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Top 5 Family Picnic Spots in Canberra

Home > Canberra > Barbecue | Family | Picnic Spots | School Holidays | Lists
by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun! Find me on instagram: @australianrecipesbythebay
Published September 27th 2016
Pack up the picnic basket and get into the great outdoors
As the weather warms up, it is time to dust off the picnic hamper, shake out the picnic blanket and start thinking about your next picnic. For families, it is a fun and inexpensive way to spend some quality time outdoors and if you take a cricket bat or soccer ball, you can stay longer for a few games too. Around Canberra there are plenty of picnic spots around the city and out in the countryside that are popular with Canberra's families, which may also have free BBQ facilities too. The following are 5 of the most popular places to have a picnic in Canberra - just click on the blue link to get the Google map of where to find them. So pack up the picnic basket, track down those plastic cups and plates from the back of the cupboard (somewhere!) and get out and about around the region.

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The popular Cotter Reserve

1/ Cotter Reserve
(also known as Cotter Avenue) is the most popular recreation area, picnic spot, BBQ venue and river swimming location in Canberra. It is located 25 minutes from the CBD in the rugged bushland, south west of the city. At Cotter Reserve there is also a large playground and the Cotter Dam Discovery Trail to the Cotter Dam Lookout. Two other locations a short drive away are Cotter Bend, which is popular for swimming and has a large reserve for picnics and Casurina Sands, which is a favourite with families due to its soft white sand, small playground and plenty of picnic tables. Please note there is little or no phone reception in this region and remember to look out for snakes in Summer, particularly if you are the first people there for the day.

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Cotter Reserve playground

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Take a walk down to the river for a splash or swim, depending on the conditions

2/ Lake Burley Griffin
has a large number of scenic venues to enjoy a picnic on the grass by the waterside. These picnic areas also have free BBQ's, playgrounds and areas to run around. Popular places to meet for picnics include Commonwealth Park, under the National Carillon, Black Mountain Peninsula, Weston Park, the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden and Lennox Gardens. Lake Burley Griffin is also an ideal place for families to enjoy picnics close to any of the playgrounds that surround the waterway. Two popular playgrounds that attract large numbers on weekends are Boundless Playground (just a short walk from the National Carillon) and Commonwealth Park Playground, which is a medieval style tunnel playground for adventurous kids. With so many lakeside venues to choose from around the region, you could easily spend every weekend "picnic hopping" from one to another.

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Boundless Playground, Kings Park

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Scenery and shade at the NGA Sculpture Garden by Lake Burley Griffin

3/ Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is located 45 minutes south west of the CBD. If you are looking to get out of the city and into nature, this reserve is an ideal place to spend the day with a full picnic basket and a lot of energy. When you get to the Tidbinbilla Visitors Centre, take some time to explore the child friendly exhibits then pay the entry fee per car to get in ($11.50). Grab a map which tells you the bushwalks in the area, where to spot koalas, instructions on how to find The Sanctuary boardwalk to look for platypus and then how to find the Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground and picnic area. This large playground has a flying fox, long slides and equipment for all ages and is a popular family picnic and BBQ area on weekends and school holidays. For this area, just like the Cotter Reserve, please be aware that phone reception is patchy and be aware of snake sightings in the warmer months. For all the details on Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, see here.

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BBQ area at Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground

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Flying fox fun for both adults and kids, with reserve behind

4/ The Himalayan Cedar Forest BBQ Area at the National Arboretum is a small area and well hidden - which makes it popular with locals. The National Arboretum is located 10 minutes from the CBD and has forests of endangered trees from all around the world. If you drive up the hill towards the Visitors Centre, turn right at the sign for the Cedar Forest and then take a short stroll down through the forest to the BBQ platform area. There are three tables and two BBQ's and it is an ideal shady spot to enjoy in the Summer months, where you can relax under the trees and enjoy the view. After your picnic, why not walk some of the trails around the Arboretum or go back up to the Visitors Centre and the kids can play in Canberra's most popular playground, Pod Playground. For details of the National Arboretum, see here.

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Himalayan Cedar Forest BBQ area platform

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Climb through the tunnels at Pod Playground

5/ The Australian National Botanical Gardens is located in Acton, just over 5 minutes from the CBD. The Eucalyptus Lawns is the most popular area, as it has a huge expanse of lawn so the kids can have a run around, with enough area for larger groups. It is also the venue for many weddings and events under the gum trees. Although there is no playground or children's activities in the gardens, the kids will enjoy exploring the many paths - especially the Rainforest Gully with a series of bridges and staircases. See here for the Australian National Botanical Gardens website. The gardens has free entry, however it is paid parking.

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The Eucalyptus Lawns, with plenty of space to run around in the Aussie bush

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Kids will enjoy exploring Rainforest Gully

This is just a short list of ideas on where to go for a picnic around the city and region, however there are numerous more places to discover. Often the local park or playground is another option, where sometimes the best ideas are the ones closest to home - where you can also pop back for plates or anything else you forget. Canberra is a family friendly city, so you will find many other families doing the same thing each weekend or school holidays. If you are after a few more people to make up a soccer team, there will be plenty of takers.

So get out there and explore the region - who knows what other favourite places of your own you may discover?

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Don't forget to pack the bikes and scooters!

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Why? A budget friendly way to get out and explore the Canberra region
When: All year around
Where: All around the Canberra region
Cost: Free!
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