Australia, popularly called 'Down Under', is a large island continent with a semi-arid interior and where most people live around the coastal fringe. About half of Australia is in the tropical zone above the southern hemisphere's Tropic of Capricorn, although the strongest garden traditions are found in the cooler Mediterranean climate areas of the south and south-east. Many cultivars of Australia's unique indigenous plants have become popular ornamentals around the world including grevilleas, eucalypts and kangaroo paws.

Australia has a very wide range of gardens to see and visit: tropical gardens in the north, subtropical gardens on the east coast, dry subtropics gardens in western Queensland and northern Western Australia, Mediterranean and dry climate gardens in the west and south, cool-climate gardens inland and arid gardens in the Red Centre.

Local guides within this country:

"I love Australia's smorgasbord of different climate gardens, ranging from the tropical north through the arid centre, subtropical east coast, dry west, Mediterranean climate of the southern areas, and on to cool climate island of Tasmania.
Australia has many garden designers of world note, including Phillip Johnson, who won Best in Show at Chelsea in 2013, Jim Fogarty, Kate Cullity, Ian Barker and Charlie Albone, and also the biggest garden show in the southern hemisphere in Melbourne in March."

- Catherine Stewart

Garden Travel Guide to Australia


Getting to Australia, and around when you’re there

Australia has seven international airports with many flights each day to Eastern Asia, South East Asia, the UAE (with connections to all European destinations), South Africa, New Zealand, Oceania and also to the west coasts of the USA and South America. International airports include Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin.

Travelling to Australia is a major undertaking for Europeans and Americans as, with 22 hours flying time from London to Sydney and 20 hours from New York to Sydney, it takes nearly a full day each way!

Australia is also a very big country, so to see different areas you really have to fly between locations unless you can stay for a month or more. However there are also some cross-country trains (east-west and north-south), and an interstate bus network. Driving long distances in Australia is possible and enjoyable on the national road network of good quality roads and highways that are toll-free (except for some city toll roads).


Australian climate

Australia has climates that cover a full range, from semi-arid desert in the interior to high alpine in the south east, and wet tropics across the north. Nearly half of Australia’s land mass is north of the Tropic of Capricorn and within the tropical zone.

In general, the west coast and southern coast has a dry, Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild, wetter winters. Australia’s southern areas have four distinct seasons based on temperature change but northern Australia, which is warm to hot all year round, is described as having only Wet or Dry seasons. During the Wet, northern areas will also suffer through the occasional Tropical Cyclone between December to April.

The east coast of Australia changes from temperate to cool subtropical, to subtropical to wet tropics as you head northwards from Victoria up through Sydney, then to Brisbane and on to Cairns. Coastal areas have 800-1400mm of annual rainfall, rising to 2,200mm in tropical Cairns. January to April is humid and wet, while the drier months are from August to November. The alpine region in south-eastern Australia has snow from June-October

The ‘Red Centre’, home of the famous massive red sandstone rock called Uluru, has semi-arid deserts with less than 250mm (10″) rain each year.


Australian topography and natural vegetation

Australia was once part of the ancient land mass of Gondwana, which also included Africa, New Zealand, India and South America, and in southern temperate zones it still has many plants in the same families or genera that are also found in those countries. However as it became the driest inhabited continent on earth and, as it also has old and low nutrient soils, most of Australia’s flora is sclerophyll vegetation that is adapted to low rainfall, poor soils and bushfires. Eucalypts dominate the wetter parts of Australia, acacias the drier inland areas and much of the semi-arid interior is dominated by hummock and tussock grasslands and saltbush. Grevilleas and melaleucas are also widespread.


Dry spring deciduous Illawarra Flame Tree growing in Sydney
Dry spring deciduous Illawarra Flame Tree growing in Sydney


Australia has very few native deciduous trees and, of those, most lose their leaves in response to the subtropical dry spring rather than winter low-temperature dormancy.

As Australia was once covered by a vast inland sea, dryland salinity caused by rising water tables in irrigated farming areas threatens areas of indigenous vegetation. Continued loss of topsoil through land clearing and erosion is one of Australia’s greatest threats.

Many exotic plant introductions have invaded vast areas of Australia’s indigenous vegetation with Weeds of National Significance including asparagus fern, bridal creeper, bitou bush, broom, water hyacinth, needle grass, blackberry, lantana and willow. However because of its island isolation from the rest of the world and stringent biosecurity, Australia is one of the last places on earth you can see many plants that have been devastated by disease in their native countries, such as healthy, mature specimens of English elm.


