If you just tend to think of platypuses – or is that “platypi” – Tasmanian devils, koala bears and kangaroos when you think of Australia, take note this only half the story. Because the country was once attached to the Asian mainland, the variety of other unusual flora and fauna will utterly astound you when you visit. Australia is home to over 25,000 different plant species, 800 varieties of birds, and enough mammals, lizards, and snakes to turn your vacation into a wild adventure! No trip to Sydney would be complete without a visit to some of the natural reserves, parks, and sanctuaries set aside to showcase the native plants and animals to be found on this “island” that covers an area about the same size as the contiguous United States. Even Sydney itself offers you a wild experience!
For example, no trip to Sydney is complete without a visit to the famed Royal Botanical Gardens, beginning just south of the Sydney Opera House, and wending its way down and around the shoreline of Sydney Harbour. Easily accessible from anywhere in town by bus, car, or train – and from many locations, by foot – the Garden offers everything from a relaxing peek at nature to a full day study in the native plant species of Australia.
From Moreshead Fountain Gate, off the Cahill Expressway, or from the Palace Garden Gate, just off MacQuarie Street, a short walk takes you first to the Rose Garden. After 14 years of being one of the Royal Botanical Garden’s most popular displays, the Rose Garden underwent renovation in 2005 to bring it more in line with modern horticultural practices. Featuring primarily Australian roses, the Rose Garden is imaginative and surprising, while still offering the tranquility so prized prior to the renovations.
Next you might wander to the Herb Garden: stop to read the sundial, relax to the sound of the sensory fountain, or smell the pungent aroma of the variety of herbs used for cooking and medicine around the world, even today. Then, onward to the HSBC Oriental Garden or take a detour to the Tropical Center where, for a small fee, you can see, smell and even touch unusual native plants from various regions of the Australian continent.
If a rest is in order, you might choose to take a meal at the Garden Restaurant or do some shopping in the Garden Shop, both close by, but if you’re ready to keep going, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to the Fernery, the Rare and Threatened Plants Garden, and the Plant Sciences and Herbarium building, near the Administration and Reception Center. If you want to start out at Reception, then head for Woolloomooloo Gate at the corner of the Cahill Expressway and Art Gallery Road.
Sometimes you just can’t fit it all in, so if you’re in Sydney on business or you have a tight schedule, at least try to stop by Sydney Park, St. Peters, located at the southwest tip of the city. Originally the location of the city’s brick kilns, the area later became a landfill. Determined to reclaim the region for the enjoyment of both locals and tourists, the Sydney Council has worked to develop Sydney Park into an ecologically sound park, with native gardens, lakes, and a system of wetlands showcasing native plant and animal species. A new 500-foot boardwalk made from recycled timber runs along the wetlands and includes a variety of seating locations where you can sit and enjoy the beauty of the Park and Sydney, itself.
Finally, you mustn’t miss the Australian Rainforest Sanctuary, located just 60 miles from town. Rent a car, or even a motor home, right in Sydney – all the famous chains are available – and head for this astounding experience just an hour or so away. Nestling in a quiet valley, this warm temperate rainforest was first opened to the public in 1985 and houses almost 200 different rainforest species within it’s Bungalow palms, guava trees, and climbing vines. It’s open Wednesdays through Sundays, and here are some tips for your trip:
Think Australia is nothing but outback and kangaroos? Think again! As you can see, even downtown Sydney can provide you with a wild vacation, showcasing flora and fauna the likes of which you’ve probably never seen before! And then, of course, there is the city itself... not to mention the beaches!