Just a short walk from Sydney’s world-famous opera house is equally impressive and much older, Royal Botanic Gardens. Like many other attractions in the area, the gardens have a spectacular view of Sydney Harbor. The harbor is technically referred to as Port Jackson, you may see it listed this way in some brochures and on some websites.
The gardens offer a wide variety of things to see and do, with the centerpiece being the specimens themselves, of course.
The Palm House, erected in 1876, is the oldest glasshouse in New South Wales (the region of which Sydney is the capital). Sited in one of the many garden settings, it can even be used for weddings or art showings.
Lions Gate Lodge, built in 1878 and recently renovated, is a prime example of Victorian architecture. Made of sandstone, it houses a landscaped cottage garden and a paved courtyard where visitors can cool off and relax.
The gardens offer not only fine old buildings to view but a variety of animals to complement the numerous plants. Fruit bats can often be found lounging upside down in the trees around the lake. There are several varieties of native birds in the surrounding area, including cockatoos and a Rainbow lorikeet. Parrots offer their opinions as you view the Bottlebrush bushes nearby.
Unquestionably the main attraction, though, is the many interesting species of plants and flowers throughout the extensive gardens.
One, the Titan Arum, is said to be the largest flower in the world. Blossoming atop a tuber that is up to 300 times the size of an ordinary potato, it’s an amazing sight. The plants have to grow to seven years of age before flowering, but at 10 cm/day (4 in/day) you won’t have to wait that long to see something interesting. Visit in the morning and come back in the afternoon to a taller plant!
With over 7,000 species visitors will definitely need more than one visit to take in even a small percentage of the total.
Since seeing all that varied beauty can be tiring, the Gardens offer a small train that tours around the different areas. Take a ride to the Maiden Theater and enjoy the turn of the 20th-century courtyard. Then motor over to the Fernery and take in the large leafy samples.
Take the time to investigate the Wollemi Pine, so rare it was thought extinct since prehistoric times. Fewer than 40 specimens are known to exist now and until ten years ago the Garden’s scientists kept it locked away.
Take a stroll through the Tropical Centre and take advantage of the knowledgeable staff. No matter what questions you have, you’ll find it difficult to stump them.
When lunchtime draws near, wander outside and have a picnic anywhere on the expansive grounds. While you refresh, gaze around at the Sydney Harbor Bridge or the Sydney Opera House, or any of the many other sights visible from the hilltop vantage point.