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Published June 10th 2012
Enjoy a picnic by the lake
Set amidst 416 hectares of hills and lakes, and featuring over 4000 species of plants as well as outdoor sculptures, free gas barbecues, several kilometres of walking tracks and bike trails, a small gift shop, cafe and restaurant, Mount Annan Botanic Gardens is the native plant garden of the Royal Botanic Gardens- an ideal place for a walk, a bike-ride, a picnic, a family game of cricket - a place to just savour Australia's beautiful outdoors.
An ideal place for a family and friends get-together
Mount Annan Botanic Gardens is a place where you can delight in things uniquely Australian: a glimpse of a timid wallaby, the fragrance of eucalypts, the taste of a char-grilled steak, the sound of a myriad of bird calls, and the kiss of the sun on your face. The gardens are home to a plethora of wildlife: black swans, wallaroos, swamp wallabies, echidnas, kookaburras, kingfishers, fairy-wrens, honey-eaters, magpies and currawongs. The gardens also host the famous Wollemi pine, waratahs, flannel-flowers, wattle and kangaroo paws. The gardens provide several havens for picnics, from intimate "garden rooms" to more expansive lawns suitable for large family and friend get-togethers with groups eager to strut their stuff with a game of cricket or touch-football.
Conveniently situated beside the restaurant, enjoy some time-out while the little ones play
The licensed restaurant, Melaluca House Cafe-Restaurant, is open on weekdays from 10am to 5pm, and on weekends from 8am to 5pm. Breakfast prices range from $7.90 for toasted muesli , $12.90 for buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup or eggs with bacon or sausages on toast with grilled tomato, to $18.90 for a Melaluca Big Breakfast which includes two eggs, bacon, sausage, mushroom, tomato and hash brown served on thick toast (served until 11.00am). A jumbo scone for morning or afternoon tea will only set you back $3.50, while a warm butter croissant with smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese will cost you $14.90.
The fare ranges from gourmet sandwiches, tortilla wraps, focaccias, salads, pastas, risottos, and burgers, and ranges in price from $12.90 to around $18.90- all very reasonable. Cakes and desserts are $6.80. The restaurant and cafe are popular, so ensure you book ahead if you plan on dining in the restaurant, and don't leave it until the last minute to organise a table and order your food at the cafe.
Alongside the restaurant is the conveniently-situated playground which will be popular with the younger members of your family. You can sit and take your time over a coffee and cake or have a meal while the young ones exhaust themselves on the rides.
For the energetic ones amongst you, Stages 1 and 2 of a new Enduro Trail for mountain bikes has recently been completed, so if you or your kids are into mountain-biking, make sure you bring your bikes. Note: There was no bike hire available at the gardens on the date of my visit, so if you're seeking to cycle, make sure you bring your own. For further information and to download a brochure, click here.
The gardens regularly run activities specially designed to facilitate maximum enjoyment of the gardens. Available is a Twilight Tour which starts at 4.15 sharp and includes watching the sunset, then a twilight exploration of the gardens and encounters with wallaroos, spiders and birds. Make sure you bring a camera, a torch and an adventurous spirit. Children must be over 7. Cost: $15.00 per person or $30.00 for a family of 5. Additional child: $5.00. Bookings essential. Phone: 4634 7935. Also on offer are photography workshops, a photography competition, and art classes. For more information see here.
Opposite the restaurant and playground, meander along pathways that wander beside a quiet stream running beneath shady palms.
The garden is open every day except Christmas day from 10.00am until 5.00pm. Admission is free. Well-maintained toilet facilities are conveniently scattered throughout the gardens. See the link below for how to get there, disability access, parking, and visitor facilities. Note: pets are not allowed as the gardens are a wildlife corridor.
The Mount Annan Botanic Gardens is really nice way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon. I use to work when I was younger and always found it a great place to do my studying while I was at uni, as there was little to no distractions.