Wander through botanic gardens with your family. The Hunter Region Botanic Gardens in Heatherbrae are an absolute delight with lots of kid-friendly activities. With 30 hectares, there is plenty of space for physical distancing and to see a stunning array of native and exotic gardens.
There is something to see in every season so it is a year-round winner for a family excursion in nature. There really is something for everyone and for every occasion. This is a great place to volunteer, picnic, stroll, take photos or even get married!
Located off the Pacific Highway in Heatherbrae, Hunter Region Botanic Gardens is easy to access. There are large signs that are highly visible from the road.
There is ample parking available and the cost of entry is $3 per person, or $7 for a family making it an affordable family day out. This is payable at the cafe/gift shop where you will receive a token to leave the car park. The Gardens are managed and maintained by volunteers and were established in 1986.
In addition to the many theme gardens such as Succulent and Rainforest, there are surrounding hectares of natural bushland managed as a conservation area. There are several easy walks of varying lengths. A paved pathway, well maintained and constructed, is suitable for prams and wheelchairs and forms part of several walking trails.
We recently visited the Gardens on a Sunday as a family outing with grandparents and a little cousin joining us as well. We had a wonderful day and our expectations were truly exceeded. My first time at the Gardens was actually for my wedding photos just over 13 years ago. This time around, I definitely recognised the lovely pond from our group photos, but I was amazed by how many other wonders there were to discover that we’d missed!
We arrived around lunchtime with packed lunches, hats and a frisbee. Upon arrival, we were awestruck by the gorgeous old Red Ash tree that stretches across the walkway onto the grounds. It was pretty special to see such a spectacular tree in such an idyllic setting.
We then wandered over to a nearby pond, complete with a fountain and lovely sculptures and benches around the perimeter. This area is where we had our wedding photos taken years ago so there was definitely a bit of nostalgia in the air.
The children’s play area is where we settled in for lunch and a game of frisbee.
There is a cute little cubby house, outdoor toys, picnic tables, grassed spaces, stepping stones and even some painted caricatures for cute photo opportunities with the kids.
The rotunda is also a wonderful space to spend time with family and friends. We spent a good hour or so just enjoying the sights and activities that this area of the Gardens had to offer and little did we realise just how much more there was to see and do!
Even though things are a little bit different pretty much everywhere right now due to COVID-19, we were able to pop in briefly to the cafe and gift shop to say hello to the friendly volunteers. Every person we encountered was more than happy to answer any questions. The volunteers have so much knowledge and enthusiasm to share, and their passion for nature is infectious.
When we asked if there might be an information pamphlet we could take home, we were presented with not one, not two, but seventeen different pamphlets for our perusal!
From Camellias to Grevilleas to Aboriginal Plants, there is an incredible collection to see and information to absorb as you wander through the botanic gardens.
Whether you are already a garden enthusiast or simply enjoy looking at beautiful plants and flowers, you will no doubt find a variety of specimens to spark an interest.
There are several different walking trails including Botanic Walk (1.8 km), Forest Walk (1.2km), Grasstree Walk (2.1km), Wetlands Walk (2.7 km), Banksia Loop (0.6 km) and Southern Walk (2.7km). We did the Botanic Walk which starts and finishes at the Visitors Centre.
The majority of this walk is on a paved pathway with access to many theme gardens such as Succulents (our personal favourite), Waterfall and Palm. This is a pram and wheelchair accessible walk.
The Botanic Walk provides lots of activities specifically for children. There is a sweet little Blue Wren Maze that the kids loved. They especially enjoyed finding the inspirational message at the end of the maze.
The sensory square is a very cool hands-on space for children. Here they can experience plants through touch and smell. Rosemary, with its distinctive scent, was the most memorable on our visit.
There are stepping stones with various animal footprints engraved on them that the children can try to match up with the correct animal.
There is even a “wombat cave” where little ones can follow the wombat footprints through the bush tunnel.
Water has such a calming effect and there are many pretty water features throughout the Gardens.
These are the perfect resting points to stop for a few moments to relax and soak in the sights and sounds.
One of the most peaceful spots we discovered on our Botanic Walk was the Bush Chapel. Full of charm, this quaint outdoor setting could be the ideal spot for an intimate wedding. Hunter Region Botanic Gardens is the perfect location for an outdoor wedding, reception and any number of other functions.
Our favourite themed area was the Succulent Garden, a part of the exotic collections. This was like being immersed in some other world, full of oversized and wildly wonderful plants and cacti. It was incredible to see such a varied and visually impressive collection of succulents in one location.
Some of the visual highlights of our walk included a bumpy tree, vibrant flowers and tall-standing established trees.
There are plenty of signs throughout the gardens showing you which way to go for particular walks or points of interest.
The Hunter Region Botanic Gardens has so much to offer and is definitely worth a visit.
Good to know
Getting there: Hunter Region Botanic Gardens is located at 2100 Pacific Highway in Heatherbrae, 30 minutes north of Newcastle.
Opening Hours: Open 7 days from 9am to 4pm. Closed for Christmas and Easter breaks.
Picnic area: Yes
On-site parking: Yes. Free parking. You’ll receive a token to leave the car park when you pay admission.
Gift shop: Yes
Cost of entry: $3 per person / $7 per family
Janice is a proud mum to two energetic girls who love spending their time dancing, exploring and just plain having fun. She followed her heart and relocated from overseas to Australia thirteen years ago. After six years in Sydney, Janice and her family made the decision to return to her husband’s hometown of Newcastle and with the amazing lifestyle Newcastle has to offer, they feel grateful to call this place home. She is passionate about embracing lifelong learning and making lasting memories with loved ones.