Wander through these luxurious gardens, where the exotic and unusual flowers are reminiscent of the tropics.
Originally created by a countess, the extravagant Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens are a unique feature in the English countryside. Flowers from far-flung locations grow here and perfume the air with their sweet scents. Smell the fragrance of plants from all around the world in this horticultural wonder.
The gardens were built in the 18th century with the intention of growing fruits, vegetables and herbs for a nearby castle. Botany lovers later introduced the biodiversity that remains here today. In 1990 it was refilled and refurbished after a storm. Meander along its historic paths and see why it has become an award-winning destination.
The gardens cover an area of 12 hectares (30 acres) and are dedicated to a wide variety of plants. Roam the paths winding through different sections of the garden and admire the brilliantly vivid colors of the flowers. Look for camellias, which feature intricate, overlapping layers of petals. Cross the wobbly Burma rope bridge and explore the old Victorian garden, enclosed by a wall that makes it feel secret.
Take a map with you and use it to find your way around the expansive grounds. Let children explore the play area in the northern section of the park while art admirers stroll through the sculpture trail in the middle. Dogs are welcome in the gardens.
Amble up Magnolia Walk for views of the Jurassic Coast. Watch the tide roll in and out on Chesil Beach, an 18-mile (29-kilometer) strip of pebbles that stretches from Weymouth. After you've been inspired by the displays, stop at the garden center for plans and plants to help you with your own subtropical paradise. Have lunch at the Colonial Restaurant, so named for its old-fashioned design.
The Subtropical Gardens are in the small village of Abbotsbury, about a 20-minute drive from Weymouth. The gardens host events throughout the year, including at Easter and Halloween, so check the website for details. Combination tickets get you into other local attractions including the tranquil Swannery.