Brisbane and South East Queensland is in the heart of Australia's subtropics and a popular tourist destination for those looking for sun, sand and surf, dense subtropical rainforests, graceful 'Queenslander' traditional homes, palms and lagoons. The region is also a haven for garden tourists, with vibrant subtropical gardens to visit that often feature colourful foliage plants, as well as dry-tropics flowering trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs.
With thanks to our friends at The Garden Travel Hub.
Because of Brisbane’s natural environment it is often considered one of Australia’s best places to live and work. Brisbane City Council manages over 8,000 hectares of natural areas within a total park estate of more than 14,000 hectares of bushland, wetlands, waterways and habitat corridors.
Like many large international cities, Brisbane’s landscape has been extensively cleared of natural vegetation since white settlement in the 1820s but there are several National Parks including Moreton Bay, D’Aguilar, Daisy Hill, Mount Barney and Naree Budjong Djara.
The Gold Coast has many vegetation types, from the Gondwana rainforest of Lamington National Park with its huge antarctic beech, to tall wet eucalypt forest, open eucalypt-dominated forest and woodland, paperbark swamps, mangroves, heathland and dunes. There are several National Parks where you can enjoy unspoiled natural vegetation.
The Sunshine Coast has seven National Parks from coastal vegetation in the Great Sandy NP and Noosa NP to the tall forests, gorges and waterfalls of Conondale, Kondalilla, Mapleton, Mapleton Falls NP and the heath, open woodland and forest of the famous Glasshouse Mountains NP with its distinctive craggy volcanic peaks.
Brisbane’s and the coast’s subtropical climate encourage gardeners to design and plant gardens that withstand spring drought, heavy summer rains and high humidity. Many feature large shade trees and palms, a swimming pool, some of the more lush native plants and subtropical exotics often with colourful foliage such as bromeliads, crotons, cordylines, iresine, duranta and alternanthera. Gardens are mostly designed around enjoying the subtropical climate and an outdoor life style. Frangipani, bougainvillea, gingers, tabebuia, leopard tree, aroids, hibiscus are also common plants.
In the elevated inland districts of South East Queensland you can find more traditional European-style gardens which include cool-climate plants, deciduous trees and ferns.
Best time for seeing gardens in Brisbane and South-east Queensland
April to November are good months for garden lovers to visit Brisbane and South East Queensland with warm, sunny days of 15-25ºC, lower humidity, several garden shows and many private gardens open for visiting.
Best open gardens to see in Brisbane and South-east Queensland with FREE entry
Best open gardens to visit in Brisbane
• City Botanic Gardens – 10 minute walk from city center, with a bamboo grove, mature palms, riverside walk, lakes, fountains and ornamental ponds, and avenue of weeping figs. Self guided and free guided tours available (11am and 1pm from Monday-Saturday).
• Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha – 15 minute drive from city center or 25 minutes by bus. Fern house, bonsai collection, arid zone, fragrant plants and herb garden, National Freedom Wall, Japanese garden, bamboo grove, rainforest, children’s trail, tropical display dome. Self guided and free guided tours (11am and 1pm Monday-Saturday). Open 8am-5.30pm September-March and 8am-5pm April to August. Café, mobility map available.
• Roma Street Parklands – a contemporary-designed public park on the northern side of the CBD. Includes the Spectacle Garden (always filled with eye-catching colour), a mist-filled rainforest and fern gully and the Lake Precinct. Café and full accessibility.
• South Bank Parklands – southern bank of the Brisbane River, includes public art along the promenade, the bougainvillea-covered one kilometre-long Grand Arbour, sand and swimming at the huge Streets Beach lagoon, and the productive Epicurious Garden. Cafés and restaurants, full accessibility.
• Brisbane Koala Bushlands – 800 hectares, the ideal place for koala and birdlife spotting. Alperton Rd, Burbank
• Eden Gardens Carlesdine – large retail nursery with several designer display gardens
• Redcliffe Botanic Gardens – features many indigenous plants, Chorizema spring, Wallum heathland and Quota Garden maintained by the Society for Growing Australian Plants. Large Peninsula herb garden. 30 minute drive north from Brisbane CBD. Open 6am-6pm daily.
• Java Coast Cafe – George St Brisbane – a small green oasis in the CBD
University of Queensland Global Change Institute greenwall and carbon-neutral building. 30 minute weekly tour on Tuesdays at 11.30am bookings required.
Cloudland – bar and restaurant with large indoor garden and greenwall. Fortitude Valley
• Bunker Coffee – nature is busy reclaiming the façade of this hole-in-the-wall café. Milton.
• Rare Pear Café – Balinese-inspired gardens, Samford Valley
Best open gardens to visit on the Gold Coast
• Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens – 31 hectares, 10 minutes drive from Surfers Paradise, sensory garden, native butterfly garden, araucaria forest, dry rainforest, rose garden, mangroves to mountains trail, lake, café. Open dawn to dusk each day.
• Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens – perennial garden, Japanese garden, hydrangea garden, witeria pergolas, rose garden, camellia garden. Open dawn to dusk 7 days. Donations appreciated. Forsythia Drive, Tamborine Mountain
Best open gardens to visit on the Sunshine Coast
• Maroochydore Regional Bushland Botanical Gardens – 82 hectares includes eucalypt forest, rainforest, lagoons, cascades, palm gullies, sculpture garden. Tanawah. Open 7am-5pm April-October and 7am-6pm November-March.
• Noosa Botanic Gardens – 8 hectares including fern house, lily pond, Greek-style amphitheatre, bush chapel. Lake Macdonald Drive, Cooroy
Fairhill Native Plants and Botanic Gardens – native plant nursery and extensive 4 hectare (10 acre) garden for native subtropical plants, Ninderry. 8.30am-5pm daily.
• Yandina Community Gardens – permaculture-based community produce garden. 8am-12pm Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.
Best open gardens to see in Brisbane and South-east Queensland with PAID entry
You can find private gardens to visit at Open Gardens in South-east Queensland, Open Garden Events Queensland on Facebook, and also advertising in nurseries, tourist information centers or on local radio. Many are open during the cooler months of April to October.
• The Giving Garden – 1 acre garden in Birkdale, open one weekend in late November
• Sunshine Coast – Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World
• Bellingham Maze – star-shaped lilly pilly maze, Tanawah
• Stringybark Cottage Garden – Noosa, group tours only
• ‘Bellis’ – the private sustainable garden of Gardening Australia’s Jerry Coleby Williams is open 1-2 times each year, often Mother’s Day weekend
• ‘Lindmar’, Morayfield – open for groups by appointment
• Coucals Garden, Mount Crosby – occasional public open days and groups by appointment
• ‘Viola’s Patch’, Bahr’s Scrub – private garden and nursery, some public open days and open by appointment
• ‘Joncia’, Logan Reserve – wedding venue with occasional public open days