Lisgar Gardens
Experience | garden | Hornsby | Picnic | Sydney North | New South Wales

Lisgar Gardens

A tranquil garden to explore in Hornsby

by Susie Baber  |  8 October 2021

Although I have lived in the area for longer than I care to admit, I had never visited Lisgar Gardens. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it until recently when my teenage daughter went for a picnic with some friends. She returned home exclaiming ‘Mum, you would love this place….’. So, it went on the list of things to do, and with daylight savings now here, I have the opportunity to do a little weekday exploring.

Tucked away in the back streets of Hornsby on a peaceful hillside, the gardens cover an area of 2.6 hectares. The garden site was originally bought in 1917 by Dr. Max Cotton from his brother Leo, for the specific purpose of building the gardens. They were later sold to Hornsby Council and were opened to the public in 1968. The gardens back on to Florence Cotton reserve which was named after Leo’s wife.

Lisgar Gardens are famous for their camellias, more than 90 species grow across the hillside. The gardens are still lovely at other times of the year, sandstone terraces are filled with rhododendrons, azaleas, and gardenias along with native trees and ferns.

From the entry gate a path winds down the hill past a pond to a semi formal planted area. Sandstone walls surround a formal grass area and garden beds are filled with colourful annuals. On this level you will find a shade house containing fishponds, a gazebo and many picnic tables. There are also toilets available. Paths wander through the camelias with secluded benches tucked away around each bend.

The hill side is quite steep and there is an inclinator to take you back to street level from the gazebo area if you wear yourself out. The inclinator hasn’t been running during Sydney’s lockdown so maybe check with the council if you think you might need it. This is also not a great place for wheelchairs or prams as there are lots of stairs, keep an eye on the little ones near the fishponds and terraced walls.

Further down the hill the forest changes and becomes filled with native trees and ferns. There is a small stream, several ponds, and more picnic tables. From here you can do the Florence Cotton Loop which is a 2km bushwalk down to Jimmy Banks Creek.

The walk down to the creek and back up is quite steep and there are many stairs, but it is an easy and clear path. The bushland reserve is filled with tall open forest including Blackbutt, Sydney Blue Gum, Red Bloodwood, Smooth-Barked Apple, Turpentine trees and Allocasuarina, with a warm termperate rainforest alongside the creek at the base of the valley. From the loop walk there are other access point to the road including Pretoria Parade and Pinera Close, these might be good parking options at busier times.

Access to Lisgar gardens is from the southern end of Lisgar Road where there is a limited amount of on street parking available. If coming by public transport the gardens are a 15-20 minute walk from Hornsby train station.

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