Acacia pycnantha photo Tatters
Acacia pycnantha photo Tatters


Acacia pycnantha (golden wattle) is Australia’s national flower and also gives it the national sporting colours of green and gold.

Australia has several native ‘bushtucker’ plants now widely recognised as good edibles, including macadamia nut, finger lime, wattle seed, Davidsons plum, quandong, lemon myrtle, bush tomato, mountain pepper and warrigal greens.


Australian Garden Styles

Australia has a predominantly British and European gardening tradition brought by settlers over the past 200 years. Early colonial gardeners struggled in the harsh, unfamiliar climate and topsy turvy seasons. They found the local flora too unfamiliar and difficult to grow in traditional gardens and so brought with them and planted many exotic plants including large deciduous trees, roses, bulbs, perennials and annuals, and edible plants like olive trees, grape vines, fruit trees and vegetables.

During the 20th century most Australians lived in sprawling coastal cities in separate bungalow-style houses on 600-1000²m blocks but high migration and urban consolidation means that an increasing number now live in high-rise apartments in the city and along major transport corridors. For those still in separate houses, the fashion for bigger and bigger homes (in 2010 Australia was building the largest homes in the world), nicknamed ‘McMansions’, has seen gardens shrink to often only a few metres between the house and each boundary.

Australians gardeners face several challenges including shallow, poor soils but it is the low and/or sporadic rainfall that has forced many to learn to garden in extreme drought without the support of town water irrigation, for example during the country’s Millennium Drought from 2000-2009. For an Australian gardener, ‘hardy’ is more likely to mean drought hardy than frost hardy. Drought-hardy plants such as perennials from the drier regions of South Africa and Europe thrive in the Mediterranean climate of southern areas of Australia and, in the east and north, plants from South America and subtropical Africa cope with the heat and high humidity but also long periods between rainfall events. Purple flowering jacaranda from South American is a common sight along Australia’s east coast.

Australian gardeners have a peculiar relationship with their native plants, unlike anywhere else in the world. They either love them, and will choose to grow an exclusively native garden, or they hate them and won’t have any native plants in their gardens. This ‘plant apartheid’ is perpetuated in plant nurseries where native and exotic plants are still segregated into separate sections. Fortunately new gardens planted with indigenous plants such as the multi award-winning Australian Garden at Cranbourne in Victoria are teaching Australian gardeners about new ways to use their native plants.


Australian Garden at Cranbourne
Australian Garden at Cranbourne


Many dedicated city gardeners still dream of one day moving to an elevated cooler climate zone in the country where they can establish an English-style garden of deciduous trees, sweeping lawns and and herbaceous borders. However in east-coast subtropical and tropical zones, gardeners are learning to embrace their climate by developing new garden styles based on colourful foliage plants, smaller or no lawns, and flowering trees, shrubs and perennials from both Australia and other dry subtropical areas around the world.

Garden or landscape designers work in all the major cities and towns, many of them members of the Australian Institute of Landscape Designers and Managers. Australian garden designers have won many show garden gold medals in international shows around the world, including Jack Merlo, Jim Fogarty, Dean Herald, Scott Wynd, Jamie Durie, and Phillip Johnson, who won both gold and the prestigious Best in Show at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2013.


'Essence of Australia' garden. Design Jim Fogarty. Gold Medal at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Photo Dave M Benett: Getty Images for Essence of Australia Partners
‘Essence of Australia’ garden. Design Jim Fogarty. Gold Medal at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Photo Dave M Benett: Getty Images for Essence of Australia Partners

Garden tours to, and in, Australia

Although there are not many international garden tours travelling to Australia, you will find lots of Australian-run short 3-7 day garden tours, often leaving from Sydney, to great garden destinations like southern Victoria, South East Queensland, inland NSW, Far North Queensland, Canberra, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Tour companies providing garden tours within Australia include Botanica World Discoveries Tours, Ross Tours, Travelrite and Renaissance Tours.

However if you can’t find a guided garden tour of Australia, there are many publicly-open gardens in all its cities to visit that you will love, as well as frequent open garden festivals, especially in spring in the southern and western states, late summer in Sydney and autumn/fall through to winter in Brisbane and northern areas.


