The Queen Victoria Gardens are the overlooked bridesmaid of the Royal Botanical Gardens (locally known as the Tan). I've often walked through these gardens on my way to the Tan, and noticed that they were nice, but never stopped to really explore and take in the garden as a whole in itself.
Directly opposite the Arts Centre, just over the bridge from Flinders St Station, I found myself in these gardens with 20 minutes to spare, and a packed lunch to enjoy. And so I decided to give this garden a chance, to get to know it. And I was delighted with what I found.
A natural entry point to this garden is on the north edge, coming from St Kilda road. Steps lead down to a path that takes you directly through the garden. Don't be fooled by this path – it carries you right through the gardens, pretending like they're just a pretty edging on a way to get somewhere else. Step off the path, and take a moment to greet Hercules, then Apollo, who guard this entrance.
From here you'll see wide grassy patches and the flower beds. You might like to sit on one of the amusingly manufactured hillocks that overlook the green. Or you could keep the Genie company.
The important thing is that you don't stop here. Venture up top to see the namesake of the garden, the enormous marble statue of Queen Victoria, and enjoy seeing things from her vantage point. You can sit on the steps of her monument and take in the sunlight and the best view over the garden.
The lake is beautiful from every angle, and viewing points are scattered around it so that as you walk, your view keeps evolving. From this south side vantage, you can just glimpse a waterfall. A waterfall?
Now you must find your way around the lake, trying not to get distracted by the birds, flowers, statues and artwork, until you finally hear the water.
You notice some rocks through the foliage, and if you venture in (just a few careful steps onto some large rocks) you will find a gorgeous scene.
When I ventured into this garden, I never thought I'd find such a secret gem.
Still, this garden has more to share. Near waterfall lies a still patch of water, where you meet the nymph. This area is on higher ground, a cool, shrubby balance to the grass below, and a lovely place to sit in seclusion.
If you continue towards the Botanical gardens, up the hill beyond the nymph's grove, you'll discover the figure guarding the southern end of the garden, overlooking St Kilda road. Here stands Edward VII, presiding over the loveliest clock you'll find anywhere. You haven't completely seen this garden until you've seen the clock.