Perth: Kings Park

Kings Park and Botanic Garden is the largest urban park in the southern hemisphere, and is the most visited sight in Perth, and all of Western Australia, with over 6 millions people strolling through it per year. It sits on 1000 acres of hilltop overlooking Perth and the Swan River Valley.
In ancient times, the area was home to the Nyoongar people, who held it to be a holy place. The British came in 1829 under the command of Governor James Stirling. He named the central slope of the park Mount Eliza after the wife of the governor of New South Wales, Ralph Darling. To the Nyoongar, however, it was known as Kaarta Gar-up, or "head of the water," and was said to be the resting place of the great serpent Wagyl, who created the Swan River and the other waterways of Australia. The Nyoongar used the place as a festival site and performed wedding ceremonies there. That tradition continues today since the park is one of the most popular spots in the city to get married.

Apart from its history, the real draw is the flora that has been accumulated here from all over Western Australia. Nearly 2,000 of Western Australia's 12,000 species are represented here, organized by region. A yearly Wildflower Festival in the springtime highlights the breathtaking beauty of the area's indigenous species, but even more impressive are the majestic bottle-shaped boab trees, the fragrant peppermint trees, and the small, spiny grass trees which, though compact, are among the most ancient species in the park, and have all kinds of healing properties.

We were lucky enough to go on a guided tour with Greg Nannup of Kings Park Indigenous Heritage Tours, who told us all about the Aboriginal culture and the uses to which they put the plants we saw--as food, shelter and medicine. However, I think the most fun we had was trying on the kangaroo pelt he brought along for us to see after he had told us about the mystical "Dreaming Time" of the Nyoongar, which is their version of the creation story. If you want the chance to tour the botanic garden for yourself but not the time to book with Indigenous Tours, visitors can join the free guided walks that take place daily at 10:00am and 2:00pm.

The park is not all natural museum though. There are also areas for picnics and barbecues, concert venues, and paths along which you can hike, bike and run. Take in the panorama of the park and the entire city from the aerial walkway, which runs 222 meters, including a gorgeous glass-and-steel bridge that spans 52 meters. That's where I filmed this short video where I tell you about all we saw and did during our brief hike in Kings Park.