Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens Adventure

Fitzroy Gardens are full of surprises. The Heritage Listed park fits into a swathe of internationally acclaimed parks and gardens within a short walk of Melbourne’s CBD.

Although parks can be found all around the city, some of the most accessible cluster on both sides of the Yarra River, east and south of the city.

Unlike Perth’s Kings Park on the other side of the continent, where two-thirds of the 400 hectares (almost 1000 acres) are reserved as bushland, Melbourne’s city gardens are more likely to be manicured and botanically diverse.

The smelly, swampy area which was reserved as the future Fitzroy Gardens in 1848 has evolved into elegant parkland . As well as beautiful treelined avenues, garden beds with seasonal plantings and large grassy areas, it boasts a rotunda, bandstand, Victorian-era monuments, follies and a waterfall.

According to the Victorian Heritage Database, the Gardens of Melbourne are

… a reminder of the city’s relatively large investment in public gardens, a reflection of 19th century beliefs about the moral and health benefits of green spaces in often dirty, smelly and overcrowded cities.

Some of the attractions in Fitzroy Gardens

We spent several happy hours recently exploring the Fitzroy Gardens and discovering unexpected attractions. They entertained and amused us and helped us to understand more about Melbourne and its history.

Cook Family House

First we came across the house of the parents of Captain James Cook. Note: James Cook himself never lived in the cottage. Originally built in Great Ayton, Yorkshire, UK, this charming cottage caught the eye of philanthropist Sir Russell Grimwade. He purchased and transported it to Melbourne where it was re-erected the centre of the Gardens in 1934.

Cook's parents' house Fitzroy Gardens
Home of the parents of James Cook in Fitzroy Gardens

Volunteers restored the cottage. They continue to maintain it and act as enthusiastic and proud guides. They provide racks of 18th century men’s, women’s and children’s clothing of many kinds. We watched tourists deliberating on which costume they would like to wear as they toured the house. People dressed in clothes from another era seemed to find it easy to talk with others as they walked around

A delightful, fenced kitchen garden, begun in the 1970s, complements the cottage. Culinary plants and medicinal herbs grow abundantly. Volunteers encourage tourists to imagine life in the house and garden.

Cooks' House showing cottage garden and racks of clothes (left by doorway)
Cooks’ House showing cottage garden and racks of clothes (left by open doorway)

Tudor Houses

A display of Tudor houses grouped together allow a glimpse into yet another era.  Edgar Wilson, a pensioner in London, built the cement village. He presented it to the City of Melbourne in 1948 to thank the city’s generosity in sending food to Britain during World War II.

The collection includes houses, barns, school, church, pump and even a stock, as well as a scale model of Shakespeare’s home and Anne Hathaway’s cottage. 

Miniature cement house in Tudor village
Miniature cement house in Tudor village

Ola Cohn’s Fairies Tree

The Fairies tree, the work of artist Ola Cohn, captured my imagination and I wish that my photography had done it justice. The artist carved the fairies, gnomes, dwarfs and many Australian animals and birds on the stump of one of the original Red Gum trees in Fitzroy Gardens.

Carvings on Fairies Tree

The plaque on the tree is inscribed with the artist’s own words:


“I have carved in a tree in the Fitzroy Gardens for you, and the fairies, but mostly for the fairies and those who believe in them, for they will understand how necessary it is to have a fairy sanctuary – a place that is sacred and safe as a home should be to all living creatures.”

Fitzroy Gardens has been awarded Green Flag status, for excellence in standards of management and service. The Green Flag Award program is new to Australia and aims to raise park standards across the country.

Address of Fitzroy Gardens

230-298 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne (Close to the Melbourne Cricket Grounds)

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9 thoughts on “Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens Adventure

  1. Lovely post & photos. We have just been to Melbourne for only 3 days & too wet & windy to go here. However had an excellent guided tour of Parliament house & out on train to Rippon Lea. But most special to see our grandson & have his guided tour of Trinity College Uof Melbourne.

    • Maureen that is lovely. I love meeting up with my grandchildren in far flung places! You might like to read my comment above to Sue W about being with my granddaughter in Yorkshire a few years ago. Thanks for your comments about my post and photos. We were extremely lucky to have used our umbrellas just once in a fortnight in Melbourne in July. It rained at night, but the days were fine, but quite cold. Nothing that coats, scarves and boots didn’t take care of.

  2. This is so interesting Maureen and I love your photographs, especially the Yorkshire cottage, then again coming from Yorkshire my opinion is biased!

    • Thank you, Sue. I loved the Yorkshire connection, as well. I’m not sure if I told you that my granddaughter Jane did her PhD in Medieval Studies at York University a few years ago, and John and I had a fabulous fortnight with her in York. I fell in love with the place and would love to go back. She was working on the way the medieval monks reused stone and artefacts from Roman buildings in their new builds, and so was a mine of information about monasteries, castles, cathedrals. We were entranced and I love the connection with you through your photos and blogs.

      • You told me about your visit when we first met. I’m glad you enjoyed York and Yorkshire. Recently, a blogging colleague from Grimsby (next door to Yorkshire) wrote a derogatory article about York. Other bloggers said they would leave it off their places to visit. I was disappointed in his article and felt it was a shame that he had put off so many people. He felt it was overpriced, too many builds from the sixties and didn’t offer much to tourists!

        I think all tourist areas are expensive wherever you go and unfortunately post war Britain did go overboard with their sixties building work, but so much has also been preserved and that’s what should be celebrated.

        • Really sorry for my delay in responding, Sue W. I am amazed that anyone could possibly say that York doesn’t offer much to tourists. We thought it was a delightful town, packed with interesting sights, sounds, smells and things to do. Our apartment was right next to the River Ouse which was in itself a wonderful attraction and would have loved to stay much longer than the two weeks we were there. Maybe I should write a blog about why we loved York!

          Perhaps the person from Grimsby suffers from sour grapes?

          • He is a very well travelled man and I believe he felt it was over rated compared to other places in Europe. I also think much depends on our mood of the day!

    • Apologies for my tardy reply, Susan, and thank you for your comment. It makes me happy when a blogger like yourself is inspired by something I write.

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