A Bison Abroad| Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria

Melbourne goes from busy streets to environmental oasis

Yarra River runs through Melbourne from the garden to urban streets.

Just a 5-minute tram ride away from the busiest urban streets of Melbourne awaits an ecological oasis. It is there that the Melbourne chapter of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria finds its home.

Spanning nearly 90 acres in the middle of the metropolis, the Melbourne Gardens is a flourishing sanctuary of botanic habitats from around the world.

Entering the Melbourne Gardens is less like going for a walk in a park and more like travelling to another world. The sights and sounds of the bustling city fade away. All that remains is wind rustling through trees, the soft scent of eucalyptus in the air and the warmth from the sun as its rays filter through leaves, making pathways glow honey and gold.

The custodians of the Gardens believe ardently that environmental preservation is essential to human life and experience. In their vision statement, they write that plants “give our lives meaning and inspiration.” This reverence toward nature can be felt from the moment of stepping through one of the many ornate entrance gates.

The Melbourne Gardens preserve over two dozen landscape microcosms that showcase the natural beauty found in the Melbourne area, across Australia and around the world. Of these collections, the most inspiring are the ones where visitors can become fully immersed in the scenery.

Fern Gully, for instance, submerges visitors beneath an almost ethereal canopy of subtropical plant life. Sturdy wooden catwalks and bridges suspend visitors above the forest floor as they cross crystal-clear streams and drift through mists.

Similar is the Tropical Glasshouse that offers an exploration of the vibrantly colorful staples of steamy rainforests (glasses-wearers beware: your lenses will immediately fog up in the glasshouse).

Another highlight is the Lower Yarra River Habitat surrounding the scenic Ornamental Lake. This collection can be seen as an effort to restore traditional Australian environments that have been harmed or destroyed by settler-colonial expansion.

Much of the banks of the Yarra River that run through Melbourne have been overtaken by city development, but this section of the Melbourne Gardens is a tonic to that urbanization. The Lower Yarra River Habitat features panoramic views without a single skyscraper in sight.

The Melbourne Gardens are a stunning feat of cooperation and conservationism. They were founded in 1846, and much of the landscape planning that has since bloomed into breathtaking vistas happened within the first 30 years of the Gardens’ existence. This makes some of the trees over 150 years old.

The dedicated love and care that has gone into making the Royal Botanic Gardens the wonder that they are today is moving. Perhaps the custodians have discovered some universal truth when they say nature can create meaning and inspiration.

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