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Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory
Photograph: Emily Godfrey/Visit Victoria

The best parks in Melbourne

These Melbourne oases will help you get in touch with your green side

Written by
Time Out editors
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Update 27/07/2021: Victorians can meet in groups of up to ten people in public places as we emerge from the state's fifth lockdown. 

Melbourne is home to more skyscrapers than anywhere else in Australia – but our concrete jungle is offset by actual jungle, with gorgeous parks dotted in and around the city. For when you're craving a little Mother Nature, head to one of these lush urban oases.

Looking for something off the beaten path? We've also rounded up the best secret gardens near Melbourne

The best Melbourne parks

  • Things to do
  • Melbourne

If there’s anywhere you can escape the madness of the city CBD without actually leaving it, the Royal Botanic Gardens is the place. Located on the city’s fringe, this expansive garden is home to a cool 8,500 plant species, zen lakes and lush lawns. Workshops, tours, walks and talks showcase the intricacies of the gardens – from star-gazing night tours in the Melbourne Observatory to science seminars, which explore the phylogeography of coconut. Plus, the Aboriginal Heritage Walk takes you on a journey into the history of the Koolin nation.

  • Things to do
  • Fitzroy North

Not far from the North Fitzroy cafe strip, these 140-year-old gardens are an ideal place to laze about. The park is huge and has a number of facilities (such as a skate park) and is popular with inner-north picnic goers. 

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Werribee Park
  • Things to do
  • Werribee South

Acquired by the Victorian Government from the Catholic Church in 1973, the Mansion, riverina and formal gardens have been restored to their former glory, with the addition of the Werribee Park Sculpture Walk, featuring 29 works by Australia's leading sculptors. Nearby is the Victoria State Rose Garden – if you're visiting in spring, it's a true wonder. 

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  • Things to do
  • East Melbourne

Take a stroll around Fitzroy Gardens and take in the natural landscape and historic sights, which are located throughout the gardens. Heritage highlights include Captain Cook’s 1755 family home uprooted from Yorkshire and re-assembled here in the 1930s, as well as a collection of fountains, statues, memorials and follies accumulated over the park’s 150 years. Its star attraction? That's gotta be the Spanish Mission-style conservatory.

If you like birdspotting, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve in Williamstown is for you. These wetlands have the Bay Trail run right through them, making it an excellent slice of parkland for walkers and cyclists, and there's a number of sections with wide-open lawns for activities as well as playgrounds. 

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  • Things to do
  • West Melbourne

Melbourne’s first public garden, Flagstaff Gardens was established in the 1860s and once offered views to Port Phillip Bay. These days, the park is a lovely place to take time out, have a picnic and share the sunset with friends. 

  • Things to do
  • Cranbourne

Little-known fact: the Royal Botanic Gardens has an equally cool sister in Melbourne's southeast. The Cranbourne division of the Royal Botanic Gardens 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. 

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  • Things to do
  • Carlton

Carlton Gardens is a gorgeously landscaped Victorian-era park that sits among impressive company. It's here you'll find the heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Museum. Go for a stroll early morning to see the park at its most eye-catching. 

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Kew East

Lauded as one of Melbourne's original and most inclusive parks, thanks to its very accessible playground, Hays Paddock Park was developed with some help from two local mothers, Danielle Blanden and Jenny Grahem, back in 2003. Both have disabled and able-bodied children and encouraged the City of Boroondara to develop a more accessible playground.

 

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It's not unheard of to run into a mob of kangaroos out in Plenty Gorge Parklands, which is about 20km from the CBD. Views of the Plenty River also draw visitors, as does the historic homestead. Camping is also permitted, at the Nioka Bush Camp.

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  • Things to do
  • Port Melbourne

You might have spotted this peaceful wetland under the West Gate while you were stuck in traffic on the bridge above. Here you can enjoy views of the bay and city skyline, and spot native birds including swans, spoonbills, ibises and lorikeets. Westgate Park has also been known to turn a delicious shade of pink from time to time – you're most likely to see this happen during summer.

Braeside Park in Melbourne's south is a great option if you want a park you can walk around – the Red Gum trail is popular, as is the Wetlands trail if you'd like to spot some birds. Free electric barbecues are available and there's an adventure playground too!

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  • Sport and fitness
  • South Melbourne

Albert Park boasts 225 hectares of beautiful parkland including a picturesque lake and network of trails. The park includes an 18-hole golf course, golf driving range, walking and cycling tracks and water activities. Other facilities include picnic tables, barbecue areas, playgrounds, restaurants and toilets.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Heatherton

Opposite a Bunnings on Warrigal Road is a hidden gem of a park. Karkarook Park doesn't look like much from the outside but drive in and you'll find an environmental oasis, full of native flora and fauna. An artificial lake is popular for kayaking and canoeing, and you can also try your hand fishing for rainbow trout or redfin. 

Ardrie Park
  • Things to do
  • Malvern East

Malvern East’s verdant jewel boasts epic views back over Melbourne, an excellent swing set and the chance to do some champion wedding photo bombing (not that you’re a jerk, but hey). A long boulevard of trees runs through the middle and there are Japanese gardens in which to find a nook and/or quiet cranny if you like to pretend you’re at the picnic at the end of the universe.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

In 2018, an elevated green oasis opened in the city and it’s fully accessible to the general public. it's called a “skypark”, which naturally makes it sound a little like Kami’s Lookout from Dragon Ball, but it’s a little more grounded than that. The park is located above Collins Street beside Southern Cross Station and you can reach it by climbing a spiral staircase from the train station level.

Visit a local lavender field

Lavender fields in and around Melbourne
  • Things to do

We all spend far too much time searching for the perfect Instagram shot, but these gorgeous lavender gardens are so good you’d be hard-pressed to take a bad photo. Best of all, they all come with their own cafés so you can enjoy lunch once you’ve finished frolicking amongst the flowers.

More ideas for nature lovers

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