The Gardens & Grounds


Government House is located between the King's Domain and the Royal Botanic Gardens, south-east of Melbourne’s Central Business District. The Gardens and Grounds feature magnificent lawns, which are sparingly planted with specimen trees and surrounded by large beds of trees and shrubs, as well as a formal garden for the private use of the Governor and guests.


Shrubs in the morning sunlight


History of the Gardens and Grounds

The 29 hectares between the Yarra River, Anderson Street, Domain Road and St Kilda Road were set apart as Domain parkland in 1841. This land included a reserve for a future Government House. The highest point of the park was selected for Government House so that it would be visible from the CBD.


The grounds of Government House, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Melbourne’s Domain were originally landscaped as a single parkland. The Victorian Government had run a competition for the ground’s design, but none of the 20 entries were considered suitable. The horticulturalist Joseph Sayce offered an unsolicited design as a gift, which was accepted in 1873.


GH from onamental lake. Photographer WH Cooper. ca 1911Government House viewed from the Ornamental Lake, Royal Botanic Gardens, 1911


Sayce’s original design of curved drives, meandering paths and irregular arrangements of trees remains intact. Further refinements to the design were made by the project’s curator, William Guilfoyle (the noted Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens). Guilfoyle contributed exotic plant varieties and lush semi-tropical walls of foliage, as well as developing a more extensive sweep for the carriage drive.


Plan of the Government House and Domain Gardens Melbourne 16 April 1873Sayce's plans for Government House Grounds and the Domain Gardens, with Guilfoyle's amendments overlaid in red


In 1934, 18 hectares of the Government House site were transferred to the surrounding Domain parklands. This land has since been developed into the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden and the Sydney Myer Music Bowl. The gates of Government House were previously located near the present roundabout at Linlithgow Avenue, but were moved closer to the House in the 1930s.


The current 11 hectare property contains Government House, a large service yard, former stables, Mews outhouse buildings, and cottages.