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Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden

Last Updated: June 24, 2024 Sydney
Tripadvisor Rating 5/5
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Google Rating 4.8/5
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avatar By Sam Baldwin

Want to have a serene day out with yourself in the heart of Sydney? Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden, one of the worst kept secrets in Sydney, is secret, aloof, and a literal art piece.

Lavender St, Lavender Bay NSW 2060, Australia

What is Wendy Whitely’s Secret Garden?

A hidden garden sounds like a fascinating place. Wendy’s is precisely that. A public garden and much-loved oasis in the heart of Sydney. The Secret Garden is nestled behind Luna Park in Lavender Bay.

In the weeks following Brett’s passing in 1992, Wendy threw herself into the desolate area just at the base of her residence, cleaning everything she found there. Wendy, his wife and muse, started constructing a garden that looked like a huge painting, a living tribute to their life and you’re invited to visit.

What resulted was a variety of bushes, both native and exotic, herbs, and gigantic Moreton Bay Fig trees running along twisting gully pathways.

photo of people running around in Wendy's Secret Garden with a view of Lavender BaySource: https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/113CE/production/_107160607_wendy1.png

The Story of Wendy Whitely

In 1970, Wendy and her late husband, the celebrated artist Brett Whiteley, established their family home in Lavender Bay and resided there for 20 years.

In the weeks following Brett’s passing in 1992, Wendy threw herself into the desolate area just at the base of her residence, cleaning everything she found there.

Wendy Whiteley began her garden with no training or specific plant knowledge, asserting, “We don’t do haute horticulture here.” Guided by her personal tastes, she crafted the garden, saying, “I just bought things I loved the look of and then we worked out what needed to be in full sun and what didn’t.”

Her connection to the garden is deeply personal, and she takes pride in the fact that “It’s a garden made by one woman, not by a committee or a council, or a professional landscape designer.” Working alongside her gardeners, Corrado Camuglia and Ruben Gardiol, their collective efforts were critical to the garden’s survival as “A lot of the planting was literally to hold the thing together,” showcasing the symbiotic relationship between her, her team, and the garden itself.

What resulted was a variety of bushes, both native and exotic, herbs, and gigantic trees running along twisting gully pathways. These plants attracted a peculiar collection of birds, including vibrantly coloured parrots, chattering gulls, observant kookaburras, and goofy wagtails.

However, the artist-turned-gardener had a new loss when Arkie, her only child and dearly adored daughter, passed away at age 37 in 2001. She, again, threw herself ferociously into the everyday garden labour while aching with sadness.

Did You Know?

a painting of Wendy Whiteley resting on a makeshift bench in her gardenSource: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/prizes/archibald/2016/29724/

What is the Secret Garden Famous For?

The Secret Garden is famous for its rambling pathways with several sculptures. People come here to enjoy a picnic lunch, relax with a book at one of the tables beneath the garden’s canopy, or simply enjoy the nature and serenity of their lovely surroundings.

The garden also offers magnificent views of the harbour’s coastline, which frames the Harbour Bridge, the edges of North Sydney, and the Central Business District.

An unusual thing about this place is that there is no physical sign indicating its whereabouts. To keep the “secret” part true, you can only go there by following Google Maps directions.

How To Get to The Garden in North Sydney?

You can use the following public transport to visit this stunning garden:

Nearest Parking and Cost

Since the park is a private area under the jurisdiction of the North Sydney Council, there is no official parking. However, you can park your vehicles on nearby streets.

Nearby Attractions – Make A Day Of It!

Here are the best nearby places around the secret garden:

This park is famous for its sporting fields and is children-suitable. There is a cafe too on the premises.

The beautiful tall building works as a church. People use it as an excellent spiritual getaway.

Top 5 Closest Hidden Gems – Recommended By Adventure Clues

Destination Distance
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney 4.8 km
Forgotten Songs, Sydney 5.0 km
Elizabeth Bay House 8.0 km
Paddington Reservoir Gardens 8.5 km
Milk Beach, Sydney 13.9 km

Your Hidden Gems Itinerary

  1. Start your journey at Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden.
  2. Then, head to the Royal Botanic Garden: This iconic garden is a short distance away and offers a beautiful natural escape right in the city’s heart.
  3. For a bit of artistic inspiration, make your way to Forgotten Songs: An art installation that celebrates the songs of fifty bird species once heard in central Sydney, this is a short and inspiring visit.
  4. Next, visit Elizabeth Bay House: A historic house museum offering a glimpse into colonial-era Sydney, it’s a short trip away and perfect for history buffs.
  5. Followed by a relaxing break at Paddington Reservoir Gardens: A unique garden that blends history with modern landscaping, it’s an easy and scenic journey.
  6. Finally, end your day at Milk Beach: A hidden beach offering stunning views of Sydney Harbour, it’s a slightly longer trip but definitely worth the visit.

Sydney’s hidden gem locations offer a diverse range of experiences, from historical insights to natural beauty, and from artistic inspiration to tranquil escapes.

Best Eateries Around

The following eateries are around the garden:

If you are looking for a vegan food place, Chedi Thai is popular in the neighbourhood.

This eatery serves refined Indian cuisine with an infusion of Indo-Chinese flavors. Their menu changes with the seasons.

Entry Price

The garden is open seven days a week and is free and accessible every day. However, due to its range of steps and tiered gardens, visitors with limited mobility may only be able to access the uppermost sections of the garden via Clark Park.

the leaves of the tree filter the sunlight and reveal the home of Wendy Whiteley in the backgroundSource: https://www.sydney.com/destinations/sydney/sydney-north/north-sydney-and-chatswood/attractions/wendy-whiteleys-secret-garden

Final Thoughts

The place is a public green space known for its diverse vegetation and artistic elements. The absence of rubbish bins in the area underlines the importance of visitors’ responsibility in maintaining the garden’s cleanliness and integrity.

Sydney is full of hidden, mysterious, but beautiful spots. Discover new places treasure-hunt-style through Sydney Scavenger Hunts by Adventure Clues!

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s address your most common questions about this public garden that serves as a serene, art-filled haven amidst Sydney’s vibrant cityscape. Yes, everyone needs a secret garden in their life!

What is Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden?

It is a public garden and much-loved oasis located in Lavender Bay, Sydney. It was created over 20 years by artist Wendy Whiteley, the wife of renowned Australian artist Brett Whiteley. The garden is nestled in the uppermost sections of the garden and offers breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House.

How can I reach Whiteley’s Secret Garden?

You can take a short walk from the North Sydney train station or a stroll from Milsons Point to reach it.

Why is it called a “secret garden”?

It is called so because it offers a hidden and secluded experience amidst the bustling city of Sydney. The garden provides a sanctuary for people to escape the everyday hustle and bustle and relax in nature.

Can I have a picnic at Wendy Whiteley’s?

Yes, visitors are welcome to have picnics in the Secret Garden. You can pack your picnic basket or read a book at one of the tables or benches available for people to enjoy their meals amid the charming environment of the garden.

Are there sculptures in the garden?

While it is primarily a lush green space, you can explore meandering pathways discovering sculptures around the garden.

You may even stumble across the Lavender Bay Jetty, one of Sydney’s most spectacular sights, located a short walk away from the garden.

Sources

https://www.wendyssecretgarden.org.au/frequently-asked-questions/

https://www.wendyssecretgarden.org.au/wendys-story/

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/23/wendy-whiteleys-secret-garden-and-her-one-woman-mission-to-save-it

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