Welcome to Sydney: Hyde Park and Botanic Gardens Walk

Our welcome to Sydney walk is an easy stroll designed to introduce you to the harbour via the parks and gardens. My favourite way to shake off the cobwebs after a long flight is to take a walk in the sunshine and fresh air. The Royal Botanic Gardens hug the eastern shore of Sydney Harbour and make the perfect introduction to the city. This self-guided botanic gardens walk allows you to discover a small section of the city before you get to meet the stars of the show.

This self-guided Botanic Gardens Walk is an excellent introduction to the city.

This page contains affiliate links. You can find our full disclosure policy here.

This is an easy welcome to Sydney walk, and a perfect way to shake off the cobwebs after a long flight. You will approach the Opera House and Harbour via the Royal Botanic Garden. A breathtaking way to get your first glimpse of these icons.

To do this route justice, you could take half a day and explore all the attractions on the way, but if the time is tight, you could do it in an hour or two.

Step 1 – Let’s begin at Hyde Park

While there are quicker ways to get to the Royal Botanic Gardens, I like to start this walk at Hyde Park with Museum and St James train stations sitting at either end of the park it’s easy to reach from most parts of the city.

Hyde Park corridor trees Sydney Australia
Hyde Park’s corridor of trees

Covering 16.2 hectares, and named after Hyde Park in London, this is the oldest park in the city.

Hyde Park is home to several iconic attractions that you should see while you are here, including the famous Archibald Fountain and St Mary’s Cathedral.

In its early days, it was the home of Australia’s first racecourse and a cricket ground. During World War I, the park was used as a recruitment and training ground for soldiers. In the 1930s, it was the site of large protests against unemployment and poverty during the Great Depression.

You will also stroll through the avenue of trees created by the majestic Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) that line the walkway between the southern and northern sections of the park.

Let’s begin!

Start with a quick visit to the Anzac Memorial at the southern end. This memorial, designed by Bruce Dellit, is a solemn tribute to the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who served and died in World War I.

Anzac Memorial Hyde Park Sydney
Anzac Memorial Hyde Park Sydney

It features a striking Art Deco design and houses a museum with exhibits on the war and its impact on Australia. Take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by these brave men and women, and learn more about their stories.

Just outside the memorial is a sculpture, called YININMADYEMI Thou didst let fall by Tony Albert. The piece features seven bullets, four remain standing to represent those who served and returned and three fallen bullets commemorate those who did not come home.

Hyde Park Sydney Indigenous Memorial
YININMADYEMI Thou didst let fall – Hyde Park Sydney Indigenous Memorial

Next up the Archibald Fountain, a stunning centerpiece of Hyde Park, featuring an intricate design of mythical figures and animals. This fountain, designed by French artist Francois Sicard, was a gift to the city from J.F. Archibald in 1932 to commemorate France and Australia in World War I.

It has since become a beloved landmark and popular meeting place. This is a brilliant spot for a spot of people-watching, so grab a seat on the bench and watch the world go by for a few minutes.

The Archibald Fountain

Finally, across the road from the park is St Marys Cathedral is a stunning Gothic Revival church that dominates the skyline of Hyde Park. This cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Sydney and is known for its impressive stained glass windows and intricate stonework.

Interior St Mary's Cathedral Sydney
Interior of St Mary’s at Christmas

Attend a mass or simply wander through the nave and admire the architecture.

With free entry to the permanent collections, a quick visit to the Art Gallery is recommended for anyone with an interest in art. There is also a large cafe, interesting gift shop and bathrooms!

The Australian Art Collection offers a comprehensive array of Australian art from the early colonial period to contemporary works.

Some notable Australian artists featured in the collection include:

  • Sidney Nolan
  • Arthur Boyd
  • Brett Whiteley
  • Margaret Preston

Check out Brett Whiteley’s painting “Balcony” and John Olsen’s “5 Bells” my two personal favourites.

The Balcony – Brett Whiteley

Right next door is Sydney Modern the Art Gallery of NSW Modern art collection. It includes the Yiribana Gallery where you will find an excellent collection of indigenous art.

Fruit Bats by Lin Onus in Sydney Modern

The gallery also hosts exhibitions that showcase contemporary Indigenous art and the work of emerging Indigenous artists.

Flowers that Bloom in the Cosmos by Yayoi Kusama

Continue down Art Gallery road along the edge of the garden – but do not enter here.

