This self-guided Botanic Gardens Walk is an excellent introduction to the city.
This is my favourite welcome to Sydney walk. It allows you to approach the Opera House and Harbour via the Royal Botanic Gardens and is a breathtaking way to get your first glimpse of theses icons. To do this route justice, you could take a whole day and explore all the attractions on the way but if time is tight, you could do it in an hour or two.
Step 1 – Let’s begin at Hyde Park
I like to start this walk at Hyde Park where you can see the famous Archibald Fountain and St Mary’s Cathedral before heading down Art Gallery Road past the Art Gallery of NSW to Mrs Macquarie’s Point. Hyde Park is named after Hyde Park in London and was the home of Australia’s first racecourse. At the southern end of the park is the War Memorial.
Step 2 – Art Gallery NSW
The Art Gallery is free and has an excellent collection of Australian Art – Check out Brett Whitley’s painting “Balcony” and John Olsen’s “5 Bells” my two personal favourites. There is also a very good collection of Aboriginal works.
Continue down Art Gallery road along the edge of the garden – but do not enter.
Step 3 – Andrew “Boy” Charlton Pool
On your right is the Boy Charlton Pool, a beautiful swimming pool that has recently been refurbished and is a great place for a swim in the city. If you don’t feel like stopping for a swim, keep walking down the road until you reach the water.
Step 4 – Mrs Macquaries Point
At the end of the road is Mrs Macquarie’s point, the place where the image above was taken. There is a rock ledge in the shape of a chair here (look right on the point) which is actually where the wife of Governor Macquarie sat watching the ocean waiting for boats to arrive from England. It’s about a 15 min walk from the gallery to the point.
Step 5 – The Royal Botanic Gardens
After you have taken lots of photos head into the gardens and follow the sea wall around to the Opera House. If you have time to explore the gardens, my favourite spots are
The Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters Garden – Signage here explains the way the land was used by indigenous Australians
The lily pond near the cafe – is a perfect place to relax with a drink and a sandwich
and a sculpture known as Mrs Macquarie’s Folly – where you can sit and stare out to sea just as she did.
and all the gorgeous old trees
So there you go – an easy, fairly flat walk that can take an hour or a day depending on how distracted you get along the way.
Have you visited Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden? Do you have a favourite spot?