THERE is something calming about walking through botanic gardens, and Gladstone's spectacular offering is no different.
For those visiting the green escape only 8km from the city centre, it's all about the senses, feasting on the smells such as the lemon myrtle, the sounds of the kookaburras, the colours, the textures of all the different plants.
Once you have taken in all that the gardens have to offer, it is surprising how it all manages to come together in an organised fashion.
The Tondoon Botanic Gardens cover an 83ha site and have become a popular meeting place for community groups and friendly gatherings.
Visitor services officer Donna Hann said the gardens had back-to-back bookings at the moment, with this weekend's celebrations including a couple of weddings and a business function.
Donna said the gardens were developed for four main reasons: to attract tourism, to provide a retreat away from the region's industry, provide education for children, and research.
"We have a great herbarium that we've built up over 20 years," she said.
However, keeping the large area in pristine condition takes a lot of hard work and there are 21 volunteers at the moment working in a variety of roles, with new people always welcome.
"Some of the volunteers collect specimens, press them and send them to a herbarium in Brisbane for analysis," Donna said.
"If there was an endangered species they would know exactly where they come from.
"I try to find out what the volunteers like to do and find something that fits them.
"We all learn off each other. We're like a big family."
One of those volunteers who has found a niche is John Deno.
John, a budding photographer, has been volunteering since July.
His photos are on display on a rolling disc in the information centre, with the discs available for purchase.
Joining John on Thursday's free guided walks from 10.30am until 12.30pm was another John.
John Fraser is well known for his informative guided garden walks and his incredible fountain of knowledge is integral to the visitor experience of the gardens.
Mr Fraser, who moved to Gladstone in 1975, has been a volunteer tour guide for the gardens and an information centre volunteer since 2003.
Even before retiring he had conducted tours of the power station where he used to work.
He still runs these tours for the power station and also relocation tours for people considering coming to work in Gladstone's industries.
"Everything I do, I've been asked to do," he said.
John said he used to get up early and walk through the gardens and one day when he was late to set off he bumped into a group of volunteers and it just progressed from there.
"I'm lucky if I get a day off a week," he said.
"It gives me a feeling of being able to help the town."
John said that through his guided tours he had met people from all over the world.
"We had some German tourists come through here and they were tickled pink... the paper bark was their favourite plant," he said.
In the guided tour John provides information on flora and fauna and the historic use of various plants by indigenous Australians.
Some of the highlights of Thursday's tour included seeing the Marcrozamia, the only plant in the world that has mercury in its leaves, and the Doryanthes, which is the biggest lily in the world.
John said the sandpaper fig tree tended to be a favourite with younger audiences, with some kids actually naming it the Bunnings tree.
Nearing the end of the tour, walkers went through the rainforest section with the temperature drop providing delightful relief on the summer's morning.
So, if you feel the need for an escape from the hustle and bustle, head down to the gardens where trunks and trees create an enchanted world that allows you to forget about whatever is on your mind.
- Opening hours for October 1- March 30: 7am-6pm, weekends 9am-6pm.
- Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day.
- Free guided walks every Thursday meeting at the cafe at 10.30am. Bookings essential.
- School holiday activities, bookings essential.
- Further information on the gardens can be obtained from the visitor services officer on 4971443 or going to the visitor centre.
AFTER only a week in Gladstone, Sabine Gazic is impressed with what she has seen of the region so far.
Sabine was among the new residents attending a Welcome to Gladstone morning tea at the botanic gardens this
Moving from Moranbah, the life strategist said she had already told her husband she hoped his project lasted a while.
"My husband got work here. I'm doing my own thing at the moment," she said.
"I've already talked to my girlfriends and told them there is plenty to do here so they need to come and visit."
Sabine took a guided tour of the Tondoon Botanic Gardens on Thursday and said she thought it was very informative, enjoying the customisation of the tour.
"We didn't have to rush and be somewhere," she said.
"It was a pleasant surprise what the gardens have to offer."
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