Melbourne Zoo

Landscapes and horticulture

The Zoological Gardens at Melbourne Zoo – established in 1862 – are among Victoria’s most treasured gardens. They are home to thousands of animals and approximately 70,000 plant specimens.

Take your time to amble through our grounds and enjoy the natural beauty and carefully cultivated landscape.

Main Drive

Main Drive

Designed in the 1860s, the main drive at Melbourne Zoo has become an iconic landscape – and one of Melbourne’s most recognisable heritage gardens. 

Its long boulevard (170 metres) is broken by a series of paths and circular gardens, which lead to our habitat-based animal exhibits. Many heritage features can be found along the main drive, including federation-era buildings, a Peter Pan statue, and a restored animal exhibit. 

As with many gardens of this era, the zoo boasts bold tropical foliage such as Abyssinian Banana (Enseteventricosum), Bird of Paradise Tree (Strelitzia nicolai) and Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpusfortunei). 

Other highlights include feature plantings, colourful display gardens and native plants. 

Sustainable gardening

Garden bed at Melbourne Zoo

For more than 140 years, the main drive held renowned seasonal displays of introduced annual bedding plants. 

Recently, we’ve moved towards sustainable gardening practices. Our efforts include improving soil heath, biological pest control and using as little water as possible, while maintaining a beautiful display of Australian plant species, such as Grass Trees, Sturt’s Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paws, Paper Daisies, Billy Buttons and Cushion Bushes. 

We have reduced our water use by 60%, down from one million litres of water per year.

Survival secrets of the Australia Bush 

Kangaroo Paw

Our Australia Bush garden reveals the secrets of how plants and animals survive our country’s harsh conditions. An evocative bush landscape of red sand, pebbles, blue sky and open space provides an authentic backdrop for our plants and animals.

You’ll find examples of Australia’s 20,000 distinctive and unique flowering plants, reflecting the diversity of the Australian Bush. 

Just some of our iconic plants include the Queensland Bottle Tree, Kangaroo Paws, Grass Tree, the Emu Bush, Sturt’s Desert Pea, Eucalypts, Banksias and Waratah.

Learn how these plants adapted to their difficult environment – and about the landscape that once dominated much of Victoria.

Browsing food for our animals

Fresh leaves for our animals

Melbourne Zoo’s horticulture department works hard to provide fresh food for our animals to browse on.

Fresh browsing food enriches our animals’ diets and environments. Some of the animals who benefit from this include elephants, giraffes, Red Pandas and a variety of primate and ape species.

Each week, over 1000 branches are harvested from a variety of plantations, drawing on many plant species. Fresh browse is collected from several sources, including the zoo’s managed plantations and domestic gardens.

Many of the plants we collect for browsing food are environmental weeds. Feeding them to our animals contributes to the biodiversity of our environment.

Japanese garden

Japanese Garden

The Japanese garden was built in 1990, to mark the tenth anniversary of the sister-state relationship between Victoria and the Aichi Prefecture in Japan.

This garden (and an Australian garden in Nagoya, the capital of Aichi) were created to symbolise the strong friendship between the two states and to reflect the natural beauty of their respective landscapes. 

A joint project of the Victorian Government and the formerly named Zoological Board of Victoria, the Japanese Garden was opened in November 1991. It is still one of Australia’s finest examples of a traditional Japanese stroll garden.