Best time to visit Australia’s gardens

Large public gardens, most of which are free entry, are open all year round. Large private gardens will often close over the Christmas-New Year period or, in cooler climates, also during June-July in the winter. Gardens in Western Australia, Adelaide and southern Australia, including Melbourne, are at their peak from September to March as they feature spring wildflowers, spring and summer-flowering perennials and shrubs. Gardens on the more humid east can be either spring gardens (at their peak in September-October), or summer gardens of lush and colourful foliage which look their best in February-April. In the subtropical to tropical north, April-August is the ideal time to visit as it’s the dry season and many tropical plants and succulents are in flower.

The nation-wide Australian Open Garden Scheme, later called Open Gardens Australia folded in June 2015 but, since then, many individual states have developed their own local open gardens organisations. These are not-for-profit organisations run by volunteers who help garden owners to open their gardens over one weekend to raise money for various charities.

Open Gardens Victoria Inc – runs an open garden program in both Melbourne city and also country towns and rural locations. Typically around 12 gardens are open through the spring period of September to November, and then others during the autumn season.

Open Gardens South East Queensland – Open Gardens SEQ assists garden owners in south-east Queensland, including Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

Open Gardens SA Inc – Open Gardens South Australia has a year-long program opening over 50 gardens each year throughout South Australia.

Open Gardens West Coast – Western Australia’s new open gardens scheme launches in spring 2016 with three gardens open in Perth to be followed by more open gardens across Western Australia in 2017.

There are also many town and district open garden festivals, particularly in country Victoria and NSW.


Hot spots in Australia to see great gardens:

Western Australia: Perth and the South West
South Australia: Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills
Victoria: Melbourne, Dandenong Ranges, Mt Macedon, Blackwood
New South Wales: Sydney, Southern Highlands, Blue Mountains and Bathurst
Queensland: Brisbane, South East Queensland, Toowoomba, Cairns, Port Douglas
Northern Territory: Darwin, Broome.

[For more information about visiting gardens around Australia, including gardens to see and garden festivals and events, see links above to local Garden Guides for states, cities and districts around Australia]


Best open gardens to see (both free and paid entry) in Australia, plus garden festivals and shows in Australia

Go to one of Garden Travel Hub’s many local and district guides to see


Fun facts about Australia

Australia is home to two of the world’s most unusual animals – the platypus and the echidna, both monotreme mammals that lay eggs and use electroreception to find their prey. The platypus is also one of the world’s few venomous mammals.

Although Australia became a country in 1901, it still has the British monarch as its Head of State.

‘Waltzing Matilda’, Australia’s national song, with its mostly incomprehensible 19th century slang, is about a man who steals a sheep and then drowns himself rather than be captured by the police.

Until the late 20th century many Australians were ashamed if they were descended from convict stock but many now celebrate it.

While ‘ANZAC’ is a term of great respect in Australia as it commemorates the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps dating from WW1, it is also a popular biscuit (cookie).

Kangaroo meat is high in protein but very low in fat so it must be eaten rare. Kangaroos are not farmed but are culled in the wild.

‘Bloody’ was dubbed the ‘Great Australian Adjective’ back in 1894.


Eden Unearthed: Sydney’s first ‘garden as gallery’ festival

Graham Forsyth

Eden Unearthed lives up to the best of contemporary art in the garden. The works, often beautiful, sometimes whimsical, and always enchanting and stimulating, engage with Eden Gardens’ rich resources of spaces, nooks, cliffs and ‘rooms’.

Darwin Botanic Gardens in spring

Arden Dearden

Tropical George Brown Botanic Gardens in Darwin sits close to the centre of this vibrant city in the ‘Top End’ of northern Australia. The town itself has wonderful gardens established since […]

Review: The Calyx reveals its Sweet Addiction at Sydney RBG

Catherine Stewart

The new Calyx and its chocolate-themed first exhibition in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney is fun, educational and worthwhile for both chocoholics and plantaholics.

Walking in Victoria’s High Country

James Beattie

One part of Australia that has some stunning walking and floral displays and that’s relatively safe in summer is known locally as the High Country, in the Alpine and Kosciuszko National Parks. Garden lovers are nature lovers and one of my favourite pastimes is packing my rucksack and saying goodbye to reality before taking off into the Australian bush on my own for a few days of walking.

