Australia’s Largest Explorable Cacti Collection Will Transport You Across Continents
Imagine yourself in a desert landscape, surrounded by beautiful cacti and other succulents, on sandy walking trails that take you away to the other side of the world. Spend an afternoon in Mexico, or the Sahara, but actually right here in Australia! Discover a huge 12-acre garden with thousands of varieties of incredible plants that will leave you astonished at how crazy mother nature can be.
You may not have heard of Strathmerton, but it’s one of those small country towns that has really put itself on the map. About three hours north of Melbourne via Shepparton, the place has a history of dairy farming. But Cactus Country is the attraction drawing travellers, families and even wedding parties to this relaxed and quiet town.
Cactus Country is home to Australia’s largest explorable cacti collection. It first opened in 1988, spawned from a humble hobby on the land of a fruit-and-veg farmer, Jim Hall, and his wife, Julie. Jim built on his own assortment of cacti and succulents by buying a large exotic collection. And his love for propagating and experimenting with different species, tied in with years of patience, has now become a fully fledged family-run tourist destination.
Exploring the gardens is a plant lover’s dream! There are 8 different trails which guide you through South American, Mexico, North American and South African sections of the garden. There is also Cactus Farmer Jim’s valley of hybrid giants, which is not to be missed! Plant guide books are available for those interested in learning about the beautiful plants along the garden trails.
Spring – particularly October and November – is the most spectacular time to visit. But Jim, who is the creative director these days, is working towards having flowers year-round, something he’ll achieve through plant breeding. The plants are grown from seeds in hothouses, where Jim manually cross-pollinates different species. It takes at least three years for hybrids to flower.
Once you’ve explored the garden’s thousands of species, head to the cafe with coffee from Shepparton roaster GB Coffee. Snacks include loaded nachos and cactus-inspired creations (think cactus cake and cactus ice-cream made using parts of prickly pear and other fruiting cacti). To drink, there are Mexican Jarritos sodas and frozen Margs.
There’s also a nursery, so you can start your own cacti collection or order via the Instagram page. John’s tip: “They’re really suited to the hottest part of your garden with the least amount of rainfall.”