South Australia has three botanic gardens. The one we're most familiar with is the Adelaide one in the central business district. Then there's Mt. Lofty botanic gardens in the Adelaide Hills and quite far south in the suburb of Blackwood is Wittunga botanic gardens.
The other Monday we had a public holiday, so with the rest of the family out having fun with their own pastimes, my youngest, Izzy, and I decided to head off somewhere new to explore. I thought I'd been to the Mt. Lofty botanic gardens once before and hadn't been particularly impressed, but we decided to give it a other go.
Located in Crafers, it's about a 30 minute drive from Adelaide’s centre, but an hour for us. While entry to the gardens is free, the parking is paid ticket parking every day except Sundays and public holidays. It's not a huge cost, $3 for the day or $1 for the first hour (does that mean hourly?). The money raised goes to the upkeep of the gardens. There are two carparks and entrances, an upper and lower one. We ended up at the lower one.
Opening hours vary between 8:30am and 10am, depending on the day and closing time is 4pm in the week, 5pm at the weekend or 6pm during daylight savings. We arrived just before 4pm, so were happy to still be in daylight savings. At 97 hectares, we still weren't going to cover much of it in 2 hours anyway.
From the Lower Carpark
Nothing was looking familiar to me, so maybe last visit we entered through the upper carpark. Toilet facilities were in the carpark near the entrance. Yes, I embarrassed Izzy by taking a photo of it!
I suspect it's on a septic tank system, because the smell outside was distinctly sewery. Another reason why my daughter didn't want to hang around there. There are actually toilets dotted around the gardens, so I shouldn't have worried so much about not finding another one.
A lookout area from the carpark offered a lovely view of fields, trees and part of the lake.
From where we were, the easiest part to explore was the area around the lake.
First we ventured along the pathway above the lake, taking photos as we went.
An information shelter where visitors can read a bit about the plant life in different seasons.
Dotted around the gardens are these sculptures which discuss things, from the part water and wood play in ecosystems, to geology.
As we were taking photos of the views and flowers along the path a friendly girl approached Izzy and told her about a dragonfly down in the gully which was being very cooperative for photographing. It was a steep bank to get down there and initially I wondered if we were allowed to explore off the paths, but judging by the bench at the bottom, we were.
The dragonfly was indeed very amenable and photogenic. For a moment we wondered if it had died there, but on closer inspection we discovered that it was cleaning it's head. It ignored us even when we got really close to it with our cameras.
Later we discovered what I suspect is a wolf spider home. They build a little fence at the entrance of their tunnels. Izzy was quite happy that it didn't come out to greet us!
Then a larger animal took us by surprise, just having a munch at the side of the path while waiting for us to pass so that he could get to the grass on the other side.
He was a powerful looking grey kangaroo, who patiently waited for us to finish photographing him and move on before carefully making his way down the steep slope and across the path.
Past the lake we ventured into fern gully, keeping an eye on the time so as to get back to the entrance before closing and not get locked in the carpark. It's a peaceful, picturesque, almost story book place, with paths disappearing into the trees.
You shall not pass!
Flowers and Water Lilies
As it was approaching evening it was dropping cool and being in the hills helped speed that up. Izzy, who was in shorts and a sleeveless top, was starting to feel the chill, so we began to head back towards the car via the other side of the lake.
On the route back we passed a beautiful pond full of waterlilies. After the extreme heatwave of last month, this was the only area which appeared to have got through it almost unscathed. The grassy area was the only one we'd encountered which didn't have huge brown patches, but the huge leaved plants along the water's edge had sustained some scorched leaves.
I love water and these gardens didn't fail to bring a beautiful tranquility. I could happily have spent hours there.
Those huge leaved plants had some interesting fruits/flowers on them
Early autumn brought a stunning variety of colours, not just with the foliage, but the flowers, the berries and even the lichen on a dead bush.
I'm looking forward to visiting again and seeing what the other areas and seasons have to offer.
Photos mostly my own, some taken by @izzydawn, mainly the flowers, berries and kangaroo.