A Guide to Williamstown Botanic Gardens [2020]

Looking down the main boulevard at Williamstown Botanic Gardens. Lined with palm trees and a blue sky behind it with a white path of shingles.

I think Botanical Gardens are very special places, so when Becca and I were trying to choose a town to live in when we emigrated from the UK, this ticked a big box for Williamstown.

We were doing our research through blog posts, forums and reviews, but it was on a YouTube video that I first set eyes on Williamstown Botanic Gardens’ iconic gates.

We’ve been to beautiful gardens such as these across the world. Some of my favourite that come to mind are viewing a huge collection of Orchids at Pha Tad Ke Gardens near Luang Prabang, seeing a concert in the wonderful Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens in Cape Town and completing an unforgettable treetop walk at Mae Fah Luang Gardens in Northern Thailand.

As you can see, I’m a bit of a Botanic Gardens fanboy!

Which is why I’m so excited to write about the Botanic Gardens, a place we enjoy regularly visiting and I’m very proud to have in my adopted hometown of Williamstown.

So without further ado, let’s get going…


Getting to Williamstown Botanic Gardens

Getting to Williamstown Botanic Gardens is fairly easy, just head for the beach!

By Car: If you’re trying to get here from the centre of Melbourne, then take the M1 over the Westgate Bridge and as the bridge ends you’ll find the exit for Williamstown. There is a beautiful scenic route to get here by turning left just after Newport Station, and heading down to the coast. The Strand is the coastal road with panoramic views of Melbourne to the east, which when followed to the end gets to Battery Road through Point Gellibrand Coastal Heritage Park. Head past the Williamstown Seagulls AFL stadium and the Botanic Gardens are not far after on your right, with lots of parking all around.

By Train: Take the Williamstown line from Flinders Street Station and get off at Williamstown Beach. It’s less than five minutes to get to the Botanic Gardens from here.

Williamstown Botanic Gardens Maps

Below is an embedded map I have created in Google which shows the highlights of Williamstown Botanic Gardens.

Here are some other fantastic maps of the Gardens which will be useful if you are planning a trip.

Friends of Williamstown Botanic Gardens Map
This hand-drawn map shows all the different lawns, avenues and reserves that make up the Gardens.

Hobsons Bay City Council Master Plan
If you scroll to page five of this PDF document you’ll find one of the best maps of Williamstown Botanic Gardens which was drawn to plan out its redevelopment. It also makes for fascinating reading as it includes lots of useful information about the gardens and how they are laid out.

WalkingMaps.com.au
This map includes the Botanic Gardens in a historic loop around Williamstown taking in the beach, Timeball Tower and Gem Pier.


Williamstown Botanic Gardens History

Williamstown Botanic Gardens opened in 1860 and are one of over 20 in the State of Victoria.

The gardens were designed by Edward La Trobe Bateman.

They are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as ‘one of Victoria’s most intact and original botanic gardens complete’.

They include classic features of Victorian-era gardens such as curving walkways, an ornamental lake, a palm walkway and carefully manicured lawns.

If you want to learn more about their history, then this post on the Hobsons Bay Council website has lots of information and some fantastic pictures of the Gardens through the ages, including some beautiful old postcards.

Friends of Williamstown Botanic Gardens

It would not be proper to write about these Gardens without linking to and celebrating the work of the Friends of Williamstown Botanic Gardens voluntary group.

The group was established in 2009 just before the 150th anniversary of the Gardens’ opening and aimsn to encourage and support the conservation working and public appreciation of the Gardens whilst supporting the local council to sustainably develop them for the long-term.

You can read more about their work on the Friends of Williamstown Botanic Gardens website where you can sign up to help out with various activities, or have a read through the articles giving more colour and history about the area.


Highlights of Williamstown Botanic Gardens

The Gates

Williamstown Botanic Gardens Main Gates

The main gates of Williamstown Botanic Gardens have been in place since 1907 and were originally the gates of a mansion in South Yarra called Fairlie House which was located right beside the Melbourne Botanic Gardens.

Clearly the local council had been scoping out the opposition!

