We are fortunate to have so many spaces of beauty in our part of the world, and many, like this one, cost nothing to enjoy. Have you discovered this secret oasis yet?
Not so far from our own backyards, nestled in Lavender Bay, lies a local treasure – a secret garden. This haven of beauty, with meandering pathways, nature and serenity, is Wendy Whiteley’s Garden. Seekers of quiet moments in nature will find benches and tables, space to lay a picnic blanket beneath leafy canopies, and spectacular views of Sydney Harbour.
Even though it’s hidden away and many – even those who live nearby – don’t often know of it, the Garden has been featured numerous times in travel publications, news programs, radio shows, television shows and more, resulting in visitors from all over Australia and the globe. The story of Wendy Whiteley and her beautiful Garden has even been documented in a book, Wendy Whiteley and The Secret Garden, by Janet Hawley. And what a story it is.
Above: The book about Wendy Whiteley and her secret garden, and some of the gorgeous trinkets to be found in the garden.
The inspirational woman behind the Garden
The Garden has been a labour of love over the past 20 years for artist Wendy Whiteley, who has invested millions in its beauty. Wife and muse of the late Australian artist Brett Whiteley, Wendy started work on the garden after the loss of her dear husband, dedicating her time to the overgrown mess that was unused railway land at the foot of her Lavender Bay home. Wendy never had permission to do this, but nobody asked her to refrain from building the beautiful sanctuary we can all now enjoy.
Sadly for Wendy, tragedy struck again with the death of her daughter and only child, Arkie, at the age of 37. This only inspired Wendy to throw herself further into the upkeep and design of the garden. Without previous experience in horticulture, Wendy built the Garden through the eyes of an artist and the grief of a heartbroken woman.
What you can expect to find
Strewn with impressive artefacts, the Garden is a living work of art, full of exotic and native plants, herbs and trees, and the wildlife that is attracted to the area creates a beautiful chorus in the canopies for visitors. The Moreton Bay Figs provide ample shade to relax under, while the varieties of flowers and shrubs make for a photographers’ playground.
How you can use the Garden
Aside from just basking in its beauty, you can book group tours or enquire about weddings or parties via the North Sydney Council website. There is no need to book for smaller groups. Many families have had smaller children’s parties in the magical surrounds of Wendy Whiteley’s Garden (probably going on a fairy hunt or two while there!). Your fur friends are also welcome at the park, provided they are kept to open areas and that any mess is cleaned up.
And if you’d like to put your gardening skills to good use, the Garden is maintained by employed and volunteer gardeners. Contact email@example.com to find out more.
How to find the Garden
Cradled by the Lavender Bay Parklands, the Garden isn’t signposted and best navigated to via online maps. Free to the public, it is bordered by Lavender Street and Harbourview Crescent, across the road from The Kirribilli Club. Although accessible for everybody, the garden does have some steep inclines and steps, so it is advised that those with limited mobility stick to the upper layers of the park.
From masses of weeds, rubbish and dumped furniture, to a beautiful Sydney treasure, we have a lot to be grateful to Wendy Whiteley for. It’s worth your time to visit this wonder. Take the kids, a picnic, a book, your meditation mat. Relax, enjoy, and get lost in Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden, where the magic that inspired her is sure to inspire you too.