A tropical paradise in the midst of the city

5 12 2008

Tucked away in a corner of downtown that you might not even notice is one of Adelaide’s jewels. The Adelaide Botanic Gardens is a snippet from a tropical rainforest, in the midst of the city. Through the gates and into the shade of massive trees — some of which were planted over 150 years ago — and you can forget you’re in the city at all.

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In 1855, 41 acres of land (16 hectares) were set aside for a park, and the Botanic Gardens opened in 1857. The design is said to have been influenced by Kew Gardens in London, and also by the gardens of Versailles.

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According to the Garden’s excellent website (http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/botanicgardens/adelaide.html) “over 1.3 million people visit each year.” Of this number, around twenty-five thousand visitors are school students. Many visitors are locals, including office and retail workers who take their lunch break there each day. And of course, if you’re visiting Adelaide from overseas, the Botanic Gardens are a must-see.

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You’ll be astonished that this tranquility … this marvellous collection of rare plants … this apparent rainforest … exists just off North Terrace, literally in the shadow of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Massive old trees stop the road noise, and you can barely hear the traffic, though you know the city is bustling close by.

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The Palm House (above) is a joy to behold — a piece of history. It’s a Victorian design, imported from Bremen in Germany in 1875, and so far as we know, it’s utterly unique. Nothing else exactly like it in the world…

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At least some of the flora on display inside are from Madagascar, and the interior of the Palm House is so tranquil, you could stay an hour.

The Gardens offer much more than this: collections, displays, conservatories, museums, lakes, walks, pavilions, rose gardens … and a fully licensed restaurant. To top it off, admission is free, the bus stops right outside, and the Gardens are open seven days!

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