Become reacquainted with the sun, bare feet and eating off the ground.
The origins of the word picnic stem from two French words — 'pique' meaning to pick at food, and 'nique' meaning something small of no value. If picking at food of no value is the official translation, I guess that would make 'picnic' the overarching theme of my life.
But as the weather warms up, let’s make it official — become reacquainted with the sun and bare feet, and ask your mum if you can borrow the family picnic blanket (don’t give it back. She’ll deal).
I know it can be intimidating to penetrate the constantly replenishing perimeter of walkers, runners and cyclists who circle the Royal Botanic Gardens with your picnic basket and bottle of red in hand (especially if you've already started your picnic pre-drinking), but it's worth it. The best thing about Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens is that everyone has their own favourite place to park a blanket for a picnic. Whether it's in front of the Rotunda, or that lake where everyone saw The Wind in the Willows when they were nine years old, there is certainly no shortage of ‘just right’ patches of grass within the Botanical Gardens.
Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra
ONE TREE HILL
The best part about winter is all of the food concealed by all of the clothes. The worst part is all of the junk that finds its way to your trunk. But don't fret! About an hour’s drive from the CBD, One Tree Hill Picnic Ground in the Dandenong Ranges not only boasts one of the prettiest picnic spots you ever did see, but also allows you to work that ass on the beautiful walk up, 15 minutes further than the end of the 1000 steps forest walk. Exercise directly related to the end result of miniature cucumber sandwiches and pastries is my kind of physical activity.
At the top of the 1000 steps/Kokoda Track Memorial Walk
For film-loving picnickers, the Moonlight Cinema is also located within the Botanical Gardens, and a basket brimming with tasty noms is a tradition that 100 percent of movie patrons partake in. Or something. I’m a bit fuzzy on the exact statistics. Be sure to arrive early for maximum daylight hours so you can spot that last Snickers Pod, and to make sure you get a park! The Moonlight Cinema season will recommence in summer 2013/14 so there is plenty of time to pre-plan your picnic program.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Avenue (near the intersection of Domain Road), South Yarra
These days it seems as though everyone is reserving a Deluxe Ocean Recliner on the Spirit of Tasmania so they can Instagram a picture of MONA. Save yourself the hassle and head out to the grounds of Melbourne's iconic Heide Museum for all of your Australian art-themed picnic needs. Shannon Bennett’s Cafe Vue is onsite to provide delicious take-away lunchbox feasts for the spontaneous snacker.
Set against the beautiful Como House and Gardens in South Yarra, The Stables of Como is a tasty little cafe that offers a specially packed picnic pick-up service, and will send you on your merry way with a map of their favourite spots within the Como gardens. Rest assured, this is no jam and peanut butter sandwich situation — think roasted cauliflower, chickpea and quinoa salad with Persian feta; a Ploughman's board with smoked ham hock terrine, Maffra aged cheddar and apple jelly; and Chocodence Swiss chocolate and mint hand-rolled truffle. Dying. Dead.
Cnr Williams Road and Lechlade Ave, South Yarra
STUDLEY PARK BOATHOUSE
If you are a couple of smug lovers, consider Studley Park Boathouse for your upcoming romantic picnic spot. Nearby to the secluded, bushy picnic area, you can hire a canoe, kayak and rowboat to read poetry to each other in, or whatever it is you people do. Just don’t try to recreate any adorable boat-tipping-wet-shirt-Mr-Darcy situations; whatever you might catch from the Yarra River will probably end your relationship. Infectious diseases aside, it really is a beautiful spot, and well worth rolling out a rug with your loved ones.
1 Boathouse Rd, Kew
Situated off Brunswick Street in the heart of North Fitzroy, Edinburgh Gardens is a beautiful, leafy park popular with hip young things of the north side and conveniently located near a bevy of bottle shops and countless food stores sure to fulfil your every desire. Despite its expansive 24 hectares, a sunny afternoon at Edinburgh Gardens is always a social experience, its magnetic effect attracting hoards of happy people from Melbourne’s creative epicentre, all itching to take off their shoes, play an impromptu DJ set on portable speakers and call the end of a workday at 3pm. Facilities include barbecues, tennis courts, a basketball court, a playground and skate park. So much room for activities!
Alfred Crescent, Fitzroy North
Superstitions and ghost stories aside, Melbourne's iconic Abbotsford Convent makes for a cultural-activities-based picnic with ample opportunity for wandering and exploring. The sprawling grounds are home to a diverse array of creative practitioners, C3 contemporary art space as well as the drool-inducing Convent bakery, conveniently located at the entrance for any last-minute baked good cravings.
1 St Heliers Street, Melbourne
Best known as the site from which a party of schoolgirls inexplicably disappeared in 1900, this 6 million-year-old heritage site is now a major attraction for walkers, history buffs and people like me who are just there to find out about all the creepy disappearance stuff.
If the magnificent natural rock structures, mysterious history and the fact that the Rock itself was formed by an eruption of lava from a nearby (now dormant) volcano aren’t enough to persuade you, at least go to say that you’ve had a Picnic at Hanging Rock. Do it for me.
South Rock Road, Woodend
For the discerning picnicker with a preference for a cool sea breeze, St Kilda’s Catani Gardens is an idyllic fusion between urban and ocean. One of the only places in Melbourne where it is acceptable to find a palm tree lined avenue, six hectares of brilliantly landscaped gardens hugging both the city and the sea is located right on the St Kilda foreshore. While not as secluded as other options, the boardwalk setting provides the perfect vantage point of ample amounts of people watching, as well as immediate access to a host of fancy fish and chips shops. Extra points will be given for those who rollerblade with basket in hand to picnic point of choice.