It’s official: those with a double jab are now allowed to participate in picnics (so long as they don’t live in one of the LGAs of concern). The parks on this list are among the city’s finest – and biggest. That means more access points, generous facilities, and lots of land to practice safe social distancing. And there are options right across Sydney, no matter whether you’re east, west, north or south.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, it’s time to roll out the rug with four pals (all from within the same LGA or five-kilometre radius, of course) and be sure to grab some luxe picnic supplies from this nifty list.
Sydney Park – inner west
Save for those towering chimney stacks, you’d never know Sydney Park was once the site of a former brickworks – or a rubbish tip, for that matter. Nowadays it’s a verdant green space, with a neat kids’ play area and a very slick bike track with working traffic lights and street signs. There’s a lush wetland with babbling cascades to explore, but we suggest celebrating your new-found freedom by running up the highest hill at sunset – your reward is a 360-degree view starring the city skyline in one direction and the airport in another. This inner-west oasis is also within tempting proximity of Newtown’s many fine food and drink purveyors. Gather some fancy supplies for a picnic to rule them all.
Local government area: City of Sydney
Centennial Park – eastern suburbs
It’s known as the lungs of the city for good reason: Centennial Park is big, beautiful and oh-so green. And with 200 hectares of shady groves, winding bike paths and a bevy of sports fields, it’s really a question of what can’t you do here. We love strolling among the park’s plentiful ponds for a glimpse of the resident swans, and maybe even a turtle or two. As far as your picnic is concerned, there are countless spots to roll out your rug – though Lachlan Reserve and Fearnley Grounds are both favourites. You can also scout for one of the park’s free barbeques, or enhance your spread with refreshments from The Greenhouse.
Local government area: City of Randwick
Lane Cove National Park – lower north shore
The Lane Cove River runs right through this eucalypt-studded sanctuary on the lower north shore. Winding tracks run along both sides of the river, taking in a smorgasbord of riverside picnic spots. While your al fresco options abound, the Commandment Rock area is nigh unbeatable. It boasts a generous covered area to protect against the elements, plus an expansive grassy knoll to spread out safely upon. Fair warning: you may need to share real estate with the odd brush turkey, and the swamp wallabies are a tad skittish. Egrets, kookaburras and spoonbills flock to these parts, too.
Local government areas: Ku-ring-gai, Ryde, Hornsby
Bilarong Reserve – northern beaches
When all beachfront spots inevitably get snapped up, you could do a whole lot worse than to perch along the shores of Narrabeen Lagoon. Not only is it sheltered from the seaside bluster, it’s dotted with electric barbeques, covered picnic tables, and public toilets. Plus, you get to hang lagoon-side, which is as peaceful as it sounds. For the kids, there’s a play area and plenty of trails to discover. The reserve is also a riparian corridor, home to honeyeaters, tree frogs, skinks and owls (black swans cruise among the reeds here, too). So be sure to keep pooch on the leash at all times – this is a protected wildlife area.
Local government area: Northern Beaches
Castle Hill Heritage Park – north-west
The north-west is already spoilt for green space, but this historic park pretty well takes the cake. It’s 20 hectares of undulating hills peppered with picnic benches, plus three long “huts” big enough to safely house a couple of groups of five. And while the park’s grassy expanse is mostly open, you’ll find one of the world’s largest reserves of critically endangered blue-gum forest here. You can also read up on the site’s history along the main walking track. It was a gathering place for the Dharug people until at least 1801, when it became one of the state’s earliest government farms – and the springboard for Australia’s first convict rebellion, in 1804.
Local government area: Hills Shire
Bungarribee Park – western Sydney
A no-brainer if your picnic includes kids and a pooch. Bungarribee’s epic playground resembles a slab of contemporary art, complete with climbing tower, flying fox, slides and swings. The Warrigal Dog Run, one of the largest off-leash zones in the city, is pup heaven on earth. And while 18 picnic shelters (eight of which you can book ahead) and 26 public barbeques is a seriously high benchmark on its own, none of the other parks on this list can boast a proper burger joint inside a shipping container. Pull up here for a no-fuss takeaway lunch – it’s still a picnic if you’ve got the rug.
Local government area: Blacktown
Casula Parklands – south-west
This adventure playground runs for a solid stretch along the Georges River. That means there’s an abundance of wide-open space to snag your own waterside picnic spot. The all-abilities playground features a ninja training circuit, a “sky walk” for bigger kids, accessible carousels, and a dual flying fox. If the adventuring spirit moves you, some lovely tree-lined walking tracks begin at the Casula Powerhouse nearby. If arriving by train, this riverside escape is just 10 minutes’ walk from the platform.
Local government area: Liverpool
Royal National Park – south
Most of the Royal National Park will be out of range for south-Sydney-siders, but you can still access a smattering of picnic spots in the rugged Port Hacking precinct. Most of them, including the popular Ironbark Flat, can be found just beyond the Audley Weir. For a more secluded waterside perch, Warumbul picnic area is a bit further afield, with views stretching out to Lilli Pilli across the bay. You could also make use of the Bundeena ferry and access the park from Cronulla, though be warned: the ferry has strict capacity limits and can’t be booked in advance.
Local government area: Sutherland Shire
Parramatta Park – west
Also known as “the people’s park”, this 160-year-old green space is a great option if you’re coming from the Cumberland Shire. It features two excellent play areas for kids (the Paperbark Playground near the George Street Gatehouse is inclusive of all abilities), plus seven bookable picnic shelters and 14 free barbeques. Hot tip: there’