Allow yourself about two hours (more if you want to sample the café in the gardens which I thoroughly recommend you do) to see these delightful and varied gardens. The National Botanic Gardens, run by the Government, specialises in Australian native plants and contains nearly 7,000 of some 18,000 identified species found in Australia, all set in Canberra’s bushland environment.
Compared to Sydney or Melbourne these gardens are small – 35 hectares. Rather than being a criticism, this is actually good as in a couple of hours you can see the whole gardens covering the ambit of Australian flora from the Tasmanian Rainforest to the newly created Red Centre (desert) collection with everything in between.
Those of you who thought there was only one type of Eucalypt tree will be in for a bit of a surprise when you reach the Eucalypt Lawn where you can sit and admire over 70 species of this famous Australian Tree. The lawn is also a great place for a picnic and regularly hosts concerts in the summer.
In terms of wildlife, watch out for lizards in the rock garden area which also sports a pleasant little waterfall and birds throughout the Gardens. Both are reasonably abundant and easy to spot.
The main path walk (1.4kms) will let you see the highlights of the gardens but do veer off – you will not get lost as all paths lead back to the main path fairly quickly.
Canberra’s cold dry winters and hot dry summers are not conducive to the growing of tropical plants but this has been taken care of by a glasshouse which, while small, is well stocked and tended. Don’t miss it – its just off the main path (signposted) – in the far side of the gardens from the entrance. The glasshouse is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm.
For those with energy to burn you can leave the gardens via Black Mountain Gate (watch out for signs in the Red Centre Garden and Glasshouse areas) and make your way up Black Mountain to Telstra Tower on the top. Note that this is not a gentle walk in the park but rather a moderately difficulty 5.4 km return walk – allow 90 minutes return. I highly recommend this detour if you have the time and energy. Be sure to be back down by 4.30pm as the gate into the Gardens are locked at this hour. I have prepared a separate review on this walk.
Free guided tours, lasting just over an hour, are offered daily at 11am and 2pm. I thoroughly recommend you take a tour before or after a private walk through the gardens.
Pick up your garden map at the visitors centre when you arrive and have a look at the well stocked book/gift shop.
Often overlooked by visitors, I recommend a visit to the Botanic Gardens as ‘a must do’ for my discerning Reader!
Daily 8.30am to 5.00pm, except Christmas Day (to 8pm on summer weekends)
The Visitor Centre and Bookshop are open 9:30am to 4:30pm and the Café 8.30am to 4.30pm.
Free but there is a sting if you drive. Car parking costs $2.80 per hour or a maximum of $10 per day – still worth it and parking fees do go to the upkeep of the gardens.
Getting there other than driving
By bus – School term weekdays – ACTION bus Route 3 will get you to within a 10 minute walk of the Gardens. At weekends route 981 stops at the Gardens as does Route 81 on weekdays during school holidays.
Walk to the Gardens – about 30 minutes from the City Centre.
Address: Clunies Ross Street, Acton
Directions: At the foot of Black Mountain
Phone: (02) 6250 9540