Royal Botanic Gardens
Set just east of Bennelong Point and the Opera House (translation: right alongside sweeping views of the harbor), this sprawling 75-acre park is one of the city’s most beautiful places. The rolling green lawns are crisscrossed with walking trails, which wind among beds of flowering shrubs (begonia, camellia) and beneath the branches of centuries-old trees (palms, figs, fragrant eucalyptus, rare Wollemi pines). Among the several themed gardens are the gorgeous Palace Rose Garden, Fernery, and Tropical Centre whose greenhouses are filled with orchids, heliconia, bat flowers, and other horticultural exotica. Do as the locals do and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the lawns (provisions can be got at the David Jones Food Hall, at 77 Market Street, near the south end of the park; www.davidjones.com.au).
Tip: Hear cacophonous squealing noises coming from the treetops? Follow them, and you’ll find the gardens’ enormous resident population of flying foxes (large fruit bats with foxlike faces) hanging from the branches.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.