If you've seen everything there is to see at the Royal Botanic Gardens, it might be time to stop and smell the flowers at these unsung gardens around Melbourne. Here you'll find gardens devoted to Australian natives, fancy ferns and some not-so-ubiquitous plants like cacti, rhododendrons, tulips and lotuses – perfect for when you need some green in your life.
Want more green? These 10 national parks are within driving distance of Melbourne and here's our guide to getting your nature fix in the CBD.
Botanical gardens in Melbourne
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. If you'd like to rest your legs, there's a hop-on-hop-off open-air bus that can take you around on a sweep of the gardens.
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. Take a stroll around the gardens and peek inside the four greenhouses that grow rare plants, including the giant Amazon lily, the world’s largest lily species.
As close as you'll come to a true secret garden, 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. The park is home to a heap of Australian native flora, which changes all year round. 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.
Almost three hours outside Melbourne you’ll find a slice of the old Wild West at Cactus Country. Home to the biggest collection of cacti in Australia, Cactus Country has over four hectares of gardens ready to be explored. The gardens showcase more than 4,000 species of sprouting cacti and succulents, and you’ll be able to wander through eight different trails across the gardens to find your favourite prickly friend. As you can imagine, the place is crazy photogenic, and you can even hire out the location for film or photo shoots.
Sitting on a hilltop in the Dandenong Ranges are the rock gardens, fern gullies and bountiful lawns that make up the 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. Luckily these plants have adapted to the Dandenong Ranges’ relatively cool climate.
Did you know Fitzroy Gardens is hiding a beautifully 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. Pro tip: make sure your nasal passages are clear – the smell is incredible.
These European-style gardens are situated in the not-so-European 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 an on-site café. Skim your hands over the building’s original 1850s stone brickwork and scour the gift shop for essential oils, scrubs, creams and hand washes.
One of Victoria's first public gardens, Williamstown Botanic Gardens is a lush green spot to read or have a picnic. It was originally established by early colonies as a way of assessing how well plants would fare in the Australian climate. As a result, the garden's main features include a plethora of exotic plants, an Edwardian ornamental pond and a formal palm avenue. It's also a stone's throw away from Williamstown Beach if you need some sandy respite.
Find more hidden gems
Think you’ve seen all of Victoria? Take a gander at some of the state's most unfamiliar locations, from tropical-style beaches to lavender farms straight out of the south of France.