From the air, these stunning, 38-hectare gardens suggest a set of giant green lungs in the middle of the city. Drawing over two million visitors annually, it’s considered one of the finest examples of Victorian-era landscaping in the world. Here you’ll find global plantings and a range of Australian flora. Mini ecosystems, a herb garden and an indigenous rainforest are set amid vast, picnic-friendly lawns and black-swan-spotted ponds. Be sure to book the Aboriginal Heritage Walk.
In summer the gardens play host to Moonlight Cinema and theatre performances. Other features include the 19th-century Melbourne Observatory for tours of the night sky, and the excellent, nature-based Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, a whimsical, child-scaled place that invites kids and their parents to explore, discover and imagine.
The visitor centre is the departure point for tours, some of which are free and all of which should be booked by calling ahead (see the website for details). Close by, the National Herbarium, established in 1853, contains more than a million dried botanical specimens used for plant-identification purposes.
For visitors who can’t get enough, Royal Botanical Gardens has also developed the Australian Garden in the outlying suburb of Cranbourne.