5. National Rhododendron Garden
Established in 1961 by the Australian Rhododendron Society, the 43-hectare National Rhododendron Gardens in Olinda are host to over 15,000 rhododendrons, 12,000 azaleas, 3,000 camellias and 250,000 daffodils. Situated on a hilltop in the scenic Dandenong Ranges, the National Rhododendron Gardens are framed by the world’s tallest flowering plant, the Mountain Ash, and set against a backdrop of the blue Australian Alps. It also contains a large ornamental lake, sensory gardens, deep fern gullies and small rock gardens.
National Rhododendron Garden is also a best places to visit in Melbourne during spring. In spring, the National Rhododendron Gardens hosts an astounding display of riotous colour. Beginning in August, the vibrant sunshine yellows of daffodils dance with the dignified blooms of camellias announcing the imminence of spring.
In September, the Cherry Tree Grove is in full bloom and is celebrated at the annual Hanami Festival (on 25th Sep this year). Hanami is the Japanese tradition of “flower viewing” but mostly refers to the celebration and appreciation of the “sakura” or cherry blossom – Japan’s unofficial national flower. In keeping with tradition, visitors are treated to traditional Japanese flower arranging demonstrations, origami, ikebana and bonsai display, calligraphy demonstrations and tea making ceremonies.
Amidst snowy drifts of flowering cherries throughout September, colour will consistently build to a crescendo in October and early November, when rhododendrons and azaleas combine to paint a flamboyant splash of gaudy colour across the Gardens in loud mauves, pinks, oranges and reds. Having seen a postcard-perfect photo of the Kurume Bowl bursting into brilliant colours, I am enticed to visit the National Rhododendron Gardens when its Kurume Bowl is in full bloom, expected to be within the next two weeks.
6. China Town
Step through the grand red gates of Melbourne’s Chinatown and enter a whole new world of Asian cuisine, karaoke, cocktail bars and hip fashion boutiques. Explore the strip of nineteenth century buildings between Swanston and Spring streets on Little Bourke Street − Australia’s oldest Chinatown. Take any tram along Swanston Street to Bourke or Lonsdale streets; or catch the free City Circle Tram to Parliament House on Spring Street, then walk to Little Bourke Street. Catch the free Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle and alight at stop 4. On foot, walk north for five minutes along Swanston Street from Federation Square. China Town is one of the top 10 places to visit in Melbourne.