Botanical Gardens offer a window into the landscape and culture of a destination. They are a sanctuary, providing an opportunity to relax and indulge your senses in exotic and ever changing surroundings. And, importantly, they are often free, offering an educational and entertaining diversion for all ages.
Hobart’s Royal Botanical Gardens excel at all of the above, captivating visitors with inspirational displays, inventive new exhibits and sweeping river views.
The Queens Domain occupies a large hilly area immediately to the city’s north. Most of it is reserved as public parkland but 14 hectares of its eastern flank was set aside in 1818 and used by early governors to establish the gardens that flourish today.
With most of a sunny afternoon to kill after a morning’s sightseeing, a picnic in the gardens sounded good. There’s a shop, restaurant and kiosk complex to the right as we enter, but a riot of colour diverts us and we explore a carefully crafted display of Chinese/Tibetan plants, maples showcasing their autumn splendour.
Past a sunken lily pond surrounded by delicate ferns is an open space dominated by spectacular oaks, ablaze in gold and russet tones. Picnic perfect. We share the experience with a young family. Mum and dad are infatuated with each other and their infant daughter is a practicing hippie, resplendent in beads, kaftan and an oversize patchwork hat. She’s busy collecting leaves, throwing them in the air, then running away from them.
Our view of the Derwent River is framed by a deep blue canvas, broken by the occasional litter of raining leaves. It’s hard to imagine a better place.
The journey continues though several theme exhibits to a more curious display – Peter Cundall’s Vegie Patch. Peter hosts a popular ABC gardening show where viewers tune in for all the dirty tricks on mulching and composting their way to growing better vegetables. It’s filmed here and visitors are free to explore this working garden first hand.
Further north through a high brick wall is the Japanese Garden, one of the most popular displays. It’s beautiful in every season but today the maples are incredibly vivid, their watery reflections demanding attention. The kaftan kid and her parents arrive, and she leaps past us across a red, arched bridge and balances astride a large stone lantern.
Approaching the herb garden we detour to the Sub-Antarctic House, a unique exhibit where the conditions of Australia’s subantarctic islands is chillingly recreated to display a fascinating collection of indigenous flora. The education continues as we conclude our visit with a tour of the Botanical Discover Centre.
A series of clever interactive exhibits entertain and instruct as they lead participants through the wonders of the plant world. There are games, videos, hands-on displays, microscopes, computers, even a "factory" where operators can imitate the photosynthesis process. It’s packed with wide-eyed kids and parents.
Come for a visit, it’s guaranteed fun for all the family.