Just 6km from Johannesburg’s city centre, Emmarentia Dam and the surrounding botanical gardens provide a beautiful green space and recreational area for Joburgers and visitors alike. A popular weekend picnicking site, the park is also one of the best places to visit in Johannesburg to walk your dog, jog or ride a bike.
Johannesburg Botanical Gardens has seven distinct gardens: the Herb Garden, the Hedge Garden, the Succulent Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, the Rose Garden, the Chapel Garden and the Arboretum (a collection composed exclusively of trees).
The Herb Garden contains aromatic plants which have medicinal benefits, culinary uses and cosmetic purposes. The Hedge Garden consists of 58 species of hedges, and the Succulent garden, which may be visited only by appointment, is planted with more than 2 500 species of succulent. The Arboretum has a variety of indigenous and exotic trees, including Californian Redwoods, silver birches and English oaks.
The Shakespeare Garden features herbs which the English playwright referred to in his works. Adjacent to the Shakespeare Garden is the beautiful terraced Rose Gardens which is planted with over 4500 rose bushes. To the east of the Rose Garden is the Chapel Garden, which is often used by bridal parties for wedding photography.
Emmarentia Dam and facilities
The north-east section of the gardens is dominated by the large Emmarentia Dam which is fed by two smaller dams within the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. This section offers a different take on things to do in Gauteng.
Emmarentia Dam spans 7.5-hectares, an area which makes it ideal for watersports such as canoeing and sailing small boats. There are canoeing and rowing club facilities on the eastern embankment, and birdwatchers can see geese, dabchicks (little grebes), moorhens and other waterfowl.
The small café near the main entrance on Olifants Road serves light meals and refreshments and home-packed picnic baskets are more than welcome within the park.
Secure parking from different access points can be found in Thomas Bowler, Orange and The Braids roads.
Portion of the succulent garden in the Johannesburg Botanical Garden (Image: NJR ZA)
The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens date all the way back to 1866, before the city of Johannesburg was founded. The area was part of the Braamfontein farm which was owned by the Geldenhuys family. Following the Anglo-Boer wars at the turn of the century the family contracted landless Boers to build the Emmarentia Dam (which was named after Louw Geldenhuys’s wife, Emmarentia) and to plant thousands of trees around the area. The botanical gardens were founded soon after.