Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and Emmarentia Dam

Portion of the Rose Gardens in the Johannesburg Botanical Garden. Photo courtesy NJR ZA

Johannesburg’s beautiful Botanical Gardens are situated on the western shores of the popular Emmarentia Dam, just 6km from the city centre.  The park itself has three dams on which boating, canoeing and sailing is offered. The area surrounding the gardens is a great place to enjoy a bike ride, go for a run, take the dog for a walk or kick a ball with the kids.

The gardens boast some of the finest plant collections in the world comprising formal gardens, a succulents and herb garden, 4 500 rose bushes and approximately 30 000 trees. Interestingly, the herb garden, contains many plants used in medicinal and cosmetic remedies.

Popular for wedding photographs, the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens are an oasis - a magical spot to have a picnic, go for a walk or just simply relax. There is a small café which serves light meals and refreshments and be sure to take in a summer sunset concert.

Just 6km from Johannesburg’s city centre, Emmarentia Dam and the surrounding botanical gardens provide a great open space and recreational area for Joburgers and visitors alike. A popular weekend picnicking site, the park is touted as one of the best places in the city to walk your dog, jog or ride a bike. Even better, you can snooze on a blanket in an out-of-the-way spot in the sunshine.

There are actually three dams on the 81ha park, which dates back to 1866. The farm “Braamfontein” was owned by the family Geldenhuys, who contracted landless Boers to build the main dam after the South African War. The dam was named after Louw Geldenhys’s wife, Emmarentia. The gardens were founded around this time too, so the 30 000 trees – including exotics such as oaks, redwoods and birches and at least 20 000 indigenous specimens – are well established.

Portion of the succulent garden in the Johannesburg Botanical Garden. Photo courtesy NJR ZA

In the northern part of the park, the formal gardens feature terraced ponds and fountains, and 4 500 rose bushes make for an awesome summer display in the Shakespearean garden. The herb garden contains plants used as medicinal remedies and those with culinary and cosmetic uses. The succulent garden, which may be visited only by appointment, is planted with more than 2 500 species. Indigenous vegetation is encouraged in the reed beds and Highveld grassland areas.

In the north-east of the garden, the dam is used for water sports such as canoeing and sailing small boats. There are club facilities on the eastern embankment. Birdlife includes geese, dabchicks, moorhens and other waterfowl.

Gardening demonstrations are held regularly and the garden is one of 300 worldwide that takes part in a seed-exchange programme.

It is common to see wedding parties posing for photographs in the formal gardens and in the chapel garden. Summer Sunset Concerts have proven hugely popular. The small café near the main entrance on Olifants Road serves light meals and refreshments but home-packed picnic baskets are welcome.

The gardens are open from sunrise to sunset everyday.

Safe parking from different access points in Thomas Bowler, Orange and The Braids roads.

Visiting hours

Sunrise - Sunset