Ten Idyllic Picnic Spots Where You Can Throw a Rug Down in Melbourne
Pack your basket and head to these picturesque spots for a well-deserved park session.
Dappled shade, fluffy clouds, fruity drinks and a picnic basket stuffed with cheese — as far as outdoor socialising goes, it's hard to beat a sunny picnic at a great local park. Winter's done and dusted, and these days we'll take any chance we can get to enjoy Melbourne al fresco.
The only downside is having to make a decision. The city has so many cracking parks and gardens that it can be a little hard to choose at times. To help you out, we've rounded up the prettiest open air haunts for your next park hang — best enjoyed with a picnic rug, some good company, and a few choice eats and drinks from somewhere local. Pack a picnic and check out this lineup of Melbourne's most idyllic parks.
UPDATE Friday, October 1: Melburnians can currently travel up to 15 kilometres from their homes, and are allowed to venture out for up to four hours a day for exercise and outdoor social interaction. Check out the latest information on the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website.
ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS
What many would deem the crown jewel of Melbourne parks, the Royal Botanic Gardens boasts all the quintessential features, from manicured lawns interspersed with a huge, colourful variety of flora to winding footpaths and duck-filled ponds. Encompassing 38 hectares of prime space just south of the CBD, this one's a true outdoor oasis boasting picnic spots galore. Pick a setting — perhaps a shady tree-lined grove or some picturesque waterfront turf — and settle in. Stretching your legs post-picnic? A short wander through the gardens will take you to historic sights like the Melbourne Conservatory and the Guilfoyle's Volcano wetlands.
ST KILDA BOTANICAL GARDENS
A serene green escape from the buzz of St Kilda's beachside stretch and nearby Acland Street, the St Kilda Botanical Gardens are a picnicker's dream. Registered with Heritage Victoria and created way back in the 1800s, the site is home to a whopping 810 mature tree specimens, including numerous iterations of the suburb's iconic towering palms. Pull up a patch overlooking the pond and solar-powered 'Rain Man' fountain, and kick back with some al fresco eats courtesy of one of the many nearby eateries. There are plenty of other fun features to check out while you're here, including the conservatory.
The smallest glimmer of sunshine and Edinburgh Gardens instantly becomes the inner-north's outdoor destination of choice, with people flocking to appreciate its tree-lined pockets and green expanses. Spread across 24 hectares, it's pure picnicking gold, complete with shady trees, sun-drenched lawns, barbecue facilities, a skate park and a sprawling off-leash dog zone for those four-legged visitors. Here, clinking drinks among the flower beds is allowed from 9am to 9pm each day, and you'll find plenty of venues within strolling distance where you can stock up on supplies. Try Piedimonte's for snacks and cheese, or Blackhearts & Sparrows (Fitzroy North) for that booze run.
CRANBOURNE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS
When you're in the mood for a little jaunt out of the city, Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens deserves a spot high on that picnic hit-list. Not only does it have all of those prized park fixtures — sweeping grassed patches, walking tracks, barbecues and picture-perfect scenery — but it's home to an award-winning Australian garden with a renowned collection of plants. Set over an impressive 15 hectares and with a waterway winding through its heart, the garden showcases a huge array of native flora and fauna, alongside various landscapes from across the country. And with stacks of rare and endangered species calling the site home, it's well worth doing a little exploring before you settle down for that scenic picnic session.
Envelop yourself in the leafy oasis that is Fitzroy Gardens and you'll find it hard to believe you're just metres from the edge of the CBD. It's rocking a typical Victorian-era park set-up, decked out with scores of grand old elms, rolling lawns intersected by neat pathways and even a conservatory. The site's also home to the charmingly tiny Captain Cook's Cottage. As with all City of Melbourne parks, you're allowed to enjoy a tipple here, so a pre-park stop by City Wine Shop is always a good idea. Throw in some treats from Spring Street Grocer's cheese maturation cellar and you've got yourself one very enviable picnic situation.
Nestled just beside the city, and home to the Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Museum, the heritage-listed Carlton Gardens have long been a popular picnic pit-stop for locals and visitors alike. And you won't find a better pick for post-museum park hangs. The site abounds in green, open spaces and big shady trees, so you'll never have to battle for a spot to throw down your picnic rug, even when that sun's shining. What's more, with the culinary hot-spots of Fitzroy's Brunswick Street just a quick stroll away, you've got a plethora of choice when it comes to those al fresco eats.
ST VINCENT GARDENS
Sitting pretty in the heart of Albert Park, yet nice and removed from the suburb's more famous namesake green space, St Vincent Gardens is brimming with picnic potential. This quaint haven of flowers and greenery might be petite, but it's got everything you need for a relaxing park session — leafy trees, colourful garden beds and a healthy ratio of sun-drenched turf. Plus, it's heritage-listed, so you know it's got some style. And as far as food goes, consider yourself spoilt for choice with South Melbourne's main strip located just a few blocks north. Trust us: the South Melbourne Market has all the deli goods and cheese your heart could desire.
PT ORMOND RESERVE
Hunting for a particularly picturesque outlook? In this part of town, the parks come with an extra side of dreamy bay views. Point Ormond Reserve in Elwood — which falls just outside the City of Port Phillip's St Kilda Foreshore alcohol ban — is the perfect hill on which to perch yourself for a beachside picnic with some snacks and a couple of bevvies. Up here, there's plenty of open space, overlooking the water and with the city skyline in the distance. Pooches are also allowed to join in the picnic fun as long as they're on a lead. If you're need of some last-minute picnic supplies, you'll find a healthy crop of cafes and wine stores lining nearby Ormond Road, offering a wide range of eats and drinks to-go.
YARRA BEND PARK
Leafy Yarra Bend Park spans over 260 hectares, making it the largest area of natural bushland in inner Melbourne. It follows the tree-lined swoops and loops of the Yarra, so there are a great many nooks and crannies perfect for laying your picnic blanket in socially distanced seclusion. Any spot along the river on the east of Yarra Boulevard will prove scenic and serene, as will the spacious, verdant sites near Dight Falls (a man-made dam built in the 1840s). Basically, there's no shortage of grassy patches beckoning you to settle in with a cheese board, a wine bucket and some good company. The park's also home to both the Fairfield Boathouse and Studley Park Boathouse, where you can pick up a bite to eat or venture out on a post-picnic river jaunt.
WOMEN'S PEACE GARDEN
Tucked away in the heart of Kensington, the Women's Peace Garden is one of those picturesque suburban spots that simply begs you to unfold a picnic rug and settle in for a couple of hours outdoors. Filled with peace symbolism ranging from the rosemary and olive trees to the universally recognised shape formed by its shelters and pathways, this charming open air space is about as serene as they come. If you're after supplies, swing past neighbourhood favourite Local Folk, which'll sort you out with takeaway coffees, toasties and some top-notch sweet treats.
Decided on a nice, grassy spot? Next, check out our pick of cheese stores, bakeries, delis and bottle shops for stocking up on quality picnic supplies.
Published on October 01, 2021 by Libby Curran