Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney - review by Rusty Compass
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Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

| 13 Oct 2021
Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney
13 Oct 2021

The Royal Botanical Gardens, right by Sydney's dazzling harbour, is the city's historic, green space. This is a place to explore and admire. The gardens have played an important part in the scientific evolution of Australia since they opened in 1816.

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The first British to explore Australia's east coast, aboard James Cook's Endeavour in 1770, were ecstatic about the discovery of previously unseen flora and fauna. Influential Botanist Joseph Banks, was especially excited by the new plants and animals.

Banks's enthusiasm for the new territory was important in the decision to establish a penal colony, by seizing the lands from their Indigenous inhabitants in 1788. Up until his death in 1820, Banks maintained a close interest in the developing scientific knowledge of the flora and fauna of Australia. The creation of Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens was an expansion of a botanical gardens concept already in place in Kew, in London.

When the Royal Botanical Gardens opened in 1816, this scientific fascination with Australia was key. The gardens are Australia's oldest scientific institution.

Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney
Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

You can enjoy the beauty of Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens as part of a casual harbour stroll, or you can dig deeper, and explore the many themed gardens. They include a stunning fernery, Australian natives, roses, succulents and more.

Sydney's Botanical Gardens are still engaged in some of Australia's most important natural science research. The herbarium, a plantbank and the Daniel Solander library are all part of the Australian Institute of Botanical Science.

The Calyx is a cafe and exhibition space. Stop by for coffee and a light bite and check out the green wall, current events and workshops.

The aesthetic of Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens dates back to the landscape garden traditions of 19th century Britain. In parts they may seem overly orderly and manicured in accordance with Victorian tradition.

In the 200 years since the gardens were conceived, Sydney's modern skyscape has risen around them. These days the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city's modern skyline, all complement the garden space.

Take a big walk through the Domain from the NSW Art Gallery, to Lady Macquarie's Chair and through the gardens around to the Opera House. It's a wonderful Sydney walk that requires 2 - 3 hours or longer with stops.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

Historical landmarks in Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens

Arthur Phillip monuments

As you enter the gardens from the State Library side, you'll see a massive 1897 statue of Arthur Phillip. Have a close look and a think about some of the symbolism.

Nearby, there is a brick wall containing original bricks from Arthur Phillip's residence near Lyndhurst in England.

Government House

Governors of New South Wales have lived in this building since it opened in 1845. Royal architect Edward Blore designed the distinctive gothic structure that has hosted many royal visits including Elizabeth II's 1954 Australian tour. The building is frequently open to visitors.

Government House, 1845, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Government House, 1845, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney


Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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