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9 Beautiful Botanic Gardens, Arboretums + Nurseries in North County (Master List)

north county san diego botanic gardens nurseries

North County is home to some of the most beautiful botanic gardens in San Diego. There are lush landscapes aplenty. These charming garden spaces filled with flora and fauna are sure to please all who visit. Whether you are looking for a quiet place to ponder all the things or want to soak in the gorgeous greenery, we’ve got it all. Here’s our guide to botanic gardens, arboretums and garden nurseries in North County San Diego.

Botanic Gardens, Arboretums & Nurseries in san diego north county coastal

(Del Mar to Oceanside)

1. San Diego Botanic Gardens

Arguably the most popular botanic gardens in North County San Diego, the San Diego Botanic Gardens is an expansive and well nourished horticultural jewel. Located in the coastal North County city of Encinitas, the San Diego Botanic Garden is home to thousands of species of plants and flowers. There are daily guided tram tours, classes, local events, and more. The Hamilton Children’s Garden is a spectacular natural playground with a stunning tree house, a music garden, water feature, and more. Admission is $14 for adults, $8 for children 3-12, and free for members.

For more detailed information, visit our article on the San Diego Botanic Gardens here.

2. Sunshine Gardens

Just as its name implies, expect this nursery and garden to add a little sunshine to your day. Sunshine Gardens is a full-service family owned plant nursery that also has vibrant grounds and plenty to see and do. Sunshine Gardens have been in business in Encinitas since the early 70’s. There are birds, goats, and of course “Bubba” the tortoise. There is also a koi pond. Flowers and plants are sold year round. Located within the grounds of Sunshine Gardens is the beloved local pie shop Betty’s Pie Hole, the North County Olive Oil Company, and a florist. Well worth a visit. Admission is free, plants are available for purchase.

3. Meditation Gardens at The Self Realization Fellowship

The Meditation Gardens at The Self Realization Fellowship is some of the best manicured, curated and cultivated gardens in California. You won’t want to leave after you spend time walking the grounds and taking some time for yourself. The foliage is absolutely stunning. There are also koi ponds, nooks, and private areas to sit, as well as stunning ocean views. Admission is free.

For more on the Meditation Gardens and Fellowship, see our in depth post about the Self Realization Fellowship.

4. The Flower Fields and Armstrong Gardens

The Flower Fields are a long time North County favorite, but did you know that the Armstrong Gardens Nursery that runs the attached nursery and gift shop is open year round? You’ll find a sprawling gift shop, seasonal plants and flowers, water-wise plants and knowledgeable staff. Free gardening classes are held each month. Located adjacent to the Outlet Shops at the corner of Palomar Airport Road and Paseo Del Norte. Armstrong Gardens is free to the public. Plants are available for purchase. The Flower Fields are open to the public seasonally from March through Mid May.

For more on the Carlsbad Flower Fields, see our guide to the Flower Fields here.

Botanic Gardens, Arboretums & Nurseries in san diego north county inland

(Rancho Bernardo to Escondido)

5. Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens and Nursery

Nestled in the far reaches of North County is Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens and Nursery. This charming and delightful garden is a one-of-a-kind gem that you will instantly fall in love with. Along with colorful blooms and plants for sale, there is a cafe that serves up an inventive organic picnic menu and strawberry lemonade in mason jars. Around every corner of the grounds, you will find something to delight your senses. There is an old gypsy wagon, a carousel (for viewing only), a gazebo, goats, a working water wheel, a lawn for picnic-ing and more. The gift shop is full of delightful items. Available only on the weekends is the goat feeding and fairy garden building project (both extra fees). The concept gardens are always changing and being moved around, so there is always something new to see.

6. Alta Vista Botanical Gardens

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens is located in Vista at the top of the hill inside Brengle Terrace Park and adjacent to the Moonlight Ampitheatre. Alta Vista Gardens strives to be a place the community can gather through nature, art, and education. The gardens were previously owned by the former caretakers of now closed Pikake Gardens. Now, they are owned and managed by the City of Vista. Landscapes teeming with local wildlife and plants adorn every inch of the gardens. There are several themed gardens with hundreds of varieties of plants local to the theme. There are several sections of the 13-acre property that are under development for future gardens.

Art is also a significant focus at the gardens. Sculptures around the property were donated by artists and some art is available for purchase via consignment. There are currently nine Ricardo Breceda. They are a certified butterfly habitat, certified wildlife habitat and members of the public gardens association. Their newest addition is the Children’s Discovery Trail. Admission is free for members and $5 for non-members.

For details on this hidden gem of a garden, see more of Alta Vista Gardens here.

7. Buena Creek Botanic Gardens

Tucked away in the outskirts of the unincorporated Vista/San Marcos area, the Buena Creek Gardens are a bit of a secret garden. While strolling the winding paths, you’ll hear the babbling sounds of fountains, smell the fragrant blooms, and see the abundant greenery that covers the garden.

8. Palomar College Arboretum

Believe it or not, there are 31 different themed gardens located within the Arboretum at Palomar College. In fact, recently, the entire college was deemed an arboretum. On display in the arboretum and across the campus are flora and fauna that reflect the college’s passion for conservation and care of nature’s beautiful plants and flowers. You’ll find everything from California native plants and a medicine garden to succulents and a rose garden. The Palomar Arboretum Gardens are open to the community and free to the public.

9. Exotica Tropical Nursery

If you travel from Fallbrook to Vista, you may have driven past Exotica Rare Tropical Fruit Nursery. They sell rare and exotic plants and fruit trees. They have been in business for over 30 years and sell over a thousand different varieties of rare trees and plants. The grounds are covered in dense lush greenery. There are several green houses on sight that house the trees that are in the process of grafting and propagation. This is the perfect place for someone who is into growing their own fruit trees or into rare plants. The staff is super friendly and welcoming. They might even share some educational knowledge with you about the tree growing process. There is no admission and trees are available for purchase.

Your Turn…

Do you know of any missing gardens, arboretums, or nurseries that should be included in this guide? Contact us here or comment below.

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Michelle Sybert: Michelle also writes at her blog Be Brave, Keep Going and lives in the North San Diego area with her husband and two children. When she's not writing, Michelle loves to go hiking, discover new breakfast spots, and photography. Follow Michelle on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram