The Garden City
Considering that you are in the centre of a 4-million-metropolis, it certainly doesn’t get much greener than this. Melbourne is patched with thoroughly maintained parks and gardens in and around the city centre. During lunchtime they often get busy with sun-hungry city workers who practice lazing as a lifestyle.
From Federation Square take the steps down towards the Yarra River. A broad foot and cycle path takes you east along the river. You can hire bikes from here, a great idea if you intend to explore Melbourne’s spacious parks and gardens. River cruises depart from Federation Wharf, which is located just behind Fed Square.
A few steps further east ArtPlay offers inspirational workshops for children up to 13 years of age.
The sloping grass area further down the river is known as Birrarung Marr, a small park designed to host some of Melbourne’s events and festivals. Three levels (called terraces) provide views to a theatre-like area by the Yarra. The 39 upside-down Federation Bells next to the footbridge leading to Melbourne Park are a reminder of the Australian Federation in 1901.
South of the Yarra, nestled in between the river and St Kilda Road and just a short stroll from the CBD, is a series of gardens jointly known as the Domain Parklands. They include the Alexandra Gardens, Queen Victoria Gardens, Kings Domain as well as the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Just across the bridge from Federation Square, the Alexandra Gardens stretch along the south side of the Yarra River. The historic rowing boathouses are visible from Princes Bridge and you can catch some of the action on the weekend and on many clear weekdays.
Cross Alexandra Avenue to get to the Queen Victoria Gardens and further down into the Kings Domain. This is the home of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, a sheltered outdoor amphitheatre, which hosts fantastic events mostly in the summer months, including rock concerts and free performances by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
The magnificent white building with the Australian flag is the Government House. This has been the official residence of the Governor of Victoria since the 1870s.
Further south sits another one of Melbourne’s icons: The Shrine of Remembrance. This monument stands to commemorate the Australian soldiers that have served in various wars around the world. You can enter the Shrine from the visitor centre, which displays information about Australia’s war history. Inside the Shrine is a statue of two soldiers representing the two generations of men and women that served in the two World Wars. From the top of the Shrine you get excellent views straight along St Kilda Road. The Shrine of Remembrance is also the official site for the ANZAC Day commemorations on April 25.
Head east through the park until you reach Observatory Gate, which is one of the entrances to the marvellous Royal Botanic Gardens. Grab a map and a coffee from the visitor centre and café and enjoy the beauty and diversity of this green haven on one of the tidy lawns of the park. On a warm day the kids will have a blast at the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden. The National Herbarium is one of the oldest scientific institutions in Victoria and renowned for its research into plant systematics and biodiversity. You can buy handicrafts made from plant material in the historic Plant Craft Cottage. Indigenous guides take visitors on guided walks on Tuesdays and Thursdays and reveal traditional uses for native plants.
Fitzroy Gardens and neighbouring Treasury Gardens just east of the CBD are two more green islands in the cosmopolitan ocean. Fitzroy Gardens is home to Cook’s Cottage, a rebuild of the Australian discoverer’s home in Yorkshire, England.
Flagstaff Gardens is another popular lunch spot for city workers. As the oldest garden in Melbourne, the place carries a rich history and is also the burial site of Melbourne’s first European settlers.