What I found was tranquil, well-tended, delightful green spaces to rival many of Melbourne's best known gardens. And, wait for it… according to the gardens' official website, this site is the first cemetery to have won the International Cemetery Award outside of the U.S.A. Apparently cemetery awards are a thing. Who knew? The cemetery is so well regarded, people have weddings here, as well as other community events. Takers?
This location is expansive and the website says it sits on some 169 hectares. There are 40 gardens, numerous lawns, a lake or two and water features dotted around the place. The care lavished on these gardens is quite evident. There are also location guide boards everywhere so don't despair of getting lost.
A significant space is dedicated to Australian war graves and according to the Department of Veteran Affairs website, there are over 600 war graves in this cemetery. There is a corridor of walls inscribed with the names of those who served and died for Australia, and as I visited the cemetery about a week after Anzac Day, I noticed a number of red poppies.
Sectioned into a few different areas, I came across an Australian garden, rose gardens, and an Asian garden and burial site. At one point, it felt like I had stumbled into an English countryside circa 1950. One garden is called 'The Garden of No Distant Place.' How could you resist?
There is an air of solemn dignity and solitude. For much of the time I spent wandering around, all I could hear was the sound of the wind, the chirping of birds and the rustling of the leaves in the trees. If mindfulness is what you seek, here you shall find.
If you get peckish from walking, you can head over to Café Vita et Flores. It has large well-lit sitting areas, both inside and out. The café caters to functions and also has jazz sessions, and at the time I was there, it was advertising for Mother's Day bookings. Located within the café is also an onsite florist with selections of flowers, candles and floral arrangements.
There were others having a picnic on one of the lawns. The website does encourage people to come in, sit down and have a bite to eat. You are welcome to walk, jog, and bring your dogs too. The cemetery also has botanical tours, and you can register your interest for these online.