Candice is a lawyer by profession and a freelance writer by inclination. Her creative outlet is writing about new experiencs, great food and living life in Melbourne.
Published June 7th 2014
The last place you expect to find yourself on a rainy day
Melbourne is certainly blessed with some wonderful parks, gardens and reserves, but the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne is pretty special. Not only is entry is absolutely free, it can make you forget you're only two kilometres from the Melbourne CBD. The gardens have special significance to me - a place I go to think, read, clear my mind and when in need of a little inspiration.
Most Melburnians know where to find these gardens, but not everyone has experienced their beauty in the early part of winter when the leaves are amber and the lake is still. Typically families and couples gather on warm spring and summer days with picnics to enjoy the sun – which I suppose is why it's left so peaceful and enriching on a rainy day in winter.
Leave your car on Birdwood Avenue with easy access to the gardens and cafés so you can collect a takeaway lunch before beginning your walk. Café Domain is my preference and has the enviable position within the centre of bustling eateries, just opposite your garden entry at Gate D. Café Domain is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and offers freshly baked pastries and muffins and a pretty decent coffee.
My staple is their homemade soup of the day with crusty bread. Their salads are also made fresh and definitely tempting, but on a drizzly day in winter, soup is the only way to go…
With minestrone in hand and hood firmly fastened overhead, I cross the park between Café Domain and Gate D. If you're not familiar with the gardens, it's a good idea to print the map and take it with you.
Just your first few steps inside the gates and I promise you will be captivated by colour. The rain seems to offer the plants a certain glow and life - and as the rain falls slowly yet steadily without a breath of wind, the only sound will be raindrops on the lake and your feet crunching the wet gravel footpath.
As soon as you enter, veer slightly left and walk through Fern Gully. Here you can follow the stream under a canopy of lush ferns, winding your way down to the Ornamental Lake. The history of these natural water systems goes back to before the European settlement of Melbourne and it is thought they were once a food source for Aborigines.
Walk along the edge of the lake until you find the Taxodium Lawn and stop for a moment to breathe it all in. The Lawn is named after the single Taxodium Distichum tree that stands centre stage, a bright burnt orange, making it a popular place for wedding ceremonies and picnics. See the iconic black swans that seem to congregate on this lawn and if you look close enough, you might even catch a glimpse a Short-finned Eel sliding through the murky water below.
It's time to seek sanctuary inside one of the many pavilions and have some lunch. I take a turn and head south, back towards Gate C to find the Tecoma Pavilion. Nestled within the perfumes of the eucalypts, this place offers a garden retreat with views of the sweeping lawns and Government House. The beauty about the gardens is finding a new place to sit and soak in the surroundings each time you go - whether a nook on the brink of a rose garden, or under the protection of a rotunda to listen to rain hitting its roof.
A visit to the gardens would not be complete without paying homage to the wind. The Temple of the Winds sits high on a hill with sweeping views of the city skyline and the Yarra River below. Built in 1901, its ten circular columns support a grand structure - your haven as you stand looking out, alone with your thoughts.
All this and you have only just touched on one side of the 38 hectares of green. You will be overwhelmed by perfumes floating through the damp air and the way the trees glisten in the rain.
So if these photos don't have you inspired to indulge an afternoon of solitude in these magnificent gardens, even when it's raining, I don't know what will! There's something pretty special about having the gardens almost completely to yourself.