Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and Emmarentia Dam
Conveniently located just outside of the city center—but a world away when it comes to the atmosphere—the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and Emmarentia Dam are a popular spot for water sports and relaxing in nature. Visitors who want to take advantage of the lake’s recreation opportunities can bring their own watercraft or join activities at one of the lakeshore clubs—options ranging from sailing to renting stand-up paddleboards. The Chapel Garden hosts weddings and the surrounding park is also a popular backdrop for photoshoots.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The park offers a convenient escape for visitors who want a break from the busy streets of Johannesburg.
- You can get lunch at the park’s cafe or bring your own picnic basket to enjoy in one of the picnic areas.
- Many of the garden pathways are paved, making the area easy to navigate with a wheelchair or stroller.
- Bring your running shoes—the park’s trails are a great place for jogging.
- Dogs are welcome at the dam and along walking trails (on leashes) but not allowed in the botanical garden.
How to Get There
Located about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the city center, Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and Emmarentia Dam are easiest to access by car. From the M5, turn right on Thomas Bowler and follow it to the park. There is protected parking at the Olifants Road main entrance as well as at other access points on Thomas Bowler, Orange, and The Braids roads. The park is also accessible by bus.
When to Get There
The park is open year-round but you should visit in the summer if you want to enjoy water sport activities. Summertime visitors can also catch the sunset summer concert series, which draws local and international musicians to the lakeside venue.
Best Parks in Johannesburg
While most people think of Johannesburg as a concrete jungle, there are a surprising number of natural escapes right in the city. If the Emmarentia Dam leaves you wanting more watersports and lakeside picnicking, head to Zoo Lake. To get out on a hike, try the trails at Kloofendal Nature Reserve. For birdwatching, choose James and Ethel Gray Park.