As any South Australian pedant (is that a tautology?) will know, Mount Lofty isn’t South Australia’s highest mountain. That honour, as said pedant/s would confirm, goes to the 1435 metre high Mount Woodroffe in South Australia’s far north up near the Northern Territory border.
But Mount Woodroffe is a long way (and not visible) from state capital Adelaide, so Mount Lofty, clearly the highest point of the Mount Lofty Ranges locally known as ‘the Adelaide Hills’, generally does the honours. And in the context of its striking contrast rising above the mostly flat plains on which Adelaide is built, the 710 metre high peak certainly looks impressive.
Even more impressive is what’s atop this minuscule ‘mountain’ range in the driest state of the driest continent on earth – so NOT where you’d expect to find a flourishing garden full of the cold climate plants that tend to thrive at this ‘elevated’ altitude!
But Adelaide is full of surprises and an autumn rich with vegetation in colours you’d normally find in the Northern Hemisphere coupled with the BEST autumn climate in the country is one (or is that two?) of them.
So head to the Hills – and the crowning glory nestled on the slopes just below Mount Lofty’s lofty summit. Yes, the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden (call it like it is, Adelaide!), only a 20 minute drive from the city centre, for an Adelaide autumn experience complete with colours you’re unlikely to see in the natural Aussie bushland.
Of course its position on Mount Lofty’s eastern slope means most of the several kilometres of walking trails criss-crossing this 97 hectare hotspot are pretty steep.
But steep climbs mean spectacular views and getting to them is half the fun through habitats with names like Fern Gully, the Heritage Rose Garden, Arboretum and Woodland Garden.
There’s even a Scenic Loo or two for pleasure AND business!
When I hit Mt Lofty’s heights for my first ever autumn adventure I found an oasis of lush vegetation, beautiful flowers and colour that proves you CAN see autumn colours downunder!
And around every corner is a new trail (including a section of SA icon, the Heysen Trail), a burst of colourful flowers, a tree in full autumn garb or a scenic vista to take your breath away.
It’s completely different in spring with its colourful displays of native wildflowers and rhododendrons in the gullies and lining the paths. And different again in summer for an outdoor performance by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra on the grassy slopes below the main dam,where the temperature was a good 10 degrees C below the heat of the plains.
And winter? Your guess is as good as mine!
But I’d never seen the spectacular autumn colours of the trees around the main lake reflected in its still waters. Or the colours in the view from the vantage point above the lake to the rolling grass lawns and arboretum, and to the private properties beyond the garden boundary.
Further up along the trails, the rich colours of the blanket of oak leaves underfoot contrasted with the brightness of trees in full autumn glory against the blue sky of a perfect Adelaide Autumn day!
And whichever way I looked was view to die for at the Woodland Garden loo – the scenic hills landscape rivalled only by the riot of red in its garden setting!
Back down the path the flowering hydrangeas my black thumbs would surely kill in my own garden lit up the late afternoon shadows – for on an eastern-facing hillside this steep, the sun sets early!
Below on the main lake, grebes cavorted amidst rippling shadows.
Children rolled down the grassy slopes below the lake oblivious to the signs warning of the dangers of such risky behaviour.
The lowering sun sparkled in that peculiarly Adelaide Autumn way picking out the highlights of the colours and throwing them against a darkening background.
And a newly wed couple – either that or they’d dressed especially for a wedding photo re-enactment – shared a quiet moment under the trees.
Give me a Northern Aussie winter to escape the southern cold. A Sub-Tropical Spring for the flowers. A Tasmanian summer to beat the mainland heat.
But in Autumn, Adelaide’s the ONLY one place to be!
And in Adelaide, Autumn’s best at the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens!!
WHERE: Mt Lofty Botanic Garden is 15 km east of Adelaide, a 20 minute drive
WHAT to do: Enjoy several km of walking trails (wear sturdy walking shoes); Gardens (various habitats), Dams, Sculptures, Flowers and Wildlife. Each season’s different!
WHEN: 365 days per year (check the Botanic Gardens Website below for opening times)
COST: Free entry, metred parking
*Photos for this post were taken on 20 April, 2013.
- Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens MAP
- Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens
- Botanic Gardens of South Australia
- More Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens Photos on Flickr!
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