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The Top 5 Secret Gardens In Sydney

The Top 5 Secret Gardens In Sydney

Spring has officially sprung and the next six month span is the perfect time of year to sit back and relax among some greenery. However, for many Sydneysiders it seems that the only splash of green on offer all year is some tacky costuming on St Patrick’s Day or a half-dead cacti on a desk. Plus, with the house market pushing the upper limits of affordability, even having a garden to enjoy at home can seem like an impossible dream.

Sure, Centennial Park, the Botanical Gardens and the Chinese Garden of Friendship are nice spots to visit, but don’t we all prefer something that feels a little more secret? A little less touristy and lot more adventurous? Here’s your guide to five gardens or green spaces in Sydney you might not have heard of.

# 1 Wendy Whiteley Garden

Wife of the late renowned Australian artist, Brett Whiteley, Wendy Whiteley is a cultural powerhouse. This garden is a luscious escape from it all, a stunning expanse of greenery where every so often you spy the harbour bridge, peeking from between the trees. It’s located at the back of the Federation house Wendy and Brett used to share, in Lavender Bay.

Once a site for garbage, Wendy took back the dump at her back door, transforming it with a flare that gives away her artistic training – sculptures are dotted throughout the garden. Though it is a place full of life – from wagtails to rosellas, giant trees to tiny flowers – it is also a place born out of mourning. The ashes of Brett (who sadly died in 1992) and the Whiteley’s daughter Arkie (who died far too young from cancer) are buried here. Wendy turned to the garden after their deaths to find a place to pour her energy, love and creativity. The beauty of the place is a testament to Wendy’s strength and artistry, as well as the continuing space in Australia’s heart for the whole Whiteley family and their contribution to our society.

#2 Cat Alley

A photo posted by Andrew (@manofverb) on

Ok, so it’s not a garden in the traditional sense, but the fondly named Cat Alley has plenty of greenery to lift your spirits. Though you’ll find it on your map as McElhone Street, the residents took it upon themselves to give the city oasis a catchier name. The many cats sunbathing on the black bitumen or curling around pot plants might give you a hint as to where they found inspiration.

Though it might not be a garden in the true sense of the word, Cat Alley won the City of Sydney Gardening award every year from 2004 to 2007 so it’s worth your time to take a peek. An ode to the possibility of transforming urban spaces, this alley is tucked away in Surry Hills and is a great spot for a Sunday stroll. Often one of the many residents will be out and about – watering their gardens or working, reading or eating on their back steps. Take the time to have a chat – you might even be inspired to start your own urban garden.

#3 Paddington Reservoir Gardens

A photo posted by Mikechilds (@miikechilds) on

If you prefer your gardens with visible history, then Paddington Reservoir Gardens is the right place to park your picnic. Transformed from a swamp to a reservoir and then finally to a garden, this award-winning spot has graffiti, greenery and of course, the heritage-listed Reservoir framework. Though the Reservoir was built in the 1800s and the garden has only been open since 2008, the classic sculptural feel and pared back greenery has inspired garden-lovers to compare this site to ancient Roman ruins. Plus, tucked away from the busy streets of Paddington, it combines the convenience of centrality with a sense of timeless tranquillity.

#4 Lane Cove National Park

Nestled between East Ryde and West Chatswood, Lane Cove National park is a bushland idyll you might not expect to find so close to Sydney’s CBD. A combination of parkland, river and bushland, this park has plenty of options for a day of activities. You can explore paths that wind through the bush, enjoy your lunch at a picnic bench, row down the river in a canoe or bring along your bike for a ride on the trails. Don’t want to leave? You can book a cabin or pitch a tent nearby at Lane Cove River Tourist Park. If you aren’t from Australia – or you don’t get out of the city much – this is a great spot to see some of our quintessential wildlife. From kookaburras to flying foxes, the national park is known for its vast array of native animals.

# 5 A community garden near you

(Photo: Charlie’s Garden/Facebook)

The City of Sydney has 23 documented community gardens in the Sydney locality. Ranging from curb side planting boxes to mini- farms, these gardens breathe new life into concrete suburbs and tired old parks. Not from around here? You can still go on down and check some out, though many only allow locals to take produce or get involved in the planting. One fantastic example of a flourishing community garden is Charlie’s Garden which is a place for both quiet contemplation and friendly gatherings. While you can’t take their veggies if you aren’t a local, there’s nothing to stop you peeking over the fence to enjoy the view! The park located adjacent to the garden has barbecue areas and plenty of space for a picnic.

Want to know if there’s a community garden near where you live, or where you’re staying? Check out City of Sydney’s website.

(Lead image: Peter Ostergaard/Flickr)

Sydney is at its best in spring and summer. Check out Qantas flights to Sydney here.

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