The 363 hectare Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne was established in 1970 and opened in 1989. This site was established when it was realised the main Botanic Gardens site in the city was unsuitable for the cultivation of native plants due to space and soil restrictions.
The area has been home to the Boonerwurrung people for thousands of years. The site had been used from 1820-1960s for sand mining, grazing, timber felling and use by the military. The largest hill, a site known as Towbeet and of strategic and spiritual significance to the aboriginal people, was completely levelled.
The gardens consist of two main areas: the Australian Garden and a native bushland area.
The Australian garden was developed to celebrate the beauty and diversity of Australian flora, landscapes, art and architecture. It consists of various gardens and includes a Rockpoll Waterway and Escarpment Wall. The first stage opened 2006 and the final stage is due to open in 2011. There is an entry fee to this part of the gardens, which includes a visitor centre and cafe.
The native bushland area comprises two thirds of the total site. It contains a lookout with 360 degree views, a picnic area and a variety of walking tracks. The heathlands, wetlands and woodlands are home to a variety of plant and animal life, including rare and endangered species.