Best Things to do in Brisbane's Botanic Gardens

For a gorgeous green escape without leaving the city, visit City Botanic Gardens on the Brisbane River or Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha. Not just the place to relax and get some fresh air, there is easily a day's worth of things to do and explore in both of these iconic botanic gardens. 

City Botanic Gardens 

With a history dating back to their inception as the Penal Colony's first farm in 1828, these riverside gardens have played a major role in the life of residents for almost 200 years. Scattered throughout are remnants of its past, from the iron gates atop stone walls (rescued from the Petrie Terrace Gaol in the mid 1860’s), the old band pavilion (1878) where lie bands play on weekends, the Curator’s Cottage (1905) which is now a kiosk and the old bear pit, now a picnic shelter (1905) from the zoo which occupied the gardens until 1958. Here are some highlights you don't want to miss:

Bamboo Grove

No stroll in the City Botanic Gardens is complete without a wander (with a pause on one of the benches) through the awe-inspiring Bamboo Grove, which contains a total of 23 bamboo species.

It was planted to commemorate the bamboo collection that was lost in 1937, which happened when the gardens' Fern Island attraction was drained and filled as a result of mosquito complaints.

Walter Hill Fountain

Named after Walter Hill, the garden's first curator, Brisbane's first drinking fountain was built in 1867 to provide much needed drinking water to the public, at the time of the first reticulated water supply in Brisbane.

The ornate fountain was used until 1930 when new bubble fountains were installed and in 1972 the fountain was named the Walter Hill Fountain as a tribute to the first gardens' curator.

All Abilities Playground

Appealing to children of all ages and abilities, this enchanted playground is near both the Albert and Edward Street entrances, located at the Baldwin Lawn.

Part castle, part fort, equipment includes slippery dips, climbing nets, interactive panels and musical tubes. The sand play area is another highlight with diggers and a sand fountain or germination apparatus (circa 1872-1893) – the last remaining piece of scientific apparatus from the botanical science facility.

Jemmy Morrill and the Dancing Brolgas

This bronze sculpture, located down at the lower ornamental pond near the rainforest, is by artist Lindsay Daen and is on permanent loan from the Queensland Art Gallery.

The sculpture is of 22 year old seaman, Jemmy Morrill, who was the sole survivor of a shipwreck on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef in 1846. Aboriginal people found him and he lived with them for 17 years before returning to a European settlement in the Bowen district.

Ornamental Ponds

There are two ornamental ponds in City Botanic Gardens - the lower one that is remnant of the garden's original natural creek system - and the upper one, dating from 1958-60.

The upper pond, which is home to ducks and local birdlife, was designed by Harry Oakman, former Manager of Brisbane City Council's Parks' Department and landscape architect.

Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha

This 56 ha subtropical expanse is a nature wonderland that will take you from the desert to the tropics in a few steps. Arm yourself with a map from the entrance board and get lost in the extensive labyrinth of wheelchair and stroller accessible paths through rainforests, desert plants, bamboo groves, a tropical dome, South American and African glades. Here are 5 highlights not to miss:

Japanese Garden

Originally an exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at Expo '88, the stunning Japanese Garden was gifted to the people of Brisbane and opened in February 1989.in its new home at Mt Coot-tha.

Designed by one of Japan's leading landscape architects, the late Kenzo Ogate, the garden's theme is ‘tsuki-yama-chisen’ or 'mountain-pond-stream'. This beautiful and serene retreat is a must visit for all ages.

Tropical Display Dome

Built in 1977, the giant geodesic (lattice) temperature-controlled dome displays exotic plants from the tropical regions of the world, including plants that require a protected environment to thrive in Brisbane.

A circular pathway winds upwards through the building (which is open 9am-5pm daily), leading visitors past a range of aroids, calatheas, heliconia's, caladiums, palms and epiphytes, and wrapping around a central pond featuring water lilies (Nymphaea) and native fish.

Kitchen Garden

The newest addition to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens is well worth seeking out, taking visitors on a stroll amongst an edible plant garden, which features a vibrant mix of herbs, fruits and vegetables, all labelled and all suited to Brisbane's climate. 

In the centre is Kitchen in the Garden, a massive outdoor kitchen and teaching facility, where a range of popular events and educational workshops for kids and adults are held.

Hide'n'Seek Trail

Set in the heart of the shady Exotic Rainforest is this fantastic discovery trail of botany and art for kids and parents/carers, with a map at the entrance to help spot all of the surprises and learn about plants at the same time.

There are 17 marked "objects" to find along the way, but extra surprises await those who keep their eyes wide open. All sorts of creatures and plant life can be spotted and information boards keep everyone informed throughout the trail.

Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium

The Brisbane Botanic Gardens are also home to the Planetarium, which opened in 1978 and is home to the Cosmic Skydome - a 12.5-metre-diameter projection dome.

Visitors to the Planetarium can enjoy a space-themed show (including a tour of Brisbane's night sky), and tour the Display Zone as well as observatory, Galaxy Gift Shop and the Sundial Courtyard outside. While entry is free to the Planetarium, the shows are ticketed... more

To discover these and more of the fantastic things to do at Brisbane Botanic Gardens why not take one of their free guided walks - more info HERE

For more inspiration on more great parks to discover go to Brisbane City Council's website and click on Brisbetter Days Out.

Brisbane City Council is a valued partner of Must Do Brisbane.com

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