Alexandra Gardens, Melbourne
|Water||Yarra River, Historic Boatsheds|
|Vegetation||Australian Native, Lawns, Non-native traditional gardens|
|Connecting transport||Tram, Bus, Car|
|Facilities||Barbecues, Toilets, Shelters, Bicycle hire, Seating|
The Alexandra Gardens are located on the south bank of the Yarra River, opposite Federation Square and the Melbourne Central Business District, in Victoria, Australia. The Gardens are bounded by the Yarra River to the north, Princes and Swan street bridges, with Queen Victoria Gardens and Kings Domain across Alexandra Avenue to the south. The gardens are part of the Domain parklands which stretch to the Royal Botanic Gardens and were first laid out in 1901, under the direction of Carlo Catani, Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department. They are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register due to their historical and archaeological significance.
Alexandra Gardens are part of a larger group of parklands directly south-east of the city, between St. Kilda Road and the Yarra River known as the Domain Parklands, which includes;
From the time of European settlement of Melbourne in 1835, the area of the gardens were used for timber cutting, cattle grazing and as a brickmakers’ field. Regular flooding occurred, until a new channel for the Yarra River was dug from 1896 to 1900 to straighten and widen the river. The spoil was used to fill the swampy lagoons and brickmakers pits and raise the height of the river bank where Alexandra Gardens now stands. Landscaping occurred immediately, and the gardens were planned and laid out for the visit of the Duke of York in May 1901.
Cycling and skating
Pedestrian and cycle access to the gardens is via steps or a ramp from Princes Bridge, or along the promenade from Southbank under Princes bridge. Vehicular access is provided by Boathouse drive from Alexandra avenue. Next to Princes bridge bicycles are available for hire to explore the Capital City Trail along the river. Also the prominent, The Around the Bay in a Day cycling event has its finish line at the Gardens.
Alongside the Yarra River numerous Rowing Club boathouses nestle in the gardens, including the Mercantile Rowing Club. You will often see rowing coaches cycling along the bike path megaphone in hand, giving instructions to their rowing crew. The Olympic champions, the Oarsome Foursome, were known to train along the Yarra river.
The annual Henley-on-Yarra regatta was held from 1904, every spring just before Melbourne Cup day. For a day and a night Melburnians flocked to the Yarra to watch this sporting event, with attendances peaking at 300,000 in 1925. After World War II, the event declined in significance, however the annual Australian Henley Rowing Regatta still occurs as an amateur event in December, with recent attempts to increase its popularity.
Past the boathouses are lawns with electric barbecues, which are popular spots for picnics and office parties around Christmas time. As well as lawns fronting the Yarra river, the gardens contain: a star shaped garden bed representing the Federation of Australia; many mature trees including elms and an avenue of planes and oak trees along Boathouse Drive; ornamental flower beds.