Pack a blanket and head for one of Sydney's loveliest picnic spots.
By Ellie Schneider
From secluded harbour beaches to picturesque gardens with postcard views, here are the best places in Sydney to roll out your picnic blanket.
Sydney's scenic picnic spots
WENDY WHITELEY’S SECRET GARDEN, LAVENDER BAY
This garden sanctuary is the creation of Wendy Whiteley, wife and muse of late Australian artist Brett Whiteley, at the foot of her harbourside home in Lavender Bay. The park offers views of the Harbour Bridge and plenty of nooks for a secluded picnic, beneath tree ferns, palms and fig trees. The garden is a 10 minute walk from North Sydney train station or Milsons Point ferry wharf.
SHARK ISLAND, SYDNEY HARBOUR
Off the exclusive suburb of Potts Point, Shark Island (named for its shape) is a little slice of paradise with palm trees, picnic tables and a sandy beach. The island was traditionally used as a quarantine station and naval depot, but today is renowned for its 360-degree harbour views. Pack a picnic basket and hop on the ferry from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay (return tickets AUD$20).
ARTHUR MCELHONE RESERVE, ELIZABETH BAY
Opposite the historic colonial-style Elizabeth Bay House are the pocket-sized grounds of Arthur McElhone Reserve. The park offers views down to the Heads of Sydney Harbour and is home to a quaint sandstone bridge, ponds dotted with orange koi and lilies, and sun-soaked spaces in which you can spread out a rug. Pick up treats from Bourke Street Bakery on MacLeay Street in Potts Point, a five minute walk up the road.
MILK BEACH, VAUCLUSE
Milk Beach is one of Sydney's best-kept secrets. A tiny spade of sand is surrounded by the rolling lawns of Strickland House – a stately home built in the 1850s – and offers fantastic views of the Harbour Bridge and city skyline. There are picnic tables in the parkland and plenty of grass on which to roll out your blanket. You can reach the beach on the 1.8 kilometre (1.1 mile) Hermitage Foreshore track, which twists its way along the coastline.
NIELSEN PARK, VAUCLUSE
Walk for another 15 minutes on the Hermitage Foreshore track and you'll arrive at glorious Nielsen Park. For generations Sydneysiders have flocked here for its white beach, gentle waters and unspoiled parkland. Pack a picnic hamper or grab takeaway from the Nielsen Park Café and Restaurant. After lunch climb the headlands on either side for breathtaking views across the harbour.
Undoubtedly one of Sydney’s most popular green spaces, Centennial Park is a hive of activity with sports grounds, horse riding, playgrounds and cafés. The park spans 189 hectares (467 acres) and the best way to explore it is by bicycle, which can be rented next to the children's learners cycleway. Once you’ve taken in the sites – including formal gardens, beautiful lakes and heritage buildings – stretch out on one of the picturesque lawns. There are free barbecues throughout the park and takeaway fare available from the Spruce Goose Diner.
MCKELL PARK, DARLING POINT
If you're after a picnic with a view, there are few better places to visit than McKell Park. This lovely spot in Darling Point offers a tranquil retreat from the city, with terraced lawns and manicured gardens framing the heritage-listed Canonbury Cottage. At the base of the park sandstone steps provide direct access to the harbour, so you can go for a swim before enjoying lunch on the water's edge. The park leads down to the Darling Point ferry wharf – popular among sunbathers – where you can jump on a ferry to Circular Quay.
COCKATOO ISLAND, SYDNEY HARBOUR
This World Heritage-listed island lies in the middle of Sydney Harbour and is half an hour by ferry from Circular Quay. The island has housed convicts, a reformatory school and one of Australia's biggest shipyards, and was off limits for more than 100 years. Take a guided tour before enjoying lunch at one of its many shaded picnic areas. You can even make a weekend of it and stay overnight in Cockatoo Island’s luxury tents.
BARANGAROO RESERVE, BARANGAROO
Opened in 2015, this six hectare (14.8 acre) parkland has transformed one of Sydney's oldest industrial sites, which dates back to the 1830s. Located on the harbour foreshore, a 15 minute walk from Circular Quay, Barangaroo Reserve offers a waterfront walkway, bike path, dining precinct, cultural space and terraced gardens beautifully planted with native trees. Bring a picnic and stake out a spot on the rocks, where you can dip your feet in the water.
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