Royal Botanical Gardens
With more than 180,000 plants, the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) are a tribute to the beautiful nature Ontario has to offer. Across five cultivated gardens and 27 km of walking trails, more than 2,300 plant species live and thrive so visitors can appreciate Canada’s vast and varied flora. At the RBG Centre, explore thousands of plants living indoors and outdoors, hailing from all over the world. At Hendrie Park, the largest of RBG’s gardens, visitors are taken through a journey of stunning gardening feats, like the themed gardens and the renowned rose garden. Make sure to ask staff what’s blooming at Laking Garden, where the perennials paint the gardens with a rainbow of colors throughout the year. For those who like to stay active, explore the gardens by walking along the nature trails.
The Royal Botanical Gardens are spread out across 1,100 hectares of land, which means driving offers the best opportunity to see all of the gardens. The RBG Centre and the flagship Hendrie Park are located just outside the city of Hamilton. Take York Road or 403 from Hamilton to reach the gardens in less than 15 minutes. From Toronto, a short drive along the 403 or 407 will land you at the Royal Botanical Gardens in less than an hour. The Arboretum, the Nature Interpretive Centre, the Rock Garden, Laking Garden and the trail heads are located across Hamilton and neighbouring Burlington. The gardens offer a shuttle bus around the grounds on some weekends.
Each of the curated gardens is at least partially accessible by wheelchair users, offering paved and fine-gravel pathways.
For up-to-date information and details on the Royal Botanical Gardens, we recommend you visit their website. For information about other places of interest to explore nearby, keep scrolling to see what Destination Ontario recommends.
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The vast and plentiful plants at the Royal Botanical Gardens are stunning to meander through, but the sheer number can make all the options seem a bit overwhelming. In that case, plan to take a guided tour of the gardens or visit during one of the numerous events that RBG offers, like a guided mindfulness walk around the gardens. Kids will love RBG, too, with a Discovery Station that allows future gardeners to learn how to plant their own gardens. Take a ride on the RBG Express, a short train ride that tours around the entirety of Hendrie Park during the winter months. RBG also offers family fun days several days per week, giving parents and kids the opportunity to take advantage of RBG’s educational and creative opportunities.
The Royal Botanical Gardens make the perfect day out for hobbyist gardeners, nature lovers and curious kids.
In addition to a gorgeous contemporary landscape, the Royal Botanical Gardens also have an historical flair. The David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden, for example, was built in 1932 as one of RBG’s first sites. After undergoing monumental changes, the Rock Garden now stands as both a memorial to RBG’s humble beginnings and a testament to its willingness to embrace the future. The limestone steps and beautifully constructed ponds and streams make the Rock Garden one of RBG’s more special—and oldest—locations.
At the Arboretum, learn more about Canadian forests in this landscaped park. Indigenous plants and flowering trees showcase the natural beauty of Ontario’s tallest flora. On the trails, RBG visitors can see the region’s wildlife and plants in their natural habitats, like the Cootes Paradise Trails that travel through one of the area’s migratory bird stopover locations. On the Hendrie Valley Trails, hike into the depths of the forest behind Hendrie Park, looping back to RBG Centre and Hendrie Park at the end. The Escarpment Property Trails offer a peek into the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, which tracks alongside the edge of the region’s famous escarpment.
Slow down with a cup of tea at the Greenhouse Cafe, the Rock Garden Cafe or the Turner Pavilion Teahouse, all open seasonally. Each of these on-site restaurants boasts seasonal ingredients and curated menus that will accent your day at the gardens perfectly. If tea and cheese boards aren’t your thing, check out Russell Williams Family Restaurant for all-day breakfast and comfort foods. In Hamilton, grab a bite at Delirious Burger Company for indulgent fare or Earth to Table: Bread Bar Locke for one of the locals’ favorite pizzas.
The Royal Botanical Gardens are also surrounded by several other conservation areas, like the Dundas Valley Conservation Area and the Borer’s Falls Conservation Area, where you can continue a day of trail walks and check out some of Hamilton’s famous waterfalls. The Smokey Hollow Waterfall, a tall, rushing fall in natural bush forest, is a nearby attraction visible from the viewing platform at the end of an intermediate hiking trail.