I think it’s fair to say that Melbourne is known for a lot of things, but our gardens are top of the list. Whether you live north, south, east or west – Melbourne delivers when it comes to gardens and green spaces. Perhaps one of the most beautiful gardens in the city is the Carlton Gardens in Victoria. Melbournians may find that many memories come to mind when it comes to Carlton Gardens Melbourne, whether it’s sitting for an exam in the Exhibition Building, attending the Flower and Garden Show in Carlton, attending a Carlton Gardens wedding, or even attending the Melbourne Museum and IMAX theatre. Yes, all this and more can be found in the Carlton Gardens Melbourne site which is an impressive 45.7-acre (18.5-hectare) garden. Let’s learn more about this iconic destination.
If you have yet to visit this stunning location, we have included Carlton Gardens photos throughout (from Visit Victoria) for you to fall in love with!
The history of Carlton Gardens Melbourne
In every corner of Carlton Gardens, you can find beauty, but the gardens were not designed and maintained through a linear process. In fact, Carlton Gardens were designed in 1857, which was the same year that Fitzroy Gardens in East Melbourne were designed. In comparison, Carton Gardens received far fewer resources and design intention, and when the site was constructed there was little done to protect the area. The curators did their best to stimulate community support and engagement in the new Carlton Gardens and hosted events like ploughing content but plants in the garden were constantly stolen and farm animals would graze in the garden (which was against the law!).
It was proposed by road lobbyists that a road should run through the middle of the garden, which prompted the city council to take control of the garden which was previously controlled by the state government. By the end of the nineteenth century, Carlton Gardens was upgraded and three lakes were added to the expansive site.
While Canberra was being constructed between 1901 and 1927, the Federal Government resided in the Victorian parliament buildings (on Spring Street), and the State Parliament operated out of the Exhibition Buildings. As time has gone on, there have been many additions made to Carlton Gardens, and perhaps the most notable is the Centinetial Hall which was built in 1980. Gardens have also been remodelled and the Grollo fountain is another beautiful addition. The sports ground and cycle track that was constructed in 1890 was replaced with the immigration centre in the 1950s.
Carlton Gardens playground
One thing that Melbourne does very well is creating multi-purpose landmarks that can be enjoyed by all Victorians, even the littlest ones! The Carlton Garden playground is a great meeting spot for young families and presumably a godsend for CBD-based families. You will find a mix of timber play infrastructure and traditional pieces. The Carlton Garden playground is actually designed based on a 19th-century maze concept, which these beautiful gardens really lend themselves to.
There are five playgrounds in the Carlton area, so what makes Carlton Gardens playground so much fun? Well here are the Carlton Garden playground features: a sandpit, a climbing wall, slides, musical elements, a track glide, a seesaw, shade areas, a cubby house, a basketball court and a climbing frame. The Carlton Garden basketball court is pretty legendary in the area, and during the summer the Carlton Garden basketball court has an electric atmosphere. There is also disabled access and platform structures at various levels for different ages.
Carlton Gardens Tennis Club
Tennis lovers will know Carlton Garden Tennis Club all too well, with the club boasting four synthetic courts and all the amenities of a tennis club. Carlton Gardens Tennis Club is different to other clubs as it has a classic garden setting with the public and members able to utilise the BBQ and outdoor dining areas. There are social competitions that run throughout the year, and there is coaching available to members. The City of Melbourne looks after the booking system and you can also keep up to date with what’s happening at the Carlton Gardens Tennis Club on Facebook.
Accommodation near Carlton Gardens Melbourne
Carlton is a popular area for tourists and locals to stay, and fortunately, there are plenty of options for accommodation near Carlton Gardens Melbourne. Depending on what kind of experience you are looking for, you will find Carlton Garden Airbnb properties, budget accommodation and premium accommodation near Carlton Gardens Melbourne. There are also some pet friendly hotels in Melbourne that are close to Carlton Gardens like Zagames House, and here are some of the other options available.