Leura Harvest Festival, Blue Mountains, NSW

Louise McDaid

Scarecrows, chooks, chocolate cake and jam – they’re all part of the fun and festivities of the Leura Harvest Festival held on 1 May 2016 in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia. The festival ads said there would be outstanding produce, fine fare and innovative sustainability initiatives. It all boded well for an interesting and feast-filled time.

Tasmania’s Koonya Garlic Festival is a pungent delight

Angus Stewart

I recently had the pleasure of attending the third Koonya Garlic Festival, in Tasmania on a picturesque inlet of Norfolk Bay on the beautiful Tasman Peninsula.

Hidden Design Festival comes to Brisbane

Arno King

Hidden Design Festival Queensland showcases 6 stunning rarely-seen, professionally designed, constructed and maintained gardens in Brisbane on Saturday 5 March 2016, plus you can meet our top garden designers.

Review: Why I don’t like Mayfield Water Garden

Catherine Stewart

Mayfield, a huge, private, cool-climate garden near Oberon in the NSW Central Tablelands has been described as “marvellous” and its public Water Garden a “masterpiece” and “magical“. I first saw greater Mayfield in 2010 and wasn’t that keen but thought it just needed maturation time.

Wonder, delight & mystery: Australian Landscape Conference in review


The 2015 Australian Landscape Conference was memorable, with over 600 attendees following the input of landscape designers from overseas and Australia – all expert, energetic, upstanding deep thinkers.

Which gardens make your heart sing?

Janna Schreier

When I first took an interest in garden design, it was all about the look. Some combination of colours, textures and forms would jump out at me from a page […]

Macquarie Island cabbage at Tasmanian Botanic Gardens

Jennifer Stackhouse

On an already chilly day I made my way into the still colder environment of the Subantarctic Plant House in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) for a glimpse of the native vegetation of Macquarie Island.

Four favourite parks in Central West NSW

Stuart Read

Almost off the radar in terms of heritage listings at state or national level, yet uppermost in local communities’ minds and affections and emblems of regional pride as meeting places, […]

Boab trees of the Kimberley

Linda Green

The 4,000km drive from Perth to Darwin took us through Australia’s boab country, the Kimberley region, where each tree seems to have its life story etched into the distinctive swollen trunk.

Review: Garden DesignFest tours

Chantelle Leenstra

Melbourne’s Garden DesignFest has been Australia’s premier open garden style event since 2004, giving public access to creative, elegant, quirky and pampered private gardens

La Trobe’s Cottage garden wins award!

Sandi Pullman

The Friends of La Trobe’s Cottage are a band of dedicated volunteers and who entered for the second time into the Victorian Community History Awards in the category Historical Interpretation.

Garden oddities – floral clocks

Silas Clifford-Smith

One of the horticultural oddities of the last century is the floral clock. A curious landscape design practice of the 20th C., floral clocks have a history that dates back to the 18th century.

Public parks will save our wildflowers

Angus Stewart

Australian designers are evolving a distinctively Australian style for our public parks that can solve the dilemmas of wildflower predictability and tourism damage

The hunt for red wreath flowers…a WA treasure

Kath Bafile

The roads out from Geraldton in Western Australia are lit up in August with the dazzling wildflowers, drawing travellers from all over to a wildflower treasure hunt

Guilfoyle and his warm climate plants

Arno King

A few years ago, whilst researching Polyscias (commonly called Aralia) cultivars for a magazine article, I came across mention of their discovery and introduction by William Guilfoyle during his voyage […]

Tasmanian garden shopping

Jennifer Stackhouse

We’ve long harboured a desire to live in a beautiful house and garden in Tasmania. It seemed like a dream – not something that would actually ever happen – but […]

Bronze medallists

Stephen Ryan

Coloured foliage can certainly make a statement but like anything in the garden that isn’t green it can be overdone. Too many gold leaves can be glaring in strong sun […]

Captain Cook’s ivy a worthy sailor

Matthew Popplewell

“Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.” A quote by Captain […]

Green is the new black in Melbourne

Georgia Whyte

A few months ago I took one of my regular trips down to Melbourne to visit a close girlfriend who lives there. Over the three days I was there, I […]

That’s what gardeners do

Julie Thomson

You can always pick gardeners on holidays. They have these funny habits they indulge when they are away from their familiar terrain. I speak both of my own behaviour and […]

