Chinese Friendship Garden in Sydney

Sydney's Chinese Friendship Gardens

If you’re looking for a green space in the city and one of Sydney’s best gardens you can’t go past the Chinese Friendship Gardens.  This gorgeous space offers an oasis of calm nestled between the bustle of Sydney’s Chinatown and the ever expanding Darling Harbour precinct.  We dropped in at the gardens as a refresher after spending a few hours wandering the city streets in the heat of summer.  The moment you walk through the gates into the walled garden you are greeted with a sense of calm and a rejuvenation of your energy levels.

Sitting on around a hectare of land you could easily forget you are in the middle of Australia’s biggest city.  The project started in 1988 to celebrate the Australian Bicentenary and are a credit to the huge effort put in by the local Chinese community and co-operation between Sydney and it’s sister city Guangzhou in southern China.  The many ponds, waterfalls, hidden meandering pathways and Chinese style art work transports you to another time and place.

Dramatic in all seasons

During summer when we visited the sacred lotus are in flower, the sweet heady fragrance of the frangipani and gardenia surrounds you and the dramatic weeping willows put on a beautiful showing around the edges of the many ponds.

It’s a garden designed for year round appeal.  A little earlier in spring time you’ll see the azaleas, peony and magnolia in flower.  During autumn the prince of orange lends it’s autumnal colours to the grounds along with the camellias.  Even in winter the garden isn’t bare, the waratah and early flowering plum and cherry blossom brighten things up.

Features of the Chinese friendship garden

The Ponds

The most striking aspect of these gardens are the ponds and I’d estimate that at least 50% of the space is taken with water features including ponds, rivers, cascades and waterfalls.  The largest is the lake of Brightness where the sacred lotus were in flower and the lotus pond outside the tea pavilion.  The unique twin roofed pavilion shown in the photo below was a gift from the people of Guangdong and as with many of the garden features is symbolic, in this instance representing the friendship and co-operation between the two states.

Chinese Friendship Garden in Sydney, Australia
Chinese Friendship Garden in Sydney, Australia

Rock Structures

Rocks have an important place in the gardens.

The first you come to are in the Penjing courtyard where there are three dramatic sculptures made from rare Ying rock, a mountain limestone found in southern Guangdong.

From the Water Pavilion of Lotus Fragrance and other spots around the gardens you’ll get a good view of the dragon rock rising up out of the lake.  The dragon is a benevolent guardian of the garden and symbolic of good fortune.

After the pavilion you’ll come to the rock forest which tells a love story from a Chinese legend of Ashima and the landlord.  The short version is, Ashima, the beautiful maiden is kidnapped by the son of a rich landlord and forced to marry him.  Her love, a brave shepherd, rescues her but the landlord unleashed the floodgate and drowns her as they escape.  Her spirit is captured forever in a rock statue.

Chinese Friendship Garden in Sydney, Australia
Chinese Friendship Garden in Sydney, Australia

The Clear View Pavilion

Also called the Gurr, this gorgeous hexagonal pagoda sits at the highest point in the garden.  It offers wonderful views in all directions and features golden roof tiles and detailed wood carving inside that were gifted from the province of Guangdong in China.  You can also see the central lamp in the photo below which signifies prosperity.

Chinese Friendship Garden in Sydney, Australia
Chinese Friendship Garden in Sydney, Australia

The architecture

There are many other special structures in the garden.  These covered walkways guide you from the entrance to several garden rooms including the Water Pavilion of Lotus Fragrance with it’s panoramic view across the lake and garden.  While I can’t say that I could discern the fragrance of the lotus we were fortunate enough to see tropical waterlilies and the sacred lotus in their summer bloom.

Chinese Friendship Garden in Sydney, Australia

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The Sydney Chinese Friendship Gardens are some of the best Chinese gardens we’ve seen outside of China and are well worth the entrance fee.  The tranquility will be especially welcome for anyone like me that finds the commotion of the central city a little overwhelming after a couple of days.  It might have been the tea but after a couple of hours I was completely ready to tackle the crowds outside and continue exploring the city again.

Chinese Friendship Garden Visitor Information

Cost

An entry fee of $6 per adult is charged

Facilities

The garden contains several areas to sit and rest along the way.  There are clean toilets and accessible friendly restroom facilities available although the full gardens are not well suited to wheel chairs due to the steep site and uneven ground.

Overlooking the ponds there’s an attractive traditional tea pavilion.  A great selection of Chineseteas are available along with western refreshment options.  You can also enjoy dumplings, pastries and other treats from the cafe menu overlooking the gardens for a perfect vantage point.

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Opening Hours

Open daily 9.30am until 5 pm.  During summer the gardens remain open until 5.30 pm.  Closing days are Christmas Day and Good Friday.

Location

At the south east corner of Darling Quarter.

21 Comments

  • It’s really beautiful to see green gardens. Actually, it can relax our emotional and Spiritual aspects. Chinese Friendly Garden is really friendly and scenic. As I read the article, I’m pretty impressed with its facilities, and the entrance fee is not that costly. This is perfect for our Grandparents to visit.

  • What a beautiful green space! Certainly not your typical city park. The landscaping is stunning, and love the ponds and pagoda. It looks like a truly tranquil spot to relax in Sydney, and for only $6 for entry, totally worth it!

  • One hectare of land dedicated to a Chinese garden in the middle of Sidney is quite awesome. Green space is so important in cities. Well done – Sidney!

  • I am always happy to pay a fee to enter a garden. I know some won’t approve, but we had excellent experiences with it. It has been a long time since I was in Sydney but there’s always the chance I’m heading back so I will definitely keep this in mind for a (hopefully) future visit!

  • Love the gardens! There are something so special and unique about Chinese gardens. Maybe it’s the whole aesthetic or ambience, but somehow, the whole place seems to always exude tranquility.

  • Love the Chinese Friendship Gardens, and we go there quite often and always take visiting friends there. I also love that it is the midst of China Town in Sydney, which has some of the greatest food around.

    • Loved the food in China town Paula, we’d intentionally stayed at that end of town earlier this year for CNY, we’d normally aim as close to Circular Quay as budget allows but it made an interesting change and as you say some of the food was amazing between there and Darling Harbour

  • This is a lovely place. Interestingly, during my trip to Australia, I kind of felt more in Asia than what I would expect from Australia, due to the amount of Asian people in Sydney and Melbourne. For me it felt great since I love Asia! I was going to Chinese food court daily! The Chinese Friendship Garden looks fantastic, I didn’t know about it. Thanks

  • It’s lovely to see greenery in cities. It’s wonderful that the Chinese community, the city of Sydney and Guangzhou collaborated to make something beautiful.

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