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Royal Botanic Gardens: A tranquil oasis in the heart of the city

More than 45,000 types of plants grace these elegant gardens in a prime location right on Sydney’s iconic harbour. The gardens offer more than just a beautiful green space, they also offer visitors the opportunity to delve deeper into Australia’s complex history.

In the space where the First Fleet made a failed attempt to establish a farm when they arrived in 1788 now lies Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, attracting tourists, locals, and botany enthusiasts from all over the world.

A shared history

It’s no surprise that the First Fleet’s early attempts at agriculture in this space were disastrous given the challenging terrain they faced at the time, but their efforts are still acknowledged in the Pioneer Memorial Garden, built in their memory. This is just one of the many gardens within the 80-acre space. Others include the Australian Rainforest Garden, Herb Garden and Palace Rose Garden.

But, for both locals and overseas visitors, one of the most worthwhile experiences within the Royal Botanic Gardens is the insight that can be gained about Australia’s Aboriginal people. Cadi Jam Ora means you are in Cadi and we acknowledge that you are standing on Cadigal land. The Cadi Jam Ora – First Encounters Garden was built between 1997 and 2001, it tells the story of the relationship between the Cadigal people and the European settlement created by the convicts, marines and officers who arrived with the First Fleet.

The Cadigal and other Aboriginal people throughout Australia have developed an intricate and complex relationship with native plants over tens and thousands of years. You can explore many of these plant species in the Cadi Jam Ora garden and learn how and why they were important to the Cadigal for both food and resources. There’s also a 50-metre storyboard winding through this garden explaining the shared history of the Aboriginal people and the European settlers.

More to explore

An incredibly worthwhile and hands-on experience is to join one of the Royal Botanical Garden’s Aboriginal Heritage Tours. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 10am to 11.30am, you can join an Aboriginal tour guide to learn more about the Cadigal people. As well as gaining an insight into the diverse history and culture of the Sydney’s Aboriginal people, you’ll have the chance to explore the different uses for native plants, as well as sampling some bush foods.

A more recent addition to The Royal Botanic Gardens is The Calyx is a hub of activity and exhibitions featuring one of the largest ‘green walls’ in the southern hemisphere, as well as a café and shops. The latest exhibition is inBLOOM, a display of over 20,000 plants which will immerse visitors in a spectrum of breath-taking sensory experiences.

It’s hard to get around the entire gardens on foot, so if you grow a little weary of walking, or you’re exploring with children, you also have the option of hopping aboard the Choo Choo Express. During its 25-minute journey, the Royal Botanical Gardens’ miniature train will take you on a tour of the gardens, starting from Queen Elizabeth II Gate, close to the Opera House, and offers spectacular views of Sydney Harbour.

Where?

Website: www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/

Address: Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney

When?

Click here for seasonal opening hours.

Jennifer Gaskin
Jen is obsessed with both food and travel. She believes that the way we explore the world, and our own backyards, can have a profoundly positive effect on the planet and its people. Her favourite things to do are explore far-flung corners of the globe, eat as many different types of food as possible and work up a sweat in the boxing ring!