The crown jewels of inner city Sydney are its well-kept, verdant, and utterly lovely parklands. Round any corner, and you’re likely to stumble upon a ‘reserve,’ a corner garden, a buzzy playground/sporting field, or an expansive tribute to the likes of New York’s Central Park or London’s Covent Gardens. As a result of the city residents’ constant desire to get outside and enjoy the temperate weather, parks are treated with respect in Sydney. It’s a rite of passage for any Sydneysider—native or newcomer—to go for a languid weekend picnic with friends at the park. The decision to spread out a blanket and dig into bottles of wine (often too many), crackers, cheeses and that favorite of Australian snacks known as “dips” have propelled many of my happiest afternoons—and craziest nights.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Smack in the middle of Sydney’s city center is the gorgeous, verdant sprawl of the Royal Botanic Gardens, which are perfect for a leisurely midday stroll, a friendly picnic or (my personal favorite) a visit to the Fernery, an enclosed greenhouse where you can get all mystical among some of the oldest, most resilient plants in the world.
Sydney’s far smaller but no less impressive version of Central Park houses the gorgeous Archibald Fountain, the ANZAC War Memorial, and an obelisk on the western edge that’s decorated in Egyptian symbols. Take a stroll down Central Avenue, the stunning path through the park’s center that’s lined by huge, leafy fig trees. Be sure to gaze up at the Sydney Tower while you’re at it.
This sprawling green space is actually three parks—Centennial, Moore, and Queens—and lies at the intersection of numerous suburbs in the city’s east. Among its highlights are horse-riding trails, huge sporting fields, running tracks, a trapeze school (in the warm-weather months), and small lakes for picnickers who want a pretty view. It’s easy to fritter away a gorgeous day here.
This hidden gem at the end of Elizabeth Bay is popular with locals like to meet friends for beers on the harbor, though the Beare Café is also a good option if you don’t feel like lugging a picnic basket along.
Atop South Head at the very eastern edge of the Harbor’s lower lip, this unique (and delightfully tourist-free) spot has stupendous views of the city skyline. The lighthouse itself is part of Sydney Harbour National Park, a smattering of locales around the metropolitan area worthy of preservation. Take a picnic and take it all in.