Sunshine! The one respite from weeks ( … months? We’ve lost track) of lockdown.
Jokes aside, sunlight and fresh air are super important. With all this time confined to the house, a ray of sunshine is like a shot of vitamin D straight to the veins.
Victorians are allowed to picnic once again, and like magic, sundresses and shorts are out in full force, so remember to slip, slap and slop.
Sunlight’s also good for your mental health. According to experts, spending time outside during the day is helpful for those with depression.
How about fresh air?
Studies show that spending time outside helps the body recuperate and retain energy more so than when we’re cooped up indoors.
Do you know how you can do both while following Daddy Dan’s restrictions? It’s time to dust off the old picnic basket!
Others would say that hiking is the ultimate outdoors pastime. You get to exercise those leg muscles while your eyes take in the wonders of Mother Nature.
Some would argue that surfing and hitting the beach is the perfect reason to be outside. If it’s suitable for David Hasselhof, it’s good for us mortals.
But most of us can’t do either of those right now, and if you’re the laidback type who would rather crack open some beers and throw a frisbee with some mates, a picnic is your best bet.
First, it’s practical, so you won’t need to drive outside the 10km radius to enjoy some greenery.
It’s also an excellent way to bond with family and friends that you’ve missed as of late. Nothing beats good company.
Are you sold on the idea of a picnic? Here are some tips and suggestions for an al fresco afternoon.
1. Find the best picnic spots.
Australia is a tourist destination for a reason. Beaches, wildlife and architecture all have their advantages, but nothing beats a good Melbourne picnic.
Let’s leave beautiful trails like the Dandenong Ranges for another day. We’re talking low-key places where you can sit and relax with your picnic hamper in tow.
What’s considered the perfect picnic area?
Imagine picturesque and open skies, fresh air and scenery that’s exceptionally green. Preferably with wide spaces where birds can chirp their hearts out.
You’d want a space that’s not super popular but not completely isolated either, one that won’t make it look like you’re up to no good when it gets jam-packed, and you end up on the news as a bad example — *cough* Edinburgh Gardens.
Stumped? Here are some suggestions that might suit your fancy.
The Royal Botanic Gardens ticks the greenery requirement thanks to plenty of open skies and a wide selection of lakes. The Botanical Gardens also has the eye-candy factor with plenty of blossoming flowers and sheltered areas.
Why not give it ago?
There’s also Carlton Gardens, various stops along the Merri Creek Trail, Studley Park Boathouse, the Abbotsford convent OR the Collingwood Children’s Farm if you’re after some cottagecore Instagram content with sheep lazing in the background.
Hedgeley Dene Gardens in Malvern East is a hidden gem you might also want to check out!
2. Tables or picnic rugs?
After deciding on a picnic spot, the next order of business is choosing between tables or picnic rugs.
Going with a picnic table or bringing your own folding table means you won’t need to worry about ants. You don’t want your beautifully prepared picnic to turn into A Bug’s Life.
However, a picnic blanket allows you to lounge and recline to your heart’s content, provided that the spot you choose isn’t rocky or soggy.
Rugs are good for heading out in the arvo to relax; they make watching the sunset a little easier.
While tables have the high ground (pun intended), you can upgrade your picnicking game by adding floor pillows for absolute comfort; they come in all shades of pastel and gorgeous patterns if you’re going for that daydreamy aesthetic.
Wicker baskets are perfect for that countryside vibe, along with your prairie dress, hair ribbons and straw hat.
3. What’s on the menu?
Speaking of picnic baskets, what should be inside?
Deciding what to eat is one of the better parts of any outdoor activity, and picnics are no exception! Whether you prefer meals via pre-order or making your charcuterie at home, you’ll be in for a treat.
You can try following a theme, say, a Parisian lunch (think macarons, croissants, baguette and soft cheese) or freestyle your way into a gastronomic rollercoaster ride. The possibilities, and tastes, are endless.
Other ideas might be sushi platters, high tea, and a southern style BBQ with gourmet cold cuts, to boot.
Melbourne is full of places you can get takeaway meals from if cooking isn’t your thing, from pastries and fresh deli supplies to rich antipasto ingredients.
If you’re after an affordable option, Aldi is offering cheese from as little as $5 bucks, so you don’t have to break the bank for some brie.
If you’re after something with more of a bite, you can search your local delicatessen online for a high-end selection.
You can even put your cooking skills to the test (just a little bit) with a finish-at-home meal from Providoor.
Speaking of bread and crackers, no picnic pack is complete without condiments. Pack some tastyhummus and other dips to make your local brunch taste as if you went around the world.
To cleanse the palate, you should consider some healthy and decadent fruits such as grapes, berries, blood orange, strawberries, and oranges; you’ll feel like a renaissance painting.
There are plenty of vegan options available, too, from baked goods to cured meats and sandwiches.
After finalising your menu, you have to consider cutlery.
It would be a waste to enjoy a fine day lounging somewhere beautiful like Fitzroy Gardens, only to bring out single-use plastic.
If you’re going to use nature as your playground, you might as well keep it clean.
The same goes for eco-friendly tumblers and cups; why not get yourself a hydro flask for your warm and cold drinks?
Be one with nature with these reusable bamboo paper towels that are friendly to your hand and the environment. Clean hands, clean park, it’s a win-win.
A cheeseboard will definitely come in handy to display your fresh produce, some portable wine glasses and a cooler for your takeaway cocktails; cider, beer, wine or non-alcoholic alternatives (like seltzers).
Enjoy majestic parkland views with good food and even better company.
4. It’s game time
Appreciating the view is fine at first, but you can’t possibly enjoy looking at the same trees or clouds for hours on end. Having fun should be priority numero uno.
Speaking of UNO, the beloved card game can turn any chill picnic into a high-stakes competition.
Instead of betting cash, have the loser run errands for the rest of the day, entertainment no money can buy.
Bring a frisbee or badminton set for a pastime that doubles as a workout sesh. You can indulge in a feast and then sweat it off after.
Haven’t gotten your bike out in a while? Cycle to your destination and start your picnic on a high note. There’s also boule, soccer, drinking games, board games, and some Victorian parks come equipped with ping pong tables.
Art classes now offer at-home kits complete with brushes, a canvas, a palette, paints and tutorials, and you might even be tempted to unleash your inner knitter with these beginner tips and funky patterns.
5. Don’t forget the essentials
Secured your spot, food and entertainment? A quick checklist rundown won’t hurt.
Sometimes, the act of preparing for a day out can be tiring. That doesn’t mean you should skimp on the must-have items, and no, we’re not talking about the picnic basket.
If you haven’t already, pick up the phone (or swipe up on your mobile) and ring your loved ones. The past year (and a bit) has been challenging, and we all need the warmth and affection a good time with family can give.
You might even consider sending something sweet with a heartfelt message their way, just like these adorable cakes: spell out your love for them.
The same goes for your pals. Don’t forget to check in on them, and sharing a meal under blue skies is as good a scenario as any.
Another route is the flower one: native bouquets always make for the perfect gift.
Picnics can also be a chance for you to put your wellbeing first. Stop for a while and smell the roses.
Life may seem so fast-paced: what with work and living through a new historical event every week (hello, earthquakes and protests), but that doesn’t mean you can’t rest.
Finally, bring a Polaroid camera, or just your trusted mobile phone, and take lots of pictures. It’s not every day you get a chance to lounge and munch in the sun, so make it count.