Golden Elm lawn. Marvel at the Moreton Bay Fig, the Tasmanian Blue Gum, the Queensland Bottle Tree, and the Hoop Pine. Meander around the little lake, here since 1904. These gardens are on the Victorian Heritage register.

Williamstown Botanic Gardens, Williamstown, Melbourne, Melbourne gardens, palms, heritage garden,
Williamstown Botanic Gardens. (Image from Freinds of Williamstown Botanic Garden Facebook Page)

The beach with children's playgrounds and BBQ's is nearby so why not make a day of it.

Click here or on the Friends of Williamstown Botanic gardens website.

Dandenong Ranges

4. Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens - Sherbrooke
This 13 hectare garden, established in 1933 boasts an ornamental lake, a waterfall and islands linked by bridges. In spring, azaleas, cherry trees and viburnum bloom, perhaps even some camellias and rhododendrons. This garden though is at its most splendid in autumn when the changing leaves of maples, beech and golden ginkgos lay a colour palette across the landscape.

Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, Alfred Nicholas, Dandenongs, Melbourne, Melbourne Gardens, ornamental lake,
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens (Image by Chris Phutully CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Stand in the shade of old Mountain Ash trees and smell the aroma of surrounding shrubs. Listen to the call of birds as you walk the trails. Take a seat to watch the ducks swim on the lake. There are fish beneath the water, can you spot them? Cross the bridges and picnic on the islands. Not into picnics, the pop into Burnham Beeches Piggery Cafe next door, which is open on weekdays.

Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, Dandenongs, Melbourne gardens, ferns, Melbourne, Sherbrooke,
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens. (Image by Chris Phutully CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

The gardens are set on a sloping site and the walk to the lake is steep as is the trek back up. This might not be suitable for some.

Click here for visitor information to The Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens.

5. National Rhododendron Gardens - Olinda
A delight all year round, the National Rhododendron Gardens are particularly beautiful when the azaleas, rhododendrons, daffodils and cherry blossoms are in bloom. Amble along sealed and gravel paths through the Magnolia Garden, the Japanese Garden, and The Camellia Garden. Take a breather on the bridge across the lake and watch the water birds.

Azaleas, National Rhododendron Gardens, Dandenongs, Melbourne gardens, Melbourne, Rhododendron, garden,
Kurume Azaleas at National Rhododendron Gardens (Image by Rexness Licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

There are more than 15,000 rhododendrons planted in 43 hectares of gardens set in the bushlands of the Dandenongs and surrounded by tall Mountain Ash. In places the gardens accord views of the Silvan Reservoir, the Yarra Valley, the Warburton Ranges and Mt. Baw Baw. Amongst the native fauna that call this home there are lyrebirds. They are a shy lot and those who spot them are indeed lucky. A garden explorer bus runs during spring. Prices are listed on the website.

There are picnic tables and rolling lawns throughout and a wonderful selection of cafes and restaurants in the Olinda township
Click here for visitor information to The National Rhododendron Gardens.

6. Cloudehill Gardens – Olinda
The formal gardens at Cloudehill are laid out in garden rooms and collections on a hillside setting. Hedges surround the Water Garden where grassy aquatics are displayed in the main pond. The two trees in the Maple Court were originally imported from Japan in 1928. Topiary and sculptures are grace the Quadrangle Lawn. The Gallery Walk showcases shrub borders. The Shade Borders are dominated by conifers and in Beech Walk are copper beech trees planted in the 1960's. There are walking trails through the bush on the lower grounds.

Cloudehill Gardens, Cloudehill, Dandenongs, Melbourne gardens, Melbourne, Olinda, formal gardens,
Cloudehill Gardens (Images from Cloudehill Gardens Facebook Page)

The on-site nursery stocks unusual and heritage plants and is priced accordingly. The Seasons Restaurant overlooks the gardens. Reservations are recommended as the restaurant is popular and may be booked for a wedding.

Click here for visitor information to Cloudehill Gardens.

Southern Suburbs

7. Australia Garden and Cranbourne Botanic Gardens - Cranbourne
Australia Garden replicates Australian landscapes to showcase our diversity of flora. It provides an informative snapshot for local and international visitors alike. The most spectacular of these landscapes is the Red Sand Garden which can be viewed from a lookout. Visit the Arid Garden, the Dry Riverbed, the Bloodwood Garden, the Stringybark Garden, the Box Garden and the Iron Garden. Venture in the Seaside Garden, the Water Saving Garden and the Children's Backyard, to list but a few.

Australia Garden, Cranbourne, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Red Sand, Melbourne gardens
Red Sand Garden at Australia Garden (Image licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Amongst the Water features is a children's wading area. Gibson Hill and Howson Hill will be popular with photographers. An Explorer Bus that stops at six places throughout Australia Garden is available for a small fee and there is a gift shop and cafe at the entrance to the garden.

Rock pools, Australia Garden, Cranbourne, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne Gardens,
The Rock Pools Wadig Area at Australia Gardens

The Cranbourne Gardens, which abut Australia Garden, are a bushland reserve. This enormous 363 hectare site preserves woodland and wetland of the Westernport and Port Phillip Bay regions. There are a number of walking tracks, most of which are wheelchair accessible. There is a children's playground at the Woodland Picnic area.

