Next time you're on the hunt for the perfect picnic spot, pump out those road-trip tunes and head down to Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens - a beautiful and historical property only an hour's drive from Melbourne's CBD. Cultivated by the first producer of Aspirin in Australia, Nicholas travelled the globe tracking down exotic seeds and saplings to grow in the ornamental garden surrounding his mansion, Burnham Beeches.
After Nicholas's death in 1937, the property went through a number of different hands, becoming a children's hospital (1941), a research facility (1955) and a hotel (1981) before the garden was passed over to Parks Victoria and opened to the public.
Now, if you ask anyone who is a regular visitor when is the best time to explore it, the answer is almost always the same. In Autumn when the canopy is a mixture of orange and reds and leaves fall lazily in the breeze, it's a magical place to see. Visitors can stroll along paths lined by towering mountain ash, watch Koi swim in connected ponds from wood bridges overhead and settle down for a snack on small, grassy interconnected islands under the watchful eye of the local ducks.
Further explorations will take you through grassy fields, around rocky waterfalls and unique buildings like the famously photogenic shed (above). You can admire Burnham Beeches, now in-between purposes and locked down to the public and read about its history on one of the many panels around the property.
When you've seen everything there is to see, wander back down to neighbouring Olinda for a coffee and a scone at one of the popular cafes and bakeries. Bon Appétit!
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens,
1 Sherbrooke Road,