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.
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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 in the park’s boundary it’s easy to reach from most parts of the city.
Covering 16.2 hectares, and named after Hyde Park in London, it’s the oldest in the city. Hyde Park is home to several iconic attractions that you should stroll past 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Attend a mass or simply wander through the nave and admire the architecture.
Step 2 – Art Gallery NSW
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.
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.
The gallery also hosts exhibitions that showcase contemporary Indigenous art and the work of emerging Indigenous artists.
Continue down Art Gallery road along the edge of the garden – but do not enter here.
Step 3 – Andrew “Boy” Charlton Pool
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.
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.
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
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.
and my favourite sculpture is known as Mrs Macquarie’s Folly – where you can sit and stare out at sea just as she did.
and leave time to photograph all the gorgeous old trees!
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:
- Sydney Harbour Foreshore walk
- Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Walk
- Federation Cliff Walk
- Caffeine Crawl in Kings Cross
- A walk taking in the Pubs in The Rocks
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