The days are long and the weather is warm: all we want to do is get outside. With plenty of gardens and parklands in or near the city, you don’t need to drive for hours to make the most of the spring and summer weather. If you live in the city and have a few hours to spare, pack your picnic basket and head to your nearest urban green space for an afternoon of sandwiches and sunshine.
City Botanic Gardens - Brisbane’s oldest park, the City Botanic Gardens, features ancient trees, rainforest glades and exotic species. Take your pick of spots by the banks of the Brisbane River, near Weeping Fig Avenue, along Mangrove Boardwalk or near one of the garden’s ornamental ponds.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha - You’ll find plenty of space to stretch out here (56 hectares to be exact), and with over 200,00 plants on display you’ll soon forget you’re only seven kilometres from the Brisbane CBD. Have a zen moment in the Japanese Garden, wander through a rainbow of succulents in the Cactus House, stargaze at the Planetarium, and see some exoctic plants in the geometric Tropical Display Dome.
Photo by Kgbo
Epicurious Garden - Foodies and green thumbs rejoice! Epicurious Garden in South Bank has something for everyone. Exotic plants and fresh produce grow side-by-side, and you can get some tips on growing your own city veggie patch or pick up some free produce from the harvest cart.
King Edward Park - Right in the heart of the CBD, King Edward Park is a green retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. As well as plenty of lawns perfect for spreading out a picnic rug, the park is an art and history buff’s paradise: public artworks sit alongside Brisbane’s only surviving stone air raid shelter and the city’s oldest convict building, The Windmill.
Roma Street Parklands - Grab a bottle of wine because Roma Street Parklands, one of Brisbane’s licensed parks, is just a 10 minute walk from the Brisbane CBD. If you’re a gardening enthusiast you’ll appreciate the range of plants here, while the designer gardens and sprawling lawns will put a smile on the face of even the keenest picnic-er.
Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens - A 10-minute drive from Surfers Paradise, you’ll find 31 hectares of gardens to explore. Get up close and personal with some butterflies in the Butterfly Garden, take the Mangroves to Mountains Walk, and feed the ducks from the boardwalk around the garden’s lake.
Photo by Batsv
Cascade Gardens - Settle in for a waterside picnic, or make your way along one of the rainforest walks. For a longer walk, take the Kokoda Memorial Walk, built to help visitors appreciate the experiences of men who fought on the Kokoda Track during World War II. The walk starts at the centre of the gardens and passes through sections of tropical rainforest.
John Laws Park - Spread out your picnic rug on the foreshore and enjoy one of the Gold Coast’s best views right across the water to the Surfers Paradise cityscape. If you feel like stretching your legs, head up the hill to the Burleigh Heads National Park and choose one of the walking tracks that take you through the rainforest or up to ocean lookouts.
Elizabeth Sloper Gardens - Better known to the locals as Laguna Park, Elizabeth Sloper Gardens is perfect for picnic lovers. You’ll find plenty of lawns under the shade of palm trees, and the one kilometre stroll around Laguna Lake is a great way to work off some cheese and biscuits (and make room for round two).
Royal Botanic Gardens - With some of the best views of Sydney Harbour combined with beautiful garden walks and sprawling lawns, the Royal Botanic Gardens are the perfect place for a city picnic. Learn about the Cadigal people, the traditional custodians on the land, in the Cadi Jam Ora - First Encounters Garden, see some ancient and threatened species in the Australian Rainforest Garden, or check out Sydney’s living art gallery, The Calyx.
Photo by Jeff Turner
Wendy’s Secret Garden - Tucked away amongst the Lavender Bay Parklands, Wendy’s Secret Garden is actually one of the Sydney’s worst-kept secrets. Despite its popularity, it still feels like a secluded oasis so it’s a great place for a quiet Sunday afternoon picnic (with views of the Harbour Bridge thrown in).
Photo by Sardaka
Centennial Park - At nearly 190 hectares, Centennial Park is Sydney’s largest urban green space, so there’s no shortage of lawn for you to roll out your picnic rug. Little ones will enjoy the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden, which has been purpose-built to encourage imaginative play, while your furry friend can make the most of the 154 hectares of off-leash space.
Photo by Winston Yang
Paddington Reservoir Gardens - Since it stopped supplying water to Sydney in 1899, the Paddington Reservoir has had a couple of lives, including a stint as a petrol station. It’s now been transformed into a heritage-listed green space, with much of the original brick, timber and iron fixtures built into the design. Stroll through the gardens and check out the graffiti art preserved on the reservoir’s walls.
Photo by Hermione9753
Swain Gardens - Over 70 years ago, Mick Swain began to transform the bushland near his house in Killara in Sydney’s north into a terraced country garden. In 1972 it was bequeathed to the National Trust and is now a public green space maintained by the local council. The gardens feature creekside paths, lawns, and flowering plants all year round.
Royal Botanic Gardens - Just south of the Melbourne CBD, the Royal Botanic Gardens are the city’s best-known urban escape. With more than 8,500 species from the around the world, large lawns and lakeside walking tracks, the Gardens are a tranquil place to relax after a busy day in the city.
Photo by Neil Parley
Fitzroy Gardens - Just a little east of the city, the Fitzroy Gardens were originally set aside as a reserve in 1848. As well as a wander along the Elm-tree-lined paths, no visit to the Gardens is complete without a look inside the Conservatory, which is home to hundreds of flowering plants all year round. Fitzroy Gardens are also home to Cooks Cottage, which was constructed in North Yorkshire by the parents of Captain James Cook and brought (brick-by-brick) to Melbourne in 1934.
Photo by Rexness
Heidi Gardens - The gardens at the Heidi Museum of Modern Art in Heidelberg are open to the public all year round, and stretch from the musuem down to the Yarra River. There’s plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy the hard work of Sunday and John Reed, who transformed the Heidi site from a neglected diary farm to a nourishing environment for some of Australia’s best-known artists. Today you can visit the walled garden, famous kitchen garden and the 15 acre sculpture park.
The Grotto at Kings Domain - One of Melbourne’s secret hideaways, the Grotto is located in Kings Domain near the Royal Botanic Gardens. A waterfall cascades into a cement grotto and flows into a series of pools, creating a tranquil escape from the busy St Kilda Road nearby. While there’s no room for a picnic in the Grotto, there are plenty of lawns in Kings Domain itself.
Carlton Gardens - Home to the Royal Exhibition Building, the Carlton Gardens are one of the most beautiful green spaces in Melbourne. Both the building and the gardens are World Heritage listed and were designed for the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Huge trees provide shade and throughout spring and summer, and beautiful autumn colours in the cooler months. Look out for the two fountains and ornamental lakes created for the 1880 exhibition.
Photo by Diliff
Footscray Park - To the west of Melbourne, Footscray Park offers views of the city skyline, Maribyrnong River and Flemington Racecourse and is the most intact Edwardian public garden in Victoria. The Maribyrnong River Trail runs along one side of the park, so take a walk or cycle along the river to work off your lunch, or find a quiet nook near one of the ponds or fountains for a truly relaxing afternoon.
Photo by Melburnian