On Botanic Road, just north of the Warrnambool CBD, twenty acres of serene and interesting gardens are situated. Designed by William Guilfoyle upon his completion of the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens, the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens were established in the late 1800s, and are comprised of meandering paths, expansive lawns and carefully tended flora.
Once upon a time, the gardens incorporated an aviary of birds and a menagerie which included guinea pigs, kangaroos and monkeys. While these features no longer exist today, the many waterbirds supported by the lily pond are still very much in residence, and have drawn generations of children with bags of bread pieces to the gardens.
Warrnambool Botanic Gardens
The lily pond, and the bridge that spans it, are two of the most-loved landmarks of the site. The pond is largely the same as it was when it was first created, though the bridge's wooden balustrade was replaced with stone in 1942. Another significant attraction of the gardens is the rare, early 1800s canon, thought to be one of fifteen such guns that were cast in Scotland and shipped to Victoria as part of the state's defences.
The Lily Pond
Other key sights include the octagonal band rotunda which was erected in 1913, the old giraffe swing, the gas lights, the sun dial and the fernery. The current fernery was built in 1985 to replace the former, structurally impaired building, and is unique in that all the ferns within it are indigenous to the Otway Ranges region.
The gardens are managed by a society of friends who have implemented water-wise techniques throughout and put considerable energy into restoring and preserving historic elements, including the ancient trees that grace the site, and some of the other original flora.
There are plenty of lovely picnicking areas around the gardens, including parts shaded by the natural canopy of the trees, and it's a popular spot for wedding photos, and indeed, weddings themselves. To find out more about the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens, head along to one of the guided walks, which start at the Cockman St gates at 2:30pm on the second and fourth Sunday of every month, or visit the website and Facebook page.