by Jessica Hill

I’ve always loved the juxtaposition of the build and natural environment. The hard, urban landscape set against the smoothness of nature. That’s why my favourite place in Sydney is a secret oasis of green, hidden away amongst the towering office blocks and apartments. 

The gardens don’t look like much from the outside. Only a glimpse of the treetops hint at what lies behind the garden walls. After you’ve paid your AUD$6 and turned the corner, you’ve entered another world. 

It’s an explosion of color. You’re greeted with red and golden Chinese pavilions, waterfalls, lakes, hidden passages and weeping willows. Every corner you turn you’ll find an ancient penjing garden (penjing are very similar to Japanese bonsai, but a little less formal), a grove of red bamboo, or a pond filled with water lilies. If you’re lucky you might spot a tortoise, or some ducklings. 

The Chinese Garden of Friendship officially opened in 1988 and was named to represent the bond between China and Australia. Over the last 29 years the gardens have matured, and now seem as though they’ve emerged straight from the concrete. 

The gardens aren’t big, less than a New York block, but somehow they them feel endless. Circumnavigating the central lake, you’ll pass the weeping willows where the native Ibis nest, step through a circular door or decorated archway, and climb up the rocks beside the waterfall. From the top of the hill you can see the whole gardens below. 

If you’re hungry there’s also a teahouse that serves dumplings. Or if you feel like a drink, it’s the perfect spot for an afternoon wine. 

So if you’re ever in Sydney, and feel escaping the city for some time amongst nature, make sure you stop by the Chinese Gardens of Friendship. #itsplantporn



Pier St

Sydney NSW 2000, Australia


Jessica Hill is a freelance journalist who is interested in the relationship between plants and people. Follow her on Instagram @plantsunknown.