We were a little reluctant to believe the hype. A botanical garden in the middle of the self-claimed Beef Capital of Australia. We expected stockyards and rodeos. Sunburnt plains full of dust and cowboys. We did not expect a tropical oasis. We had been told that the botanical gardens were a sight to see, and a great way too spend a day in the 'city'. Accompanying the botanical gardens is a FREE zoo, which we were told was also supreme. We grew more skeptical. How good can a free zoo be? We worried that the cages would be too small and the experience sad.
We were wrong. From the minute you drive into the botanical gardens you feel a sense of relaxation and wonder. The gardens house many smaller collections of plants, as well as a large lagoon and war memorial. There are so many great picnic spots that it would take me all day to note and recite then all, and anyway, finding a picnic spot of your very own is much more fun!
We easily spent 3 hours wandering the gardens, enjoying the waterfall in the Japanese Garden, admiring the foreign fruit in the Tropical Fruit Garden, wandering the lagoon and playing the hidden musical instruments under what can only be described as The Magical Faraway Tree, as well as taking in the beauty of the Feature Tree Garden walk.
The only area of the botanical gardens that we sadly missed out on was the fernery, which was closed due to cyclone damage, thanks to Tropical Cyclone Marcia.
At 2pm we headed into the zoo to make our way around the feeding time schedules. Be sure to pop into the information centre (in front of the fernery) to grab an info booklet with the feeding times marked on it. The animal keepers are a great source of information and more than happy too chat.
The zoo houses monkeys, cassowaries, otters, kangaroos, emus, koalas, crocodiles, dingoes, native birds in a flight aviary as well as other Australian animals, a great range of animals for a free zoo! The cages are all quite large, not as depressing as we thought they might be. They were not as large as the Melbourne Zoo either, but certainly not cruel and confined. The zoo is set up for tourists and families and has many spots to sit with your children when they get hungry or need a break.
We spent around 90 minutes in the zoo and easily could have stretched it to 2 hours, but sadly we had errands to run before 5pm.
Overall, it was a great free day for us. We're living on a budget and really appreciate that we could spend the whole day, entertained in a new setting without pulling out our wallets. I would give the Rockhampton Botanical Gardens and Zoo an easy two thumbs up and recommend it for anyone looking for a great day out, as a new and romantic picnic spot or a place to take the kids in the upcoming school holidays (there is also a children's playground and party area), as well as for any tourist in the Rockhamptoon area.