Darwin Botanical Gardens
Start - End of Geranium Street
Length - 3.1km (Maze)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Pavement
Vertical Climb - 35m
Time - 1-2 Hours
Signed - No
Date Hiked - 10th July 2019
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Larrakia People
Directions - There are two car parks for the Botanical Gardens, the first (eastern entrance) is at the end of Geranium St that comes off Stuart Hwy and the second (western entrance) is off Gardens Rd that can be accessed via Gilruth Ave or Stuart Hwy.
The Walk - With a week to explore Darwin and a morning walk along the waterfront already in the bag, next on the agenda for the day was a trip to the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens. I have a love for botanical gardens and made a point to visit as many as I could in reach city when we went over to Europe in 2017. There is something calming and relaxing about walking in a nice botanical garden, seeing all the different areas representing various landscapes from around the world. I think the thing I love about Perth Zoo more than the animals is just being in the gardens and walking around.
With that in mind I was excited to check out the Darwin Botanical Gardens as having a tropical climate meant more potential in terms of plants I'd not seen before. With another perfect, sunny day with temperatures in the low 30s we were joined by Caris' mother and partner as they were also keen to check out the gardens. It's only a short drive from the CBD and we had parked up at the eastern entrance in no time at all. Entry is free so you just park and wander in, although it is advisable to start with the visitor information building so you can get a map and some advice on where to start (there are signs around the place to direct you). We didn't do this and instead started aimlessly wandering around with the map on my phone, starting with the community garden section near the car park. Full of fruit trees, herbs and vegetables, this was a cool little project that involves the community a lot more, gets people interested and keeps them connected. We eventually made our way to the visitor information building as it looked like there was a fair amount of construction going on around the gardens. The helpful staff said there were major upgrades being built in the middle of the gardens and kindly drew on our map the paths and areas that were closed.
With that in mind we made a plan to visit the rainforest area first and make our way around from there. After taking a service road we thought was a shortcut we eventually ended up at an information sign that pointed us towards the rainforest section. The map has a creek system running through the gardens but unfortunately with it being dry season and other works going on upstream, there was no water to be seen. Not a fantastic start as we made our way towards the Tiwi Wet Forest and Shade Garden. The Tiwi Wet Forest was interesting to see and after enjoying this area we decided to move on to the denser rainforest section. We spotted a lawned area that was having some work done to it and some flowering water lillies in the pond that were similar to the ones we'd seen on a Mary River Wetlands tour a couple of days prior. Finally reaching the rainforest section and the waterfall, Caris recognised several plants she knew (our unit is like a greenhouse we have so many indoor plants). It was an enjoyable walk through here and the waterfall was a nice feature to end the loop. Plenty of ferns and a thick canopy of tall forest made this a very pleasant area and this continued as we made our way back to the information board we started at.
Next on the agenda was the Africa/Madagascar display with a variety of different Boab trees on the short loop. Caris loves a good Boab (who doesn't?) and there were plenty here to admire, even if most had lost their leaves due to it being the dry season. We were lucky here to see one of them flowering and the bright white flowers were a nice spectacle. Spotting several smaller plants that Caris had at home was a fun surprise but being in the exposed sun meant we didn't stay here long (Caris is ghost white). We moved on, taking the bridge over the dry creek and on towards the Heritage Lawn, a nice grassed area bordered by flower beds and palm trees. This was an expedient way of getting to Eva's Café for some lunch and a refreshing drink as we were both a little thirsty and peckish. The café is well shaded and offers a cool place to sit and enjoy a refreshment so we ordered up some scones and juice (bit hot for the full Devonshire tea). After a short sit and cool down we moved on and checked out the playground area, hoping there might be a way to get through the construction and sneak a visit the Cycad Garden we missed at the start.
With no luck we decided to take the long way back (I've heard The Long Way's Better by someone), stopping in at the Plant Display House. This turned out to be the highlight of our visit with plenty of bromedliads and flowering orchids filling the undercover display. The variety of colours and shapes on display was fantastic so I had good fun photographing everything. Right next to the Plant Display House was the Desert Rose Garden and I was happy to see them in bloom as they are very beautiful flowers (so much so I made them the cover photo). The only thing left to see that was open was the Cycad Garden, a loop around a more natural looking space, mainly because Cycads are found all over the Northern Territory. Weirdly there were 6ft tall dinosaurs in places and we didn't get around to finding out their purpose but I'm sure they were there for a reason. The loop has a couple of nice moments but being very exposed and our visit being the middle of the day it was a case of having a quick look at the various different varieties as we followed the path around. We had given the keys to the car to Caris' mum but they had moved it to the car park near Eva's Café for some reason and so with it being time to leave we once again went the long way around to complete our visit to the Darwin Botanical Gardens.
Final Thoughts - I'm not going to lie, I'm a sucker for a botanical garden so I'm always going to have nice things to say about a walk through a green space in the middle of a city with pretty flowers to look at.
Unfortunately at the time of our visit there were significant works going on to improve the facilities so that impacted our experience somewhat. What we did see was still good although the areas around the borders drew you out of the experience a little, something that could be fixed with more trees or some hedges.
All in all it's a nice place to visit if you're in Darwin and if you don't like the heat then save your visit for early morning or late afternoon. You can't beat a free botanical garden that is a very short drive from the centre of a major city.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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