Lonely trees

Linda Green

Do you ever see a tree and think “Where did you come from, where are your parents, how did you get here?”? I occasionally ponder these questions when I see […]

The last place you’d look for passionfruit

Jennifer Stackhouse

My neighbour, artist Ros Goody, has the best crop of passionfruit ever this year, which is odd as her vine, possibly self-sown, grows under and around a jacaranda. It is […]

Garden DesignFest is Design Feast

Catherine Stewart

I am smugly replete. What an amazing two full-on days of gardens. About 327 gardens all up I think, although maybe that was me feeling a little drunk on the […]

Western Australian wildflowers

Angus Stewart

The southwest corner of Western Australia is without doubt one of the world’s greatest spots for wildflowers, with visitors flocking from around the globe to see them. However, I’ve got […]

Celebrating the coconut

Amanda Mackinnon

Ask someone to think of a tropical island they’ll usually conjure up images of palm trees, white beaches and crystal clear waters. If you’ve been lucky enough to spend some […]

Wilpena Pound

James Beattie

Over three hundred kilometres north of Adelaide in South Australia looms a mountain range with breathtaking natural beauty on a grand scale. As I sit here penning this blog to […]

My pilgrimage to Uluru

Catherine Stewart

What is it about a rock in the middle of a desert landscape that can create such a siren call? For years I’ve thought “I just have to go there”. I […]

Bushwalk from Sullivan Rock to Mt Cooke

Linda Green

I recently went bushwalking in the Monadnock National Park, named for the huge granite rocks that have resisted erosion…

Garden ghosts on Norfolk Island

Adam Woodhams

After a couple of recent visits to Norfolk Island, a sublime place sitting like an emerald jewel in the glistening, turquoise South Pacific 1,200 or so kilometres east…

Tasmanian garden tour

Anne Latreille

Just back from a week looking at gardens in Tasmania, I am trying to decipher my scribbled notes. But maybe I don’t need the notes to tell you about it. […]

Garden Stay

Tabu Bed and Breakfast, Cairns

Tabu Bed and Breakfast

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia - Queensland

Highlights: ‘Tabu’ is located in the foot hills of Cairn’s rainforest in northern Queensland. An exclusive pavilion-style room (1 only), opens...

Garden Stay

Owl Pen Cottage at Chapel House, Rydal NSW

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia - NSW

Highlights: The Owl Pen is a rustic cottage, set in stunning 9 acre garden at Chapel House in the quaint rural...

Garden Stay

The Jungle Lodge, Mount Tomah NSW

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia - NSW

Highlights: The Jungle Lodge is adjacent to the beautiful Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens at Mount Tomah in the World Heritage-listed Blue...

Garden Stay

Coucals Cottage, Queensland

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia- Queensland

Highlights: Ideally situated only a 30 minute drive from Brisbane, Coucals Cottage offers a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom self-contained home surrounded...

Garden Stay

Brickendon Colonial Farm Village Cottages

Brickendon Farm

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia - Tasmania

Highlights: Brickendon Estate offers guests an extraordinary experience of staying on a World Heritage Site in an original convict built cottage...

Garden Stay

Bondi Beach Eco Garden, Sydney

Bondi Beach Eco Garden

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia - NSW

Highlights: The Bondi Beach Eco Garden is nestled in the leafy quiet end of Hall Street, a short stroll from the...

Garden Stay

Southdown Cottages, Bowral

Southdown Cottages

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia - NSW

Highlights: Southdown Cottages in and around Bowral in the beautiful NSW Southern Highlands offer 4 uniquely decorated self-contained cottages, accommodating 2-4...

Garden Stay

Redbrow Garden and Guesthouse, Murrumbateman

Redbrow Garden & Guesthouse

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia - NSW

Highlights: Redbrow Garden be the place for you to relax, rejuvenate and unwind. Take an early morning bushwalk to hear the...

Garden Stay

The Boomerangs at Johanna

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia - VIC

Highlights: Architecturally designed, The Boomerangs cottages blend with the natural surroundings. Birdlife is prolific and privacy is assured. There is nothing...

Garden Stay

Chorleywood B&B, Burradoo

Chorleywood B&B Burradoo

When: Available on demand/by appointment

Countries: Australia - NSW

Highlights: Chorleywood B&B in Burradoo in the NSW Southern Highlands features 'Chorleywood', a spacious, detached, private cottage with its own entrance...