Whether you're a picnic pro with a beaut blanket-basket-wine cooler combo or someone who'd struggle to spear a sausage with a plastic fork, Melbourne's a great place for picnicking. From lush green gardens to spectacular sea views to quiet parks beside rippling streams, there's a picnic spot for everyone to enjoy. We've rounded up ten of the best free picnic spots in and around Melbourne.
1. O'Donohue Picnic Ground
If you're looking for somewhere peaceful, head to O'Donohue. This gem of a park, surrounded by tall mountain ash forest, has picnic tables and free barbecues. It's tucked away in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, an hour's drive east of Melbourne. For more details, including how to get there, click here.
2. Royal Botanic Garden With acres of lush green, an array of colourful flowers, a lake in its centre and huge, shady trees, the Royal Botanic Garden in South Yarra is considered one of the world's finest gardens. It's easy to find a quiet picnic spot amongst its 36 acres. Barbecues are not permitted but there are free public barbecues by the Yarra River along Alexander Avenue. Click here for more details including how to get there.
3. National Rhododendron Gardens These extensive gardens in Olinda have 40 hectares of brilliantly coloured blooms - rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, cherries and daffodils, with colour at all times of year. There are large areas of green lawn with amazing views over the Yarra Valley, perfect for setting up a picnic. There are no barbecues (the nearest are at the Hamer Arboretum), but there's a cafe for the picnic-ly challenged. For more details, including how to get there, click here.
4. Hamer Arboretum This spot on Woolrich Road, Olinda, named after a Victorian premier, Rupert Hamer, has gobsmacking views across the Yarra Valley. There's a picnic shelter, free electric barbecues, miles of lawn with incredible views (did I mention the views?) as well as extensive walking trails through the forest of exotic, deciduous trees. Click here for more details including how to get there.
5. Moonlight Creek Picnic Ground Near Warragul, a ninety minute drive east of Melbourne, this romantically named park is surrounded by tall forest and tree ferns. It's a peaceful spot and well-equipped with picnic tables and shelters. And there's plenty of space for a picnic blanket on wide green lawns beside a babbling creek (Moonlight Creek, obviously). There are no barbecues, but there are fireplaces with wood provided. For more details, including how to get there, click here.
6. George Bass Coast These cliff-tops with spectacular views over Bass Strait are near Phillip Island, an hour and a half's drive south-east of Melbourne. There are no picnic tables but there are endless spots along the cliff-tops with die-for views where it's easy to set up a picnic blanket. If you're feeling energetic, there's also a 7 kilometre walk following the coast and visiting quiet beaches en-route to the small town of Kilcunda. Click here for more details including how to get there.
This large picnic area is perched above the 1,000 Steps walk in Ferntree Gully, tucked into the forest of the Dandenong Ranges National Park. The "One Tree Hill" bit is misleading – there are, in fact, thousands of trees. The park is well-equipped with several picnic tables, two sturdy picnic shelters and free electric barbecues. For more details, including how to get there, click here.
8. Grants Picnic Ground Nestled in Sherbrooke Forest, Kallista, 40 kilometres east of Melbourne, this is a top spot to take visitors, especially when kids are involved, where friendly parrots and rosellas eat from your hand. There are plenty of picnic tables and free barbecues. Click here for more details including how to get there.
9. Birdsland Reserve With its forest and lake setting, lakeside walks and duck-feeding opportunities, Birdsland is pretty popular, especially in summer. There are free barbecues and a picnic shelter. There's also a grassy area large enough to kick the footy or just loll about. In summer, get here early if you want a table and/or barbecue. For more details, including how to get there, click here.
10. Maranoa Gardens
Located at the end of Parring Road, in Balwyn, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, these gardens are free to enter and open seven days a week. Throughout Maranoa, there are benches and areas of lawn suitable for picnics. And right next door, in Beckett Park, there are picnic tables, plenty of wide green lawns, a shady playground and even a tower with a winding staircase inside. Click here for more details including how to get there.
Do you have any favourite picnic spots around Melbourne? Let us know if you do, we'd love to hear your comments.