It’s the great Aussie tradition: loading up the esky with snags, chops, burgers, bread rolls and tomato sauce (lots of tomato sauce) and basking in the sunshine over a barbecue. No barbecue at home? No problem.
Take a leisurely drive – or jump on the 86 tram – 15 kilometres north of the city to Bundoora Park. The 180-hectare park features expansive open spaces to enjoy a bite to eat, and four separate sheltered picnic areas with gas and wood barbecues. They can get busy on weekends, so perhaps try arriving before or after peak period (12pm-1.30pm) to increase your chances. Other activities within the park include a heritage village, wildlife reserve, a rustic children’s farm and even a golf course.
Gaffney Street, Coburg is best known for its huge homemaker centre, but continue past the hordes of Bunnings shoppers, north of Sydney Road, to Harmony Park. The community gardens were revamped in 2008 to include the area’s best skate park and an adventure playground. There are huge shaded sails over the public barbecue area, and ample benches near the covered sandpit. Plus, the entire park offers free wireless internet access, so you can update your Facebook status with one hand as you turn the snags with the other.
It’s not quite Central Park, but Princes Park is almost as much of a Melbourne icon as New York’s urban paradise. It stretches almost two kilometres from Carlton to Brunswick, includes Carlton Football Club’s home Visy Park and rivals The Tan for the inner-city’s most popular jogging spot on the weekend. Battle your way past the social cricketers and Frisbee throwers to the public barbecues just south of Visy Park, and a short stroll from the public toilets at Princes Hill Tennis Courts.
North Fitzroy’s Edinburgh Gardens is regularly mentioned in travel guides as one of Melbourne’s most popular parks; maybe that explains why it can be next to impossible to score a shaded spot to enjoy lunch on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The 24-hectare gardens include three separate barbecue areas. Tables and chairs are scattered throughout the park, or bring a picnic rug and hope to find somewhere shady. Additions to the gardens in the past 18 months include an all-weather table tennis table and a basketball half court.
Want to enjoy your sausages and burgers with the intoxicating waft of sea breeze in the air? St Kilda West’s Catani Gardens is just the ticket. The six-hectare gardens aren’t the largest around; but they sit right above St Kilda Beach and several openings in the park provide direct access down to the sand. Full of those famous St Kilda palm trees, the gardens feature open-air barbecues and a path leading to the Edwardian-style rotunda, as well as plenty of shade.
The historic Studley Park Boathouse is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike; where visitors can enjoy lunch before hiring a canoe or kayak and exploring the Yarra River. The adjacent Studley Park Picnic Area is a peaceful spot for a barbecue away from the crowds. It’s well equipped with public barbecues, sheltered areas and toilets – and if you close your eyes and take in the serenity, you’ll barely believe you’re a 10-minute drive from the city.
Get your culture on at Bulleen’s Banksia Park – the 23-hectare space neighbours the Heidi Museum of Modern Art and is part of the 40-kilometer Heidelberg School Artists Trail. The work of iconic Australian painters like Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts was inspired by the peaceful, pretty area; signs posted on a 200m Heritage Trail explain their significance. Follow the road to a car park at the picnic area, complete with wood barbecues, open-air tables, a sheltered area and a children’s playground.
Brilliant for on-a-whim barbecuing. Next time you’re in the city, grab some bits and bobs from Vic Markets and head to the barbecues on the William Street side of the gardens, close to the Flagstaff Tennis Courts. Wander around the gardens to explore a memorial to Melbourne’s pioneers erected in 1871, and contemporary art installations.
What could be more picturesque than firing up the barbecue and unpacking the salads and bread rolls in front of a backdrop of Melbourne’s city skyline? The banks of the Yarra River feature multiple barbecue spots, most with their own seating. The closest barbecues to the city are at Birrarung Marr, but if you’re prepared to walk a bit further, there are some leafy family-friendly areas on Alexandra Avenue between Swan Street Bridge and Morell Bridge.
It’s not hard to work out why this Port Melbourne park has the name it does: the vibrant wetland and nature sanctuary literally sits under the Westgate Bridge. Enter via Todd Road for easy access to the barbecues and picnic area, where you may find yourself sharing your bread rolls with some of the bird species that call Westgate Park home; including ibis, spoonbills and pelicans. The 54-hectare park also has freshwater and saltwater lakes, beautiful indigenous plants and several walking and cycling paths, plus striking views of the bay and city.