Things to Do
Wander off the beaten path at Melbourne’s lesser-known botanical gardens.
Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne
Little-known fact: the Royal Botanic Gardens have an equally cool sister in Melbourne’s southeast. The Cranbourne division specialises in native Australian flora and spans over 350 hectares. The gardens are home to over 170,000 plants, including those residing in the rugged Australian Garden, as well as a number of endangered Australian animals. Cnr Ballarto Rd & Botanic Dr, Cranbourne 3977. 03 5990 2200. www.rbg.vic.gov.au/rbg-cranbourne. Daily 9am-5pm. Free.
Blue Lotus Water Garden
Blue Lotus Water Garden is a seasonal display garden, meaning it’s only open for a very short time throughout the year, often between late December and early April. A multitude of water lilies and lotus flowers bloom over dozens of ponds and two lakes, and the gardens extend over 50,000m2. 2628 Warburton Hwy, Yarra Junction 3797. 03 5967 2061. www.bluelotusfarm.com.au. Daily 10am-5pm. $0-$17. Until Apr 15.
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens
The Alfred Nicholas Memorial Garden is located deep within the Dandenong Ranges. Take a walk through the park and see the awesome canopy of mountain ash trees or take a picnic by the picturesque lake and quaint boathouse. In spring, the park is full of colour with flowering azaleas and cherry trees, while in autumn the park turns golden with the changing colours of the maples and beeches. Sherbrooke Rd, Dandenong 3789. 03 8627 4699. parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/ alfred-nicholas-memorial-gardens-gardens-ofthe-dandenongs. Daily 10am-5pm. Free.
Home to the biggest collection of cacti in Australia, Cactus Country has over four hectares of gardens showcasing more than 4,000 species of sprouting cacti and succulents. Wander through eight different trails to find your favourite prickly friend. The place is crazy photogenic, and you can hire out it for film or photo shoots. 4986 Murray Valley Hwy, Strathmerton 3641. 0427 745 271. cactuscountry.com.au. Daily 9am-5pm. $0-$15.
Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden
This botanic garden was only dubbed a botanic garden in 2017, as it was previously known as the National Rhododendron Garden. These days you’ll find more than just rhododendrons, with azaleas, camellias, cherries and daffodils providing some delightful rainbow colour to the grounds. The gardens boast an impressive collection of rare and exotic plants too, the majority of which are endangered.
The Georgian Rd, Olinda 3788. 131 963. visitdandenongranges.com.au/activity/ dandenong-ranges-botanic-garden. Daily 10am-5pm. Free.
Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory
Did you know Fitzroy Gardens is hiding a lush botanic garden? Located on the southeastern edge of the CBD, this Spanish Mission-style conservatory was opened way back in 1930. It currently exhibits five floral displays annually, meaning it’s in full bloom all year round with a mix of hydrangeas, fuchsias, begonias, cyclamens and calceolarias all making an
appearance. 230-298 Wellington Pde, East Melbourne 3002. 03 9658 9658. www.fitzroygardens.com/conservatory.htm.Daily 9am-5pm. Free.
Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm
These European-style gardens are in the hills of Shepherds Flat in northwest Victoria. Lavandula sits on a 40-hectare property originally operated by a Swiss-italian family who came to Victoria in search of gold. Today it boasts an incredible lavender farm, vegetable and herb gardens and a café. 350 Hepburn-Newstead Rd, Shepherds Flat 3461. 03 5476 4393. www.lavandula.com.au. Daily 10.30am-5.30pm. $0-$4.
Williamstown Botanic Gardens
One of Victoria’s first public gardens, Williamstown Botanic Gardens is a lush, green spot for reading or picnics. The garden’s main features include a plethora a of exotic plants, an Edwardian ornamental pond and a formal palm avenue. Cnr Giffard & Osborne Sts, Williamstown 3016. 03 9932 1000. www.hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au. Open 24 hours. Free.
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens