Would you like to join me on a six day tour to Australia’s best and most beautiful tropical gardens?
In late August, through the Australian Garden History Society, we’ll be visiting 15 gardens in and around Cairns and Port Douglas in Tropical North Queensland.
Warm sunny days and exotic gardens with magnificent trees, and gorgeous flowers amidst verdant foliage, beckon us to Tropical North Queensland. Your leader is Kim Woods Rabbidge, Brisbane-based garden writer and photographer who has drawn together TNQ horticulture and garden design professionals for popular presentations, and lead successful tours here before.
Over six days you will visit outstanding gardens and meet the owners and designers who’ve created them. You also explore historic, and sometimes quirky, landscapes that reflect the multi-layered regional character. You’ll skirt the languid Coral Sea, drive through a tapestry of cane fields, bands of forest and unexpected mountain peaks.
Local personalities will help you understand the horticultural diversity, and regional history including rich aboriginal culture, and early influences from Australian, English, Irish and Chinese settlers, followed by South Sea Islanders and many Europeans. Today the region has extended to be one of the most culturally diverse in Australia. A trip across the Atherton Tablelands includes visits to porcelain artist Mollie Bosworth’s rainforest garden studio in historic Kuranda, special gardens in Mareeba, and to ‘Asper Park’ where you’ll find out about the world’s largest grasses at this fascinating bamboo farm. Then at sunset you’ll cruise, with drinks and canapés, around the peaceful crater-lake Barrine.
On another day twilight drinks will be enjoyed at serene ‘Windsong’ garden, where gentle Katabatic wind spills down the hillside bringing cooler evening air, and flat monumental boulders are both garden sculptures and service tables.
‘The Figs’ is a rarely seen elegant garden anchored by a grove of giant trees under planted with swathes of verdant foliage between sinewy buttress roots. Morning tea will be served in the plantation-style pool house. South of Cairns at Miriwinni, ‘Butlerspride’, winner of Better Homes and Gardens ‘Garden of the Year’ has survived two devastating cyclones but continues to be one of the country’s most outstanding gardens. Amongst many spots to enjoy your morning tea and homemade cakes is the gazebo, complete with chandelier, suspended over the mountain-fed crystal clear Pugh Creek. Further south you’ll explore the fascinating heritage-listed Paronella Park –‘pleasure gardens’ developed by Spanish dream maker Jose Paronella in the mid-thirties.
In Cairns ‘Tabu’ is a professionally designed garden nestled into a hillside and reveals ingenious design ploys to draw us through textural layers; and although brimful with carefully selected plants, spaces are defined and peaceful. Other immensely appealing smaller gardens you’ll visit also reveal clever designs using form, foliage and colour, and sometimes incorporating tropical fruit trees, and vines such as the tricky-to-pollinate vanilla bean. On arrival, or on our free afternoon, you’ll have time to visit the superb Cairns Regional Gallery and the Contemporary Art Gallery – both attracting highest calibre works, or the significant contemporary stained glass windows, ‘Peace’ and ‘Creation’ in St Monica’s Cathedral nearby.
For five nights our accommodation will be at DoubleTree by Hilton in thriving regional Cairns city, and on the last night you’ll stay in Port Douglas, (a winter haven for Southerners’) dining at the acclaimed Salsa restaurant. You’ll have access to some of Port’s most stylish and interesting gardens in private estates, and then you’ll visit The Botanical Ark – Alan and Suzie Carle’s fascinating ethno botanical gardens begun twenty-five years ago.
Of course in every garden we visit wonderful outdoors living spaces are where hearts beat, where residents make the most of life in the tropics. Relaxing beneath a fan is the perfect balm during summer’s humidity. You’ll find TNQ residents don’t take themselves too seriously – they are welcoming and amiable. And when we lunch at the Flecker Botanic gardens, colourful iridescent sunbirds flitting by will become a lasting memory, and symbol of your visit to this stunning region. For expressions of interest please email Phoebe: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fees cover accommodation, meals, local transport and entry fees. Flights to and from Cairns and travel insurance will need to be personally arranged. This is a moderate level fitness tour, which includes quite a lot of walking on uneven surfaces.