The Royal Botanic Garden is a 30-hectare botanical garden at the eastern edge of the Sydney central business district. It opened in 1816 and holds the record for being Australia’s oldest scientific institution. It is also one of the world’s most important historic botanical institutions. On 2 April 1999, the Garden was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register.
The Botanic Garden, constructed under the supervision of Allan Cunningham, Richard Cunningham, and Carrick Chambers, was designed by Charles Moore and Joseph Maiden. The New South Wales Government currently owns the Garden, but it is administered by the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust.
Things to Do in the Garden
As a public recreation area, the Botanic Garden offers a lot of great spots for family and public events. There’s also a wide variety of activities for family and friends to enjoy together.
Walk and Tour
Free Guided Walks
The volunteer guides of the Garden offers a variety of tours for visitors and locals who want to learn about the Botanic Garden’s 200- year history. One of them is the free guided walk tour that runs Mondays to Fridays from 10:30 AM – 12 PM and 1 PM – 2 PM. It is available for groups of six people and below and no prior booking is required.
The Little Book of Walks
The Botanic Garden also offers five self-guided walks for visitors who want to experience nature at their own pace. Each walk takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete and is guided by The Little Books of Walks. These are special edition guides that visitors can use as they tour around the Garden. The books, developed by guides, Rosemary Roberts and Toni McDowell, highlight the Garden’s history; its science and research facilities; wildlife; and horticulture.
The Aboriginal Heritage Tour
The Aboriginal Heritage Tour is a paid tour that is led by an Aboriginal guide. It features the history of the Cadigal people, who were the traditional owners of the Sydney city area. The walk includes talks, as well as searching and tasting Australian Bush Foods. This tour runs every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 11:30 am.
Behind the Scenes Sensory Tour
The Behind the Scenes Sensory Tour is another paid tour that offers a unique touring experience where visitors get to see, touch, smell and taste some of the Garden’s unique plant collection. It also provides exclusive access to the historic glasshouses and tropical plant treasures.
The tour takes 1.5 hours to complete and is led by an experienced tour guide. It runs on Tuesdays and Friday from 11 am to 12:30 pm.
Exclusive Group Tours
Visitors can also book an exclusive group tour to be arranged for them. It focuses on the group’s special interests and needs. Booking for this tour can be done by contacting Paul Nicholson.
Visit the Gardens within the Garden
The Royal Botanic Garden houses 13 themed gardens that visitors can lose themselves in and families can have a picnic together.
The Australian Rainforest Garden
The Australian Rainforest Garden was the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens organisation’s first project after being established in 1983. It features unique forest plants found in Australia, its most ancient vegetation plant types, and the most primitive flowering plants in the world.
The Palace Rose Garden
The Palace Rose Garden is one of the most popular wedding venues in Australia. It features a wide range of rose species with vibrant colours. It also houses the Shelter Pavilion designed by Government Architect Walter Vernon in 1897.
The Palace Rose Garden was first built in 1987 and was operational until 2004. The garden underwent redevelopment in 2001 which finished in 2006. The existing rose garden today is the ninth garden planted within the Royal Botanic Garden.
The Herb Garden
As the name implies, the Herb Garden features different herbs used in cooking for thousands of years. As visitors walk around, they are treated to the refreshing scent and colours of the herbs. The Herb Garden also houses a Sensory Fountain, as well as the Armillary Sphere Sundial, which was modelled on the Celestial Sphere.
The Palm Grove
The Palm Grove is a tropical jungle nestled in the second oldest part of our garden. It boasts off a collection of about 300 species of palms. Some of it are rare examples of palm species from Madagascar and New Caledonia.
In addition, the Palm Grove also serves home to the Botanic Garden’s tallest tree – a Queensland Kauri Pine planted in 1853; the garden’s oldest Dragon’s Blood Tree planted in 1862; and the fattest Elephant Foot of Ponytail plant.
The Fernery is home to over 350 fern species and other tropical perennials. It was designed by architect John Barbacetto and was constructed in 1993. Originally planned as a student project, The Fernery today houses relics of fern species that dates further back to the ancient fernery era. It also houses the Giant or King fern or Angiopteris evecta which is native to tropical Australia, New Caledonia and Asia.
Aside from the 13 gardens, the Royal Botanic Garden also has places where visitors can eat, shop and drink. Currently, it has ten cafes, restaurants and bars to choose from. Most of them are open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.