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Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre
Photograph: Supplied | Destination NSW

The largest Japanese garden in the Southern Hemisphere is right here in NSW

Cowra Japanese Garden is a sprawling 12.5-acre Japanese garden hidden in a regional NSW town

Winnie Stubbs
Written by
Winnie Stubbs

Here in Sydney, we’re lucky enough to have plenty of stunning outdoor spaces on our doorstep. Our coastline is lined with beautiful pockets of national parkland, the inner city is punctuated by green spaces, and the Blue Mountains are just a train ride from the city. But for an outdoors experience that feels like a trip overseas, it’s worth taking a drive inland to the regional NSW town of Cowra – where you’ll find the largest Japanese garden in the Southern Hemisphere.

Designed by Japanese-born landscape architect Ken Nakajima, Cowra Japanese Garden is a sprawling Japanese-style garden, which opened in 1979 to acknowledge and honour the connection that the people of Japan have to Cowra – the NSW town where many Japanese victims of WW2 are buried. 

Where is Cowra Japanese Garden?

As the name would suggest, Cowra Japanese Garden is located in the regional NSW town of Cowra – around a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney.

Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre
Photograph: Supplied | Destination NSW

What can I see at Cowra Japanese Garden?

Within the beautifully landscaped 12.5 acre grounds, you’ll find two lakes, a Japanese cultural centre (which displays exhibitions showcasing Japanese artefacts and art from local and regional artists), a replica Edo cottage, a bonsai house, a traditional open-air tea house and a network of streams that weave through the undulating grounds.

What animals can I see at Cowra Japanese Garden?

The tree-studded landscape makes a perfect home for birds, so the garden is a popular spot for bird watchers. There’s also a carp pond on-site, home to a school of golden carp – those huge gold fish.

What activities can I take part in at Cowra Japanese Garden?

You really don’t need to do anything other than put one foot in front of the other to experience the magic of this beautiful garden. The team suggests allowing yourself two hours to explore the whole thing. If you’re keen for a hands-on experience, you can take a tour of the gardens with a member of staff, or join a bonsai workshop to learn more about the Japanese art of growing and pruning the adorable miniature trees.

How to get to Cowra Japanese Garden

The drive from Sydney takes around four-and-a-half hours – with the best route being via the M31 or the A41, depending which area of Sydney you’re coming from. If you’re not able to drive there, you can catch the train to Bathurst and then catch a bus, but you’ll be in for a six-hour total journey time from Central (so yeah, not a day trip).

How much does it cost to go to Cowra Japanese Garden?

An adult ticket costs $20, with concession tickets for $15 and children’s tickets for $10. If you’re taking the family, you can buy a family ticket for $50 that will score you entry for two adults and two children 

Is there a café at Cowra Japanese Garden?

Yes, the café is open from 8.30am until 5pm every day – serving breakfast, lunch, drinks and snacks (including a very strong selection of cakes). The kitchen closes at 2pm every day, so if you want a full meal, arrive early.

Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre
Photograph: Supplied | Destination NSW

How do you get around Cowra Japanese Garden? Is it wheelchair accessible? 

While Cowra Japanese Garden is listed as wheelchair accessible, due to the rocky terrain, it’s not the most suitable place for wheelchair users to spend a day. That being said, the on-site cultural centre is easily accessible, so you can still explore a good proportion of what the space has to offer. 

When is the best time to visit Cowra Japanese Garden?

The gardens are open throughout the year, but spring and autumn are particularly beautiful times to visit – as the seasons turn and it’s cool enough to spend all day in the open air. For a Japanese cherry blossom experience that’s almost akin to the real thing, time your visit for late September/early October for their Cherry Blossom Festival. Throughout the month of May, the garden hosts a month-long celebration of the autumn colours known as Kōyō Matsuri – so now is as good a time as any to journey west and explore this pocket of Japan in NSW. 

Do you need a ticket to access Cowra Japanese Garden?

Visitors are encouraged to book tickets ahead of their visit, and you can score yours over here.

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