Ah, the humble picnic, a global tradition spanning back centuries to the stone ages themselves, ingrained in history as one of the finest joys the summer months enable! Glory hallelujah – how we praise you! We all know Melbourne is equipped with some of the universe's (I've been to Neptune so I am in fact qualified to say this) best eateries and drinking holes, but it's also abundantly blessed with a bounty of al fresco options.
So, instead of experiencing the standard pre-party-hosting 'oh god I only have 20 minutes to make my house look less like it is inhabited by swine' jitters - whip out your picnic rugs, tongs, finest plastic cups and Frisbees, as there's an epic outdoor feast on the cards.
ST KILDA BOTANICAL GARDENS
Anywhere located on a street named 'Blessington' is already under a lot of pressure to deliver a serene and peaceful ride to Pleasantville. Lined with tropical palm trees, grass as green as a leprechaun's bum and a glistening lake, these gardens are suitable for every kind of picnic – from a family get-together to a more raucous affair.
If you're getting your drink on, grab a six pack of craft beers or a tasty local drop from Acland Street Cellars, ask a mate to bring some cheese and accompany all that with a crunchy, chewy, fresh-out-of-the oven pumpkin seed sourdough from Woodfrog Bakery round the corner. Brought people knee-high-to-a-grasshopper? Take the kids/siblings/shetland ponies to 7 Apples Gelato for their award-winning banana and dulce de leche gelato. If you can't be bothered prepping a thing swing past Kotch Lane on your way and grab an array of freshly made salads and sandwiches all available in handy picnic-conducive takeaway packs.
Acland Street Cellars | 187 Acland Street in St Kilda
Woodfrog Bakery | 108 Barkly Street in St Kilda
7 Apples Gelato | 75 Acland Street in St Kilda
Kotch Lane | 49 Blessington Street in St Kilda
Image Credit: Kotch Lane Facebook
ST KILDA BEACH FORESHORE AKA CATANI GARDENS
Where Fitzroy Street collides with the Esplanade, Catani Gardens are the ultimate seaside BBQ fusion destination. The Catani Gardens span for six hectares along the St Kilda foreshore and are speckled with row upon row of palm trees. Set up camp on the grass, grab yourself a BBQ and table, and spend the day frolicking between the park and the neighboring beach, then kick on into the evening at one of a myriad of St Kilda eating and watering holes!
If you're planning on a picnic-flavoured indulgence or twenty, beers can be supplied by St Kilda Cellars Bar & Bottleshop and will be greatly complemented by the finest dairy products in town at Milk the Cow. If you need snags, T.O.M.S will help you out with some of their chicken and sage sausages, or the more traditional beef and paprika. If you're feeling health inclined, grab a super smoothie from Il Fornaio – the Nutrition Bomb is chock-a-block of raw choccy, plus seeds, almonds, coconut, soy and banana. Boom!
St Kilda Cellars Bar and Bottleshop | 45 Fitzroy Street in St Kilda
Milk the Cow | 1/157 Fitzroy Street in St Kilda
Il Fornaio | 2 Acland Street in St Kilda
T.O.M.S. | Shop 3, South Melbourne Market corner Cecil and Coventry Streets in South Melbourne
Image Credit: Milk the Cow Facebook
RIPPON LEA HOUSE & GARDENS
Built in the 19th century, Rippon Lea House & Gardens is a truly sophisticated picnic affair. The picturesque garden layout gives you the feeling you're flitting airlessly through a scene from Fern Gully (before the big mean oil monster comes along and ruins everything…). Perfect for families or a laid back day, take a rug and relax the afternoon away, or frolic through the gardens on one of the many nature walks available. Seeing as you're going to be here with a bunch of people, stock up on fruit, dips, breads and freshly squeezed juices courtesy of Aunt Maggie's Health Food Store.
If tapas ain't your thing, Glicks is nearby with their famous poppyseed bagels which they can make up for you on the spot. If it's a birthday you're celebrating, don't miss Dana Patisserie, for rich cakes, crumbly yumbly pastries, cookies and other naughty bits and bobs. If after all that you've forgotten the grog and burnables, Cable Car Wine & Spirits offers free delivery, and you can call your boyfriend to pick up the backstraps from Karalee Fine Foods, or Carlisle Seafoods for a the quintessential shrimp on the barbie.
Aunt Maggie's | 270-272 Carlisle Street in Balaclava
Glicks | 330 Carlisle Street in Balaclava
Dana Patisserie | 246 Carlisle Street in Balaclava
Cable Car Wine & Spirits | 111 Brighton Road in Elwood
Karalee Fine Foods | 262 Carlisle Street in St Kilda
Carlisle Seafoods | 286 Carlisle Street in St Kilda
THE TAN AKA ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS
The Tan. Home of the legions of South Yarra yummy mummies in Nike frees, men clocking 6km PBs, Melbourne Grammar girls sipping takeaway lattes, and, of course, the sprawling natural landscape that is our city's Central Park. Inside the Botanical Gardens, you'll find such treats as the huge Myer Music Bowl, the Shrine of Remembrance and the giant herbarium.
Settle down next to one of the many lakes, shady trees or the massive bamboo forest for some epic scenery-boosted selfies, but don't do it without a coffee from My Legendary Girlfriend in hand. The nearby Spring Street Grocer has got the lazy-bones sorted with a takeaway sandwich (or gelato...) option to suit any tastebud. Or if you got in early and scored yourself one of the BBQ's lined along the Yarra river, where you can gaze upon the rowers and our snakey stream itself, get some steaks from Hudson Meats – their free range beef will have you mooing. Accompany that with a sweet, healthy bottle of pinot from Winestyle at the Botanical and a bunch of fresh grapes, nectarines and other plump and juicy fruits from South Yarra Finer Fruits and you're laughing.
Hudson Meats | 459 Toorak Road in Toorak (head to the bottom of the page to enter the draw to WIN a $100 meat tray from Hudsons!)
Winestyle at the Botanical | 169 Domain Road in South Yarra
South Yarra Finer Fruits | 123B Park Street in South Yarra
Spring Street Grocer | 157 Spring Street in CBD
City Wine Shop | 159 Spring Street in CBD
Image Credit: Spring Street Grocer Facebook
STABLES OF COMO
Feeling fancy? The Stables of Como is the place for you. Overlooked by the glorious Como House, boasting endless rows of flowers, manicured lawns and important looking statues, the Como Gardens is a glimpse into how the flyest of Melbourne ballers lived it up in 1853.
Being surrounded by all the aristocracy may have you feeling peckish, so hit up the Stables of Como, the culinary pride and joy of the House, for a pre-made picnic basket. For under $50, you get ginger beer, fresh salads, a ploughman's board of fresh produce, a jar of olives, a pull-apart Noisette baguette with white bean dip, and a homemade Wagon Wheel. Not enough? Add on a bottle of champagne, a croquet set or bag full of boules to really up the ante on that fancy pants picnic you got there.
Stables of Como | Como House and Gardens corner of Lechedale and Williams Road in South Yarra
Image Credit: Stables of Como Facebook
One of the prettiest Gardens on the list, Edinburgh Gardens plays hosts to children's parties, Ultimate Frisbee enthusiasts and a slew of great picnicking spots. There are BBQs, communal basketball and tennis courts, playgrounds for kids (or adults – no judgement), and for some reason, every single time I go here, no matter the forecast, the sun shines.
For nosh, grab meats from North Carlton Quality Meats, a well renowned local butcher that boasts a legion of regulars. If you can't nab a BBQ, grab takeaway from Danny's Burgers – they're also the stuff of legend with those fat chips and melty meaty patties. Munster Haus stocks a great range of takeaway salads, The Tin Pot brews a wicked coffee, and the Green Grocer has delish pies and pastries. But it's that huge grocery mecca Piedmonte's that you're going to want to hit up for breads, olive oils and dips to really seal the deal on your picnic day!
North Carlton Quality Meats | 717 Nicholson Street in North Carlton
Danny's Burgers | 358/360 St Georges Road in North Fitzroy
Munster Haus | 371 St Georges Road in North Fitzroy
The Tin Pot | 248/250 St Georges Road in North Fitzroy
Green Grocer | 217 St Georges Road in North Fitzroy
Piedmonte's | 37 Best Street in North Fitzroy (Off St Georges Road)
Love knowledge, stalking sunbakers and pretty fountains? The Carlton Gardens is the picnic destination for you. Surrounded by the heritage listed glory that is the Royal Exhibition Building and the architectural triumph that is the Melbourne Museum, the gardens boast communal tennis courts, a massive children's playground and endless grassy knolls for you to perch your picnic baskets upon.
Order some takeaway pizza from D.O.C to sate any grumbly tummy, accompanied with some antipasti from their slick new deli, D.O.C Delicatessan. However, if it is cheese you seek, don't go past the La Latteria Mozzarella Laboratory, their homemade mozzarellas are the stuff of dreams, and the staff will help you decide what you like if you're overwhelmed by the choices. Bezela will sort you out with some delicious perogi dumplings, and the Rathdowne Village Delicattessan is nothing short of dip-central, but if you're a D.I.Y. lad or lass, hit up Skinner and Hackett for the finest cuts of meat on the northside.
Bezela | 105 Elgin Street in Carlton
Rathdowne Village Delicatessan | 378 Rathdowne Street in Carlton
Skinner and Hackett | 400 Rathdowne Street in Carlton
D.O.C. Pizza | 295 Drummond Street in Carlton
D.O.C. Delicatessan | 330 Lygon Street
La Latteria Mozzarella Laboratory | 104 Elgin Street in Carlton
The Abbotsford Convent, whilst a dapper spot for a picnic at any old time, has you well and truly sorted this summer with the return of the ever popular Supper Market. The Supper Market, in its fourth season this year, will meet all your eating, drinking and lounging needs, serving up an array of Himalayan, Indonesian, Mexican, Turkish and French food, wood-fired pizzas, and fish and chips to boot. Oh and don't forget the dessert stalls!
With wine and beer available to keep your throat lubricated, arts, crafts and fashion stalls to keep your wallet active, and live music in the evenings to keep your ears suitably entertained, a picnic has never looked so appealing! So dust off your picnic rug and head to Abbotsford Convent - the Supper Market is running every Friday night during summer.
Abbotsford Convent Supper Market | 1 St Heliers Street in Abbotsford
THE NATURE STRIP (VARIOUS NORTHSIDE SUBURBS)
Ah, the nature strip. The humble strip of grass running alongside the footpath which apparently can be considered as 'nature'. In true northside hipster fashion, the nature strip – utterly wasted and squandered by southsiders who haven't quite cottoned on to this brilliant innovation – is transformed from a boring strip of grass into an arena of frolicking, feasting, drinking, dancing and all-round merriment!
Regardless of the precise location of your nature strip of choice, you have a cornucopia of picnic suppliers at your disposal. You can pick up a handy goon sack at a Liquorland near you to take care of refreshments, and a pack of tobacco and rollies if you're so inclined. The adjoining Coles will have your picnic lunch taken care of with a ten pack of homebrand sausages setting you back a meagre $4.95. Grab a $1 loaf of white bread, and there's lunch and dinner sorted. Winning!
Main Image Credit: Pinterest