Gardens to visit in New South Wales and Queensland, Australia

dendrobiums-opera-syd193_4-edit_46196310014_o. Photo: Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

Last September my husband and I fulfilled a long-held dream of visiting Australia, when we decided to take a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney. When you look at the map, our trip marks only a tiny slice of this massive country, but we knew we wanted to take it slowly and really soak up the countryside and enjoy the places we did have time to see.

Sydney at sunset, with palm trees
Sydney at sunset, with palms

From the very first day, fighting off the jetlag with some fresh air in Brisbane Botanic Gardens, we were wowed by the range and diversity of gardens and plants we saw in New South Wales. And even had they been lacking, the spectacular countryside would have more than made up for it.

Succent Garden with Centrepoint Tower and Jamie Drurie Metal structure
Succulent Garden with Centrepoint Tower and Jamie Drurie Metal structure

Our trip took us next to Byron Bay – a charming surfer town just south of the Gold Coast. It’s a perfect spot to spend a few days exploring both the stunning local beaches and food scene or further inland where you can hike the Wollumbin and Nightcap National Parks. I also loved visiting the nearby Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens which are truly unlike any garden I’d seen before with some of the largest crystals in the world on display. The gardens here are full of subtropical plants and the team have gone to great efforts to help restore the local natural rainforest, too.

The Sydney Opera House with Kangaroo paws and cana lillies
The Sydney Opera House with Kangaroo paws and cana lillies

Although I knew that this coastal slice of Australia was far greener than other parts of the country, I was shocked to discover that most of what we saw was greener than the UK. Arriving at the Dorrigo National Park – and our halfway point – we hiked for hours under lush rainforest canopies, never seeing another person and just stopping occasionally to snap photos of huge stag ferns and at one point an enormous lace monitor lizard climbing a eucalyptus tree.

Sydney Botanic Garden in spring
Sydney Botanic Garden in spring

Coming out of the rainforest and into The Hunter Valley region, we made sure to spend some time visiting the beautiful vineyards. We cycled between wine tastings and spotted kangaroos along the way. Putting the wineglasses aside for a few hours (which felt like a sensible decision after our fourth vineyard!), we visited the impressive 14-hectare Hunter Region Botanic Gardens. The gardens are divided up into lovely areas such as the arid garden, wetlands area and Aboriginal plants trail. I loved seeing their beautiful Acacia trees and, if I could, I would time a return visit for early August to see them in bloom.

Dawn at Mrs Macquaries Point, Sydney
Dawn at Mrs Macquaries Point, Sydney

Our final destination was Sydney and, as we were visiting during Mardi Gras, we found the city’s huge botanic garden to be a wonderful respite from all the colourful chaos of the fun Pride celebrations. It’s also well worth heading north of the city to visit the Blue Mountains – a huge national park only an hour away from the centre. It was the perfect opportunity to soak up some of New South Wales’ beautiful scenery and breathe in the scent of Eucalyptus trees one last time before boarding the plane home.

Factfile

  • Getting there: There are no direct flights to Sydney and many airline companies make a stop in Singapore
  • Where to stay: Try the 28 Degrees boutique guest house in Byron Bay.
  • When to visit: Go during the British winter and arrive to glorious warm weather and lush foliage and flowers. Or visit in Autumn for cooler temperatures and spring flowers

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