They were purchased for only £72 which, given their original value of nearly £1,200 was a real bargain, especially in the days before eBay. In the 1920s they were painted white, before being restored to their original colour in 2007. Needless to say the restoration cost significantly more than the purchase price!

The Golden Elm Lawn

Golden Elm Lawn at Williamstown Botanic Gardens

The Golden Elm Lawn is situated to the far north-east of the Gardens near the main gates and is the perfect place to lay out with a picnic on a warm day.

The Lake

Lake At Williamstown Botanic Gardens

The lake is probably my favourite spot in the gardens. On a hot day it’s a great place to cool off in the shade. There are often ducks and even small bitterns around the edge of the lake so keep your eyes peeled (see my wildlife photos below).

The Drinking Fountain

Williamstown Botanic Gardens Drinking Fountain

Accoring to the inscription on the water fountain it was:

“Erected by the Council and
Citizens of Williamstown
in Commemoration of the
Jubilee of the Municipality
1856-1906
J.H. Bolton, Mayor 1908″

Williamstown Botanic Gardens Statue

Williamstown Botanic Gardens Statue A T Clark

The statue at the southern end of Williamstown Botanic Gardens is of Alfred Thomas Clark (1845-1888).

A T Clark was a politician in the area, originally from London he served for 17 years as a member for Williamstown Council. He was actively involved in the town and held positions such as justice of the peace and president of the football club. He also founded the Williamstown Advertiser in 1874 to give an outlet to local issues.

He died in 1888 on the ship Oceana near Columbo, on his way back to London.

The Central Walkway (Palm Avenue)

Palm Avenue Williamstown Botanic Gardens

“This ain’t no disco
And it ain’t no country club either
This is L.A.”

Sheryl Crow, All I Wanna Do

Ok, it’s not Los Angeles, but the central Palm Avenue through Williamstown Botanic Gardens is one of the most awe-inspiring views in the town.

I took the photo above at around 0615 on Melbourne Cup day in 2020, and the purple dawn sky make it look a lot like a some of the famous L.A. photos (check this one out for comparison!).

These palms have been in a surprisingly small amount of time, with the latest batch of them only being planted in 1988. I love this page which shows the difference between 2000 and 2008 where the undergrowth was cleared out which really highlights the trees.

In the distance of this photo you can see where the A T Clark Statue stands.

La Parker Reserve

L.a. Parker Reserve

The L.A. Parker Reserve sits between the Botanic Gardens and the sea. It has been recently re-developed (I’m writing this in November 2020) with the pathways cleared up, lots of new planting completed and more benches added.

Birds of Williamstown Botanic Gardens

Pacific Black Duck Williamstown Botanic Gardens
White Faced Heron Williamstown Botanic Gardens
Rainbow Lorikeets At Williamstown Botanic Gardens

Williamstown Botanic Gardens are always filled with the sound of bird-song and it’s one of the reasons I love visiting.

The three photos above were taken on one trip. Rainbo Lorikeets are almost always found here high up in the palm canopies, screeching as they speed from tree-to-tree. The Pacific Black Ducks are common residents here is are the White Faced Heron so keep an eye out in the dark edges of the lake.


Williamstown Botanic Gardens FAQs

What are the opening hours?

The Gardens are open 24 hours a day.

Are there toilets at Williamstown Botanic Gardens?

There are toilets just outside of Williamstown Botanic Gardens in Fearon Reserve. Exit the Gardens on the western side, and head towards the seafront where you’ll see the toilets in a small block.

Can you take dogs to Williamstown Botanic Gardens?

Dogs are allowed in the Gardens but must be kept on a lead.

Are weddings allowed at Williamstown Botanic Gardens?

Williamstown Botanic Gardens is one of four sites in the Hobsons Bay Council area that is available for garden weddings or photographs.

You can book directly via their site here.

Can you have a BBQ at Williamstown Botanic Gardens?

No barbeques are allow anywhere in the Gardens. There are fantastic barbeque facilities just across the road at Hatt Reserve near Williamstown and Newport Anglers’ Club.

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