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Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Home > Adelaide > Escape the City | Family | Free | Gardens | Nature
by Graeme Fanning (subscribe)
I'm a tour guide who is passionate about South Australia and love to showcase to locals and visitors. Visit my facebook page at
Published September 26th 2015
Don't stop at smelling the roses
Botanic Gardens Adelaide

Within a stone's throw of the hustle and bustle of Adelaide CBD are the serene and diverse Botanic Gardens, occupying a massive 51 hectares of land in the north-east corner of the city.

Whether you are looking to "smell the roses" during a busy day for half an hour or so, or you wish to explore in greater detail all the gardens have to offer, and immerse yourself for a few hours, then the Botanic Gardens is the place for you and your friends and family to visit.

Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Spring Colour - Source: Graeme Fanning

History and Background

As early as 1837 provision was made for a public garden according to Colonel William Light's plan of Adelaide.

After several attempts to establish such a garden, the current site was laid out and established in the 1850's. At that time Adelaide was still a dry and dusty place and even some parts of the city were inhabited by sheep and cattle.

It was then necessary to fence off a dedicated area for the establishment of the gardens to prevent invasion by the grazing animals.

George William Francis was an influential superintendent of the Botanic Gardens, who was a botanist and Francis helped shape the gardens as they are today.

One interesting feature is the beautiful imposing wrought iron gates fronting onto North Terrace, which depict of all things, pineapples on top of the spikes.

The significance of the pineapple relates to a custom originated by the peoples in the Caribbean, who placed a pineapple by an entrance to a village meaning "welcome".

Francis wanted to attract the public into the Botanic Gardens, hence this symbolism inviting them.

His successor, Schombergk finished moulding the gardens, including the magnificent Palm House built in the 1870's and the introduction of the Victoria House, designed to display the giant waterlily (Regina Amazonica).

Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Entrance to Botanic Gardens c 1885 Photo Source: State Library of South Australi 16964/8


Today the gardens offer interesting sections incorporating 21st century technology with also regression to the way of the Kaurna people, our indigenous traditional custodians of the Adelaide Plains area.

The establishment of wetlands, which are home to over 60,000 plants has brought sustainability and the importance of urban landscapes and within 5 - 8 years, the wetland is expected to recover enough water yearly to irrigate the entire Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

Plants have long been associated with health benefits, and over 2,500 plants are on display in the western section of the gardens which are demonstrated as to their medicinal use.

The other major sections of the gardens include the SA Water Mediterranean Garden, which shows you what plants are most suitable for our type of climate, the International Rose Garden with over 5,000 roses and the Australian Native Garden, which highlights those species which might be suitable for domestic environments.

You can't help but also be impressed with the link with education, in the form of a extensive Kitchen Garden designed to teach young children the benefits of home grown food, and that it doesn't just come from a supermarket shelf!

Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Pond Reflections - Source: Graeme Fanning


One of the advantages of taking a free tour is the ability to gain a good overview of the Gardens through the eyes of an experienced and passionate guide.

Each guide brings their own expertise and interest to the tours, and no one tour is the same, dependant upon your guide's focus.

Carrying a bag of samples including pods, seeds, leaves, etc the tour guide gives you some fascinating insight into the world of flora and how nature shapes how a plant can survive in their natural environment.

For example, the shape of a leaf helps a plant conserve water and the general design of a flower determines which type of insects and birds it attracts.

A meander through the Australian Native Garden with a guide initiates motivation to spruce up your own garden, with some practical tips and ideas as to what natives might work in what parts of your garden.

The tour lasts for around 90 minutes and dependant upon your guide, can take you to fascinating parts of the garden including the Wisteria Arbour, the Bicentennial Conservatory with some of the oldest palms in the world, and the Wetlands.

If you prefer self-guided tours, the information is available from the Visitor Information Centre within the gardens or you can download the tour from Botanic Gardens website.

Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Spring Eruption - Source: Graeme Fanning

Relaxing Environment

A place for all the family, the Botanic Gardens has something for everyone, including great picnic spots, undercover pavilions, a well stocked kiosk and cafe and the wonderful Museum of Economic Botany.

On a glorious day, relaxing in the shade of a centuries old Moreton Bay fig on Murdoch Avenue or immersing yourself in the heart of the gardens, feeding the ducks or admiring the diverse flora, you can't help but be hooked and want to re-visit numerous times.

Each season offers a new perspective in the Gardens, and currently with roses about to bloom, the beautiful purple Chinese Wisteria and white Japanese Wisteria and just about any other splash of colour you can imagine, you can easily lose yourself in the overall splendour.

Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Native Splendour - Source: Graeme Fanning


On weekends the Botanic Gardens open at 9 am and close currently at 6 pm, however with daylight saving looming in early October, the gardens will then stay open until 6.30 pm until December and January, when they have even longer span hours, until 7 pm.

The 90 minute tours are free and are run at 10.30 am each day, departing from the Visitor Information Centre in the Schomburgk Pavilion.

Free maps are available at all entrances to the gardens which help you navigate your way around the extensive and soul-calming spaces.

If you need more inspiration for your own home gardens, there is a Digger's garden shop on site within the gardens, which sell many species of plants and give advice on what would suit your particular type of garden.

More information about our wonderful Botanic Gardens is available on their informative website -

Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Historic Palm House - Source: Graeme Fanning
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Why? A place to restore energy and interact with nature
When: Any time of the year
Phone: 08 8222 9311
Where: North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000
Cost: Free
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