Comfort Apartment Royal Gardens
This quaint accommodation lives up to its name in every way, with the frontage looking more like a garden-front home than accommodation in Carlton Gardens Melbourne. You won’t find a more central location if you are attending an event at Exhibition Buildings and you can book balcony rooms to enjoy the garden views, and the location attracts guests who are also looking to be close to the famous Fitzroy suburb. There is also a pool, amenities and a contained kitchen so it is ideal for longer-stay trips and travelling groups and families. You can find more information on the Comfort Apartment Royal Gardens website.
Melbourne Carlton Central Apartment Hotel
If you are looking for a more cosmopolitan stay and modern furnishings, this is a great option for accommodation in Carlton Gardens Melbourne. Located in an alley, there is breakfast and parking both available at Melbourne Carlton Central Apartment Hotel, and it’s only an 8-minute walk to the Exhibition Buildings. You can find more information on the Melbourne Carlton Central Apartment Hotel website.
The Nunnery Accommodation
This is as close as you are going to get to Carlton Gardens Melbourne, and the independent hotel/hostel is a gorgeous example of the Victorian-style housing that once lined the inner-city streets. This is very affordable and something a bit different from Accor and the other chains although note that it has a hostel vibe so it won’t be right for everyone. You can find more information on the Nunnery Accommodation website.
Carlton Gardens map
It’s quite an overwhelming size, and so you might be having things shuffled around in your head when you create a Carlton Gardens map. The City of Melbourne, official documents and the general public will refer to the Carlton Gardens as three separate parts. There is the Carlton Gardens North, Carlton Gardens South and the Royal Exhibition Building Carlton Gardens in the middle. In the Carlton Gardens map below, you will see that Rathdown and Nicholson Street frame the garden, and it’s the meeting point for the suburbs of Carlton and Fitzroy. The Royal Exhibition Building is quite an extensive site, and there are markets and events that take place here throughout the year. One of our favourite events in the calendar is the Finders Keepers Market which showcases the wares from some of the best Australian designers out there.
In the south end of Carlton Gardens Carlton, you can find IMAX Melbourne, Melbourne Museum, Children’s Gallery and the Bunjilaka Museum for Indigenous people.
Melbourne International Flower Show Carlton Gardens
The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show is not just a big deal to Victorians, but it’s been attended by more than 100,000 visitors and is the biggest flower festival in the Southern Hemisphere. The Carlton Gardens Flower Show started in 1995 and has been running every year, except in 2020 when the event was cancelled due to Coronavirus. If you are thinking that this is just a Carlton Gardens event with flowers, it is actually a horticulture event that has professionals and flower enthusiasts looking forward to the five-day event in March.
You can expect to see landscaping professionals and artists, flower designers, collectors, art exhibitions, competitions, music, displays and so much more. In fact, when we read the Carlton Garden show itinerary we were absolutely shocked by just how much there was to see and do. There is also a careers hub so that budding (see what I did there) horticulturists can engage with the key professionals in the space and get some career guidance. Honestly, we cannot recommend the Carlton Gardens Flower Show enough as there is so much to do for all ages, and you will almost certainly walk away with an indoor plant. You can find all information you need and Carlton Garden tickets to the Carlton Garden Show on the website. Oh, and if you can help it – try and book your tickets to the Flower Show Carlton Gardens at the last minute so you can gauge the weather!
Carlton Gardens Melbourne parking and transport
Carlton Gardens Melbourne is incredibly central, which makes parking and transport very easy. If you are driving in and looking for Carlton Gardens parking, then enter through the Exhibition Buildings car park which is located on Nicholson Street. If you are getting to Carlton Gardens by public transport, then take the tram 86, 87, 96 and 111. As far as parking goes, parking at Carlton Gardens is far more accessible than other central parks and gardens. Just be mindful of Carlton Garden events and IMAX theatre events as this might make parking at Carlton Gardens expensive! If you are happy with parking near Carlton Gardens and happy with a stroll, then you can park on Lygon Street.
We hope we have inspired you to visit Carlton Gardens Melbourne soon, as there are so many beautiful spots and the location is central to great restaurants near Carlton Gardens Melbourne! You can check out our Melbourne food recommendations on our blog.