Try these lesser-frequented spots that are all easy to get to by bike or on public transport...
Tired of European-style parks? Behind glamorous Art Deco gates lies this historic oasis of native trees and wildflowers, first planted in 1901 and opened to the public in 1926. Clever use of shade, soils and irrigation means you can wander through half a dozen very different environments, from rainforest to arid rockery, temperate woodland to open heath. There are sweeping picnic lawns, a sun-dappled fernery and an indigenous display. Take the 109 Box Hill tram, get off at stop 54 and take a short stroll down Kireep Road. Kireep Rd, Balwyn.
Sometimes the best things are right under your nose. Directly on St Kilda Road opposite the Arts Centre and NGV International, this oddly overlooked park is perhaps the most conveniently located in the city. Aside from admiring the famous floral clock, you can discover sculptures galore, including a handsome memorial to QV herself, and The Pathfinder, an Olympic hammer thrower whose hammer is perennially getting stolen by local wags. Settle under a palm tree as tram bells ding in the background, and if the weather turns inclement, retreat to the rotunda dedicated to women’s campaigner Janet Clarke. Linlithgow Ave, Southbank.
You might have spotted this peaceful wetland under the West Gate while you were stuck in traffic on the bridge above. Those will seem like the bad old days once you’re lolling beside a lake (take your pick: freshwater or saltwater), enjoying spectacular views of the bay and city skyline, and spotting native birds including swans, spoonbills, ibises and lorikeets. It’s easy and pleasant to cycle there: follow the Main Yarra Trail downstream. (On weekends, a bicycle punt service helps continue your journey across the river towards Scienceworks and Williamstown.) Otherwise, take the 237 Fisherman’s Bend bus, get off at Lorimer Street, then stroll through parkland. Todd Rd, Port Melbourne.
No, this unique island in the Yarra doesn’t smell of fish – it’s named after 1950s scoutmaster Sir Edmund Herring. (A former scout hall here is now an art gallery.) Only 3km from the city, it feels worlds away because it’s only accessible via a punt ferry on weekends and certain public holidays over summer. The large-scale sculptures blend subtly into their surroundings, reflecting that this was once a bluestone quarry. Choose between two picnic areas, with toilets and drinking fountains. Get there on the 605 Gardenvale bus, alighting at Como Park and walking a little further along Alexandra Avenue to Como Landing. Warning: the punt won’t be running from December 24–27, or on New Year’s Day. Williams Rd, South Yarra.
Hidden in the back streets of Burnley, this quiet, elegant 19th-century park is something of a local secret. With gravel paths transecting wide grassy expanses, it has a lovely low-key, community feel; kids make the most of the playground, while friendly dogs chase balls. Fire up the barbecue using the facilities provided, or stake out a prime picnic pozzie in the pavilion or against the Anzac memorial’s retaining wall. Barkly Gardens is between Mary and Coppin streets, just a block south from the 70 tram on Swan Street, and halfway between East Richmond and Burnley stations. Mary St, Richmond.