From cheeky long lunches on sunny workdays to grand gourmet affairs on the weekend, Melbourne’s city parks and gardens are perfect for picnics. We’ve gathered up the top spots for enjoying alfresco feasts, plus where to get provisions nearby. Bon appétit!
Royal Botanic Gardens
One of Australia’s most beautiful and botanically rich parks, the Royal Botanic Gardens is the ultimate destination for city picnics. Discover the highlights and build up an appetite on the Free Guided Gardens Walk, or head straight for a prime spot overlooking the ornamental lake. You’ll see a world of flora and lovely birds like black swans and rainbow lorikeets, and hear chiming bellbirds and boisterous cockatoos too. After your picnic, stroll along meandering paths for a closer look, from the fern gully to the tropical glasshouses and intriguing Guilfoyle’s Volcano. Or just relax some more with Punting on the Lake.
Fitzroy Gardens and Treasury Gardens
These two parks on the CBD’s south-eastern edge are separated by usually quiet Lansdowne Street, so they’re like two gardens in one. Right on Spring Street, the smaller Treasury Gardens has many mature trees, an ornamental pond and statues of every Victorian premier. The Fitzroy Gardens are an even larger, quieter green oasis with avenues of English elm trees and a little stream that runs through a fern gully. Other highlights include gracious fountains and statues, historic Cooks’ Cottage and the playground’s big dragon.
Alexandra Gardens and Queen Victoria Gardens
These neighbouring parks are small but delightfully picturesque. The Alexandra Gardens overlook the Yarra River, so you can watch pleasure boats and rowers, who emerge from this park’s boat sheds, drifting by. There are flowers and mature trees, including oaks and Canary Island palms, and the Riverslide Skate Park for energetic kids. You might have seen Queen Victoria Gardens’ big floral clock, made up of thousands of flowering plants, but there’s much more to enjoy. Lots of statues for starters, including grand monuments to Queen Victoria and King Edward VII and John Olsen’s bronze frog leaping from the ornamental pond.
The oldest park in Melbourne, Flagstaff Gardens were named for the flagpole erected here in 1840 to signal ships arriving in the newly established town. Today its lawns are dotted with mature elm trees, eucalypts and Moreton Bay figs, as well as flowerbeds and sculptures. If you want to add a bit of fire and heat to your picnic menu, nab one of the barbecues.
Home to the magnificent UNESCO Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building, the Carlton Gardens makes a grand setting for posh picnics. The southern end’s 19th century formal gardens are especially pretty. Admire the ducks gliding across ornamental lakes, ostentatious Victorian-era fountains and towering old European trees while you nibble and sip. If you’re planning to picnic with kids, let them blow off some steam at the playground in the park’s northern end first.
At 170 hectares, Royal Park is the city’s largest green space, and also the only one dedicated to Australian natives. Most of the flora is indigenous to Victoria – though we still love the Australian Native Garden’s plants from across the nation. There’s lots of fauna too. The park’s combination of grassland, remnant bushland and the Trin Warren Tam-boore wetlands means you could spot more than 250 different bird species during your picnic. Afterwards, take a closer look at the wetlands, where waterbirds thrive. A trail is dotted with informative signs about them, as well as the insects, reptiles and plants you might also see along the way.
Where to get your picnic provisions
Queen Victoria Market’s huge feast of food from around the world is only metres from Flagstaff Gardens, while beautiful bread and sweet and savoury pastries are ready for Royal Botanic Gardens picnics just across the street at Baker D Chirico. Steps away from Treasury Gardens, Spring Street Grocer has everything from caviar to a room full of cheese, plus the City Wine Shop’s next door.
Lygon Street’s DOC Delicatessen and the recently renovated and expanded King & Godfree are close to Carlton Gardens, and also an easy walk or cycle from Royal Park. Add cakes from Brunetti for picnic perfection. From 14 November to 22 March, get simple picnic provisions, handmade sweet treats and fancy drinks, including Shadowfax wines and Four Pillars gin, from the kiosk at MPavilion 2019 in the Queen Victoria Gardens. The Organic Food and Wine Deli isn’t far away, and the huge food hall at David Jones is a top option wherever you’re headed.
Looking for other picnic spots? There are plenty more parks and gardens in the city!