We all know the main tourist attractions in Sydney involve the beach and the harbour but what if you’re looking to do a bit of exploring around the city? Are there any hidden, local gems worth finding? The answer is YES. Two of my favourite secret gardens, have amazing views of the harbour and you’ll be in awe of how they even exist, right in the middle of the city. My other two favourite secret gardens are just magical and secluded. Here my top things to do in Sydney – the best 4 secret gardens in Sydney which surprisingly all sit in the North Shore!
1. Wendy’s Secret Garden
The view at Wendy’s Secret Garden, Lavender Bay
Starting off with Wendy’s Secret Garden, is probably the one secret garden that you’ll be blown away by the location and one you may have heard of. Sat next to the famous Luna Park on the north side of the harbour, you’ll just need to walk up a few steps to find the most stunning garden (or you can park your car on Lavender Street, walk over to Clark Park and down the steps into Wendy’s).
Built by Wendy in memory of her late husband artist Brett Whiteley in 1992, the garden has gone from strength to strength, packed full of sculptures, picnic benches and lots of paths to walk around. It also has a view of the harbour and it’s perfect to spend the afternoon.
If you have kids, they will love all the paths as it’s a great hide and seek place! This is also a fantastic wedding proposal place in Sydney and a wedding venue. I saw someone propose when I first went there, and advised a friend to do so too, which he did!
2. Lex and Ruby’s Garden
Over in Cremorne Point (again on the northern side of the Harbour) lies the lesser known Lex & Ruby’s Garden. Just beyond the walking path sits a magical garden which Lex Grahame started in 1959 after finding an elephant’s ear bulb he fished out from his morning swim. Lex had never planted anything before, and after he saw it growing, he and his partner Ruby began adding other plants to what was previously land filled with weeds, rubbish and logs. They went on to fill the 2 acres of the garden over the duration of 50 years.
I had walked past this garden hundreds of times and never realised it existed until recently. It really is incredible and you’ll be amazed how big it actually is. The path runs along right next to the water and also underneath a cliff. I’d recommend wearing trainers as there’s a few steps. It’s a great place to explore with the family, friends or a special someone! It’s also the most tropical of the four gardens I’ve been to as well.
After you’ve finished exploring the garden, you should pop on down around the other side of Cremorne Reserve which has the amazing view of Sydney Harbour and a beautiful little pool called Macullum Pool. I used to go to this pool all the time. It’s mainly used by locals but it’s FREE and anyone can go for a dip.
McCallum Pool, Cremorne
You can easily get to this garden by taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Cremorne Point. Head up to the top of Cremorne Reserve (above the ferry wharf) and turn left onto the path. About 200 metres along the path you’ll find a small sign dedicated to the entrance of this garden on the waters edge. If you pass Cremorne ferry wharf, you’ve gone too far.
3. Lisgar Gardens
The furthest garden away from the city is Lisgar Gardens, located in Hornsby. At the end of a residential street lies this popular secret garden with it’s own car park. Unlike the others, this garden has it’s own waterfall to admire as well as a few paths to explore.
There’s also a beautifully cut lawn to play family games on and a gazebo to hold get together’s which make this a great place to spend the day.
4. Swain Gardens
Killara (near Chatswood)
Ending with my favourite garden is the magical Swain Gardens. After a lot of research to make this post, I came across Swain Gardens located at the end of a residential street near Chatswood in Killara. Over 70 years ago, Mick Swain transformed the back of his house from bushland into this incredible garden. It’s now looked after the local council who maintain his magnificent work. This is also the biggest of the four gardens in this post.
When you make your way down to the gardens, you’re embraced with amazingly huge bamboo sticks growing in the bush. Walk on and you’ll come to a gardeners dream. This place was pretty much empty when I visited it, and it is breathtaking. There’s toilets, picnic benches and a gazebo to have a family picnic here.This is my absolute gem of a secret garden in Sydney.
To get a real sense of these gardens, here’s a little video I put together of them all!
More well known gardens to explore in the city include The Royal Botanic Gardens which have beautiful views of the harbour, the Chinese Garden of Friendship (one I always forget exists right in the middle of Darling Harbour) and Paddington Reservoir Gardens.
If you want to get out of Sydney for the day, Mount Wilson up in the Blue Mountains is the absolute best spot to visit various gardens. I went up to visit Breenhold Gardens which instantly transported me back to England. There are loads of gardens to visit up there but check on when they are open as it’s a seasonal thing.
What’s your favourite garden in Sydney?