Trig Point lookout, only a short walk from the car park, provides stunning 360 degree views. There is a weather station by the Wylie's Creek Loop and further along a rustic pavilion commemorates the contribution of Dame Elizabeth Murdoch to the establishment of the gardens.

wallaby, Cranbourne, Royal Botanic Gardens, bushland reserve, joey, Melbourne gardens, Melbourne
A Wallaby and Joey at Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

As these gardens are natural bush they support a significant native wildlife population, including snakes so watch your step in summer. We were lucky enough to spot a wallaby and joey on our last trip. Southern brown bandicoots are often seen in the Stringybark Picnic area. You might even come upon an echidna. More than 150 species of birds call this home and there is no shortage of frogs.

Click here for visitor information to Australia Garden and the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens.

Western Suburbs

8. Werribee Park Gardens and Victoria State Rose Garden - Werribee
Werribee Park Gardens are majestic formal gardens and open spaces surrounding the heritage listed Werribee Mansion. Like the mansion the gardens are a step back in time. The geometrically designed floral display referred to as a parterre is planted every six months with approximately 20,000 flowers and is best viewed from the balcony of the Mansion. At the ornamental lake, step across a bridge into the grotto. Some of the seashells, sheep knuckles, animal teeth and pebbles that originally decorated the grotto can still be seen today.

Werribee Park, Werribee Mansion, Melbourne gardens, Melbourne, werribee, Landscape architecture.heritage gardens,
Werribee Park Gardens (Image in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Eight of the trees at Werribee Park are listed on the National Trust Significant Trees Register. Two of the original six glasshouses remain as do some old stables. A Sculpture Walk through the farm features the work of some significant Australian sculptors. The Riverine Walk by the Werribee River and through the farmlands accesses native woodlands and a heritage orchard.

Moreton Bay Fig, Werribee Park, Melbourne Gardens, heritage tree, Werribee, Melbourne,
Moreton Bay Fig at Werribee Park (Image by The National Trust from Werribee Park Facebook Page)

The Victorian State Rose Garden which opens between April and September displays over 5,000 roses on 2.5 hectares. A Mecca for the rose lover this garden received the International Garden of Excellence in 2003, a prestigious award from the World Federation of Rose Societies. Allow yourselves to be absorbed in the colours and the perfumes. Wander about the well organised beds which are set out in a stylised five petal rose design. Can you spot any roses you have in your own garden? Step through floral arches and stroll along a path lined with standards. Relax in the pavilion in the centre of the gardens.

Victoria State Rose Garden, Roses, Werribee, Melbourne Gardens, Werribee Park
Roses in Bloom (Image from Victoria State Rose Garden Facebopok Page)

Click here for visitor information to Werribee Park Gardens and here for the Victoria State Rose Garden.

Yarra Ranges

9. Karwarra Australian Native Plant Garden - Kalorama
An Aussie through and through, Karwarra is all about native plants. In these landscaped gardens across 2 hectares, shrubs and ground covers sit against a back drop of majestic Mountain Grey Gums. Native wildlife is happy here and birds and butterflies easily spotted. More than 1300 plants, chosen for their tolerance to shade are showcased.

There is a retail plant nursery so those of you inspired by the gardens can reproduce a little of them at home. Picnic tables and BBQ's are available at the adjoining Kalorama Memorial Reserve.

Click here for visitor information to Karwarra Australian Native Plant Garden.

parterre, Alowyn Gardens, Yarra Ranges, Yarra Glen, Melbourne gardens, gardens,
A Parterre, a Formal Garden. (Image from Alowyn Gardens and Nursery Facebook Page)

10. Alowyn Gardens - Yarra Glen
Remarkably well set out, these magnificent gardens are reminiscent of the grounds of the great European castles. See the fluid and geometric hedges that outline the Parterre garden. Take a walk beneath Silver Birches or Australian Causarina, in the Forest Garden. Visit from spring to late May to see the Perennial Border at its best. Explore the Edible Garden for fruit and vegetables you might grow at home. Embrace the beauty of the courtyards and ponds in the display gardens.

Wisteria, archway, Alowyn Gardens, Melbourne gardens, Yarra Ranges, Yarra Glen,
Wisteria at Alowyn Gardens (Image from Alowyn Gardens and Nursery Facebook Page)

The French Garden, inspired by gardens in Versailles is awash with poppies in the spring. For something different, the Dry Garden features gravel, rock and drought hardy plants. Central to all of this is the Wisteria Archway. The archway is the link between the gardens and is nothing short of breathtaking when in full bloom which is usually in October.

Alowyn Gardens, Melboure gardens, Yarra Ranges, Yarra Glen, gardens. garden path,
Formal displays at Alowyn Gardens (Image from Alowyn Gardens and Nursery Facebook Page)

There is a retail nursery to tempt the home gardener and a cafe for that well earned break.

Click here for visitor information to Alowyn Gardens.
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Why? Becasue these gardens are too remarkable, too amazing, too beautiful to be left unseen
When: Anytime
Where: Greater Melbourne
Cost: All but 2 of the 10 gardens have free entry. Follow the individual links for details.
Your Comment
Who would have thought that Melbourne had so many magnificent gardens.
by Roger (score: 2|855) 2769 days ago
The Dandenong Ranges are my absolute favourites. Great list
by EricaL (score: 3|1692) 2769 days ago
Yarra Ranges Tourism have put together the following list of Top Cool Climate Gardens in the Dandenong Ranges - check those featured in this list plus more.
by Yarra Ranges Tourism (score: 0|2) 2766 days ago
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