Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published June 7th 2012
Just a few hundred metres from Federation Square and the heart of the city are the Queen Victoria Gardens, a lush and sprawling area that runs parallel to St Kilda Road and the NGV. It's sort of an introduction to the Royal Botanic Gardens, since you have to walk through Queen Victoria Gardens to get there. Don't let that fool you, though – Queen Victoria Gardens is excellent in its own right, with expansive lawns and hidden statues that each link to a separate part of Melbourne's history. You could wander around it forever.
The centre of the Queen Victoria Gardens is, appropriately, the Queen Victoria Memorial, a marble statue built soon after Queen Victoria's death in 1901. Dressed in ceremonial gowns and standing atop a huge monument, she gazes across little gardens, grottoes, ornamental lakes and sweeping lawns to the Yarra River and the Melbourne skyline. It's an excellent place to start a tour of the garden, as almost everything can be seen from that vantage point.
Directly opposite the NGV International is the famous floral clock, made of over seven thousand plants which are changed (along with the design) twice-yearly. The clock itself was donated to the City of Melbourne by some Swiss watchmakers in 1966. Looking over the clock is a statue of King Edward VII on horseback, Queen Victoria's son and successor.
Those are the two major statues in Queen Victoria Gardens, but far from the only ones. Keep an eye out for The Genie, a strange-looking metal animal made for children to climb on and enjoy its strange textures. Somewhere near the ornamental lake – to say exactly where would spoil the surprise – are the Bronze Water Children, two lifelike statues that can be mistaken for actual children in dim light.
Also of interest is the Pathfinder (perhaps better known as the Hammer Thrower), a statue of a naked man hurling a hammer. A common tradition for students and young people was to steal the hammer itself, which detaches from the statue, until the City started removing the hammer each night and replacing it each morning. Nearby is The Phoenix, Baroness Yrsa Von Heistner's creation, a hulking, hunched figure of cast bronze and welded copper that exudes power. There are other statues, as well – try to find them yourself.
The lawns are perfect for picnics – whether romantic or familial – and people can often be seen playing soccer or football in nice weather. Queen Victoria Gardens is close to the city, full of little nooks and crannies, and rich in history. It's often unfavourably compared to the Royal Botanic Gardens, but don't believe the hype. Give these gardens a try: like the Queen herself, they're enigmatic and often surprising.