Step 3 – Andrew “Boy” Charlton Pool

On your right is the Boy Charlton Pool, a beautiful swimming pool popular with inner city locals. It’s a great place for a swim in the city. The pool is open from September to April.

Woolloomooloo pool Boy Charlton

There is also a cafe “Oh Boy” where you can grab a coffee, a delicious breakfast bowl or healthy lunch. View the menu here – bookings are advised in summer.

The pool is accessible and offers an Aqua Wheelchair and accessible bathrooms.

If you don’t feel like stopping, 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, a favourite spot of the wife of one of the earliest of NSW.

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.

Close up Mrs Macquaries Chair Sydney
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

These days, it’s far more popular for this iconic shot of Sydney that is best captured in the early morning before the light gets too harsh or in the late afternoon.

Postcard view Sydney from Mrs Macquarie's Point
The view from Mrs Macquaries Point

This site is just outside the boundary of the Botanic Gardens and open 24 hours a day.

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

Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters

The lily pond near the cafe – is a perfect place to relax with a drink and a sandwich, it’s also a good place for a spot of bird watching.

The lily pond - Botanic Gardens Walk Sydney

and my favourite sculpture is known as Mrs Macquarie’s Folly – where you can sit and stare out at sea just as she did.

Self-guided botanic gardens walk - Mrs Macquarie's folly sculpture
another of the Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney’s sculptures

and leave time to photograph all the gorgeous old trees!

self-guided Botanic Gardens walk Sydney

So there you go – the Sydney Botanical Gardens walk, an easy, mostly flat walk that can take an hour or a day depending on how distracted you get along the way.

Looking for more ways to stretch your legs in Sydney? Try one of these:

Need help to plan your trip to Sydney? Join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group where you can ask questions, stay up to date with what’s happening in Sydney and meet a bunch of friendly locals just waiting to share their advice!

16 thoughts on “Welcome to Sydney: Hyde Park and Botanic Gardens Walk”

  1. I have walked through the park to get to the Art Gallery but never really taken the time to fully explore the area. Maybe I should give it some more time when I visit Sydney next.

  2. a great original post about Sydney, i have unfortunately never visited Australia but I plan to one day and will add the royal botanic gardens as a place to visit on my list.

  3. That’s great Alyssa. Please feel free to send me any questions you might have. Also check out Sydney Greeters for a free tour with a local when you arrive. There are more than 50 volunteer greeters who show visitors a little piece of Sydney while they are here. It’s a fantastic service and a great way to get some insider knowledge on the city.

  4. In the past I checked some of your articles just our of curiosity: never been to Australia yet, so everything I read was unknown and interesting. Unexpectedly, it seems that a trip Down Under might happen sooner than I thought (fingers crossed, by the end of this year!). It looks like we will be based in Perth, but who can miss an opportunity to explore as many places as possible. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use your guides to full potential. I wouldn’t miss a chance to compare Hyde Parks or visit the Botanical Garden.

  5. We started our visit to Sydney in the botanical park as we were staying close to it. The only thing we didn’t see was the pool. That’s a great spot for a swim.

  6. Hi,

    If we just visit Hyde Park (Archibald Fountain, Nagoya Garden, Anzac Memorial, Visitor Centre, Sadringham Gardens) and St Mary’s Cathedral.

    May I know how much time you would recommend for us to allocate for Hyde Park?

    May I know how much time you would recommend for us to allocate for St Mary’s Cathedral?


  7. Hi,

    For the visit to Royal Botanic Garden, we plan to visit the attractions like Calyx, Rose Pavilion, the cafes, Mrs Macquaries’ Chair, Macquarie’s folly, Latitude 23, Succulent garden, etc

    May we know how much time you would recommend for us to allocate for Royal Botanic Garden?


  8. Hi YC I would say 2.5 hours would be a good time to cover that ground and have a coffee. There are free tours every day that you might like to consider – they are really well done and cover everything you mention except Mrs Macquarie’s Chair which you could visit before or after.

  9. Hi,

    Thank you so much for the guidance in planning my trip.

    May I know if Mrs Macquaries’ Chair is accessible by wheelchair?


  10. I’d never heard of the Aussie Hyde Park before, but this seems like a lovely way to spend a few hours 🙂

Leave a comment