1 Sep 2017
As the Yarra River curves away from Port Phillip Bay and into the suburbs, you’ll find Melbourne’s largest area of natural bushland hugging its banks. This is the picturesque Yarra Bend Park [Fairfield], just 5km from Melbourne’s CBD. It would be easy to spend an entire day exploring, boating, fishing or just walking through this immense pocket of pristine bushland. With two restaurants to visit, offering both casual dining and modern Australian cuisine, it won’t matter if you aren’t prepared with a picnic. Take in the lush surrounds from the upstairs deck at the Studley Park Boathouse [1 Boathouse Road, Kew] or find a riverside spot at the Fairfield Boathouse [Fairfield Park Drive, Fairfield]. Both restaurants also offer boat hire to work up an appetite before your meal.
If you’re looking for something northside, Coburg Lake Reserve [2A Gaffney Street, Coburg North] is perfect for families, groups and couples looking to get away from it all in close proximity to the CBD. Playgrounds, barbecue facilities, walking and bike paths and trails along Merri Creek will keep the whole family amused and relaxed. Enormous willows and plane trees provide ample shade, while plantings of both native and introduced species provide colour and interest. Keep an eye out for photo ops with some of the quirky public art and sculptures. Relax and watch the ducks and swans paddling by on the lake, but keep your picnic out of reach! These guys are so friendly they’ll think nothing of inviting themselves to share your meal, whether you’re looking for feathered friends or not.
Visitors to Melbourne may be familiar with the Royal Botanic Garden’s Melbourne Garden, but did you know that tucked away in St Kilda is an equally impressive though smaller garden? The St Kilda Botanical Gardens [11 Herbert Street, St Kilda]features a giant chess board, ornamental pond with fountain, children’s play space, gazebo, glasshouses, a sub-tropical rainforest conservatory and the eco-centre, which facilitates workshops on sustainable living. The garden is also home to an abundance of wildlife, both feathered and furry. Enjoy a picnic to a chorus of rainbow lorikeets or, if you’re lucky, spot a camouflaged tawny frogmouth owl. All this and it’s an easy walk from the buzz of Acland Street.
The eastern suburb of Balwyn is home to an urban oasis like no other. Maranoa Gardens [Yarrbat Ave, Balwyn] is not just a lovely place for some relaxation and peace, it’s also located on one of the highest points in Melbourne. Planted with native species clustered into climactic zones — rainforest, temperate woodland, dry sclerophyll forest and heathland — this is the perfect place for budding botanists to explore. Adjacent Beckett Park features an observation tower offering sweeping 360-degree views across the suburbs and city — perfect for a clear spring day.
For a day outdoors that offers more than a place to kick back, try CERES [Stewart Street & Roberts Street, Brunswick East], located on Merri Creek in Brunswick East. Pronounced ‘series’, this award-winning, not-for-profit, sustainability centre hosts environmental education workshops, presents green technology demonstrations and is home to a number of social enterprises. There’s a weekly market, grocery, cafe, community kitchen and a permaculture and bushfood nursery. The vibe here is very welcoming and friendly. You’ll find locals gardening and giving out tips to curious visitors, couples picnicking, families enjoying the spring sun together and chooks scratching in the dirt.
Outdoor experiences can also be intstagramable, and you’ll find no better place than Queens Park [Mt Alexander Road & Kellaway Avenue, Moonee Ponds] in Moonee Ponds. Every corner you turn offers a perfectly framed vista to snap a selfie or simply enjoy the pristine manicured garden beds. The park features a central lake, two kid’s play areas, a busy contemporary cafe, picnic tables, sweeping lawns and plenty of shade. In the warmer months, an adjoining swimming pool opens, giving this park a truly unique recreational feature. Spring time sees families, couples, locals and dog walkers taking full advantage of the wide paths and shady seating. Being located so close to bustling Puckle Street is also a plus, providing endless dining options for all tastes.
Head to the seaside for parklands that come with open space, views to the horizon and an off lead dog beach. PA Burns Reserve [Altona] in the Altona Coastal Park offers wide expanses of sand flats during low tide, low impact waves and walking tracks through the surrounding shrubbery. Just behind the beach is an enormous grassy field and plenty of parking. If you have friends and family who enjoy a walk in the great outdoors, this is a lovely place to appreciate the views. The nearby Altona shops are only 10 minutes away. Why not grab some fish ‘n chips, head down to the beach and enjoy a spring sunset? It’s a great way to feel close to nature without being very far from the city.
In Melbourne’s north west, the Maribyrnong River snakes it’s way passed a multitude of beautiful scenic parks and gardens. Riverside Park [The Blvd, Essendon West] is a favourite amongst joggers and walkers of all ages, while Coulson Gardens [33 Chiffley Drive, Maribrynong] offers a kids playground and seated areas with river views. Following the river even further will take you to Maribyrnong Park. Boasting rows of tower palm trees, the park as a truly tropical feel in the warmer months. Maribyrnong Park is also home to The Boathouse [7 The Blvd, Moonee Ponds] restaurant, a favourite among locals for hearty Mediterranean inspired meals served up with some of Melbourne’s most tranquil water views.