On my first visit to Tasmania I was there as part of a large group of people. Many of them visited the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and really enjoyed their time strolling through. It was spring so the whole garden was in bloom and the photos I saw looked particularly lovely. So when I realised our cruise was going to stop on Hobart, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to visit the gardens.
I was visiting in summer, so envisioned a nice warm day with blue skies, just perfect for a picnic or just relaxing on the lawns. As we disembarked from our ship though, we walked into a light drizzle. The clouds were low, winds were high and the temperature was cold enough for layers and a beanie! Not what I expect from summer in Australia!
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are about a 30 minute, mostly flat, walk from where our cruise ship was docked. Most of the walk follows the shoreline, giving some nice views of the Tasman Bridge which spans the Derwent River and is a real feature of the Hobart skyline.
This bridge is also infamous for an accident in 1975 when the Lake Illawarra, laden with zinc, misjudged the weather and their direction and collided with the bridge. This caused a large span of the road deck to collapse, falling down onto the deck of the boat. Unfortunately seven people on the boat were killed, and five more people died as their cars fell into the water from above. Without the bridge Hobart was severed in two, the nearest crossing for vehicles required a 50km journey, although ferries soon started transported people across the river. The bridge was reopened in late 1977.
Part of the walk also takes you along the Soldiers Memorial Avenue in the Queens Domain. This is an avenue of over 500 trees, each one planted to commemorate a local soldier who died during World War One. Each tree has a small plaque giving details of the soldier it was planted for.
On arrival at the grand entrance gates to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens ensure you spend a minute picking up a map or chatting to the lovely staff manning the information booth.
Ever since Europeans settled in Australia this piece of land has been gardens. First it was farmed, then, in 1818, it was designated as the “Government Domain and Gardens”. It didn’t gain it’s full “Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens” name until 1967, but the intervening years saw continuous development with plants and trees from all over the world being grown.
As someone who likes gardens but not gardening, I am no expert on the trees and plants that are grown for scientific purposes (and there are a lot in this garden that has a large research base), I just like gardens to look good and be a calm, relaxing place to spend an hour or two. The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens has some simply lovely areas showcasing many different styles of gardens.
Highlights to Look Out for During your Visit
The floral clock in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens was built in 1968 to commemorate the garden’s 150th anniversary.
The Japanese Garden was built in 1987, designed by a team from Hobart’s sister city of Yaizu. It includes all the elements that would be expected – wood, stone and water, with a lovely wooden bridge, tea house and water wheel. All the plants are Japanese natives. I loved the autumn colours in the gardens, but I can imagine they would be stunning in spring when the cherry blossoms are floating in the breeze.
Sub Antarctic Garden
The Sub Antarctic Garden is unique, the only one of it’s kind anywhere. It’s inside a small building that is kept cold; when we visited it was at 6 degrees Celsius. It houses a range of plants that are found in the Sub Antarctic region, in particular Macquarie Island. Not only is this garden for display, it’s used a lot for research too, with a much kinder environment to study these plants.
Community Food Garden
The Community Food Garden was a colourful plot filled with all sorts of vegetables. The garden is cultivated by various community groups and schools with over 4 tonnes of vegetables being donated to a local charity each year to feed those in need.
The Conservatory is a lovely sandstone building opened in 1939. It includes a fountain and is filled with colourful flowers that change along with the season to keep the displays fresh and vibrant. For us it was nice to duck inside and feel a little warmer than we were outside.
The Anniversary Arch
The Anniversary Arch is so named because it was erected here in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in 1968 to commemorate their 150th birthday. It wasn’t built here though. It was initially built in 1913 and was located at the entrance of the Australian Mutual Provident Society building on Elizabeth Street. When that building was later demolished, the arch was donated to the gardens. Now it’s worth a visit to admire the intricate stonework, created out of sandstone by a master stone mason of the time.
The Arthur Wall
The Arthur Wall is actually really cool! It was originally built back in 1840 as a heated wall. It was built with furnaces and heat could be piped through channels, keeping the wall warm and radiating to also keep the surrounding plants warm. The hope was that plants would be able to be grown next to it like they were in England. It worked out though that it’s warmer in Tasmania than England, so the heating was almost never used. The north-facing wall was warm enough without it.
The Arthur Wall is the only remaining wall of it’s kind in the Southern Hemisphere. It was also significant in that it helped with the first cultivation of pineapples in Australia in a glasshouse that was attached to the wall. Not what I would have expected when the northern half of Australia is in the tropics.
French Explorers’ Garden
The French Explorers garden is dominated by the French Memorial Fountain. It’s created from Huon Pine and represents the sailing ships the French used to come here in 1792. The fountain was opened in 1972, the bicentenary of the French arriving in Tasmania.
All of the plants surrounding the fountain are native Tasmanian plants that were collected by the French explorers on that initial voyage.
More Information for Your Visit
These are only a small selection of the exhibits that I personally enjoyed. You can also find some others: Tasmanian Gardens, Significant Tree Collection, Cactus Collection, Palm Collection, Lily Pond, and the Herb Garden.
Look out for birdlife in the gardens too. We spotted a flock of brightly coloured parrots flying around. While we were trying to get a closer look they made for the high branches, so I’m not sure exactly which parrots except to say they were green and red!
The staff at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens run various tours to explain the significance of the plantings and other features. For more information see the website here.
While visiting the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens look out for any special events that are being held. We were unfortunately just a few days too early for the Tasmanian Wine Festival! That would have been a great addition to our visit if we were there on the right day.
Interesting fact: according to their website, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens is one of only six gardens in the world to use the “Royal” title in the name. There is one in the UK, two in Canada, as well as Sydney and Melbourne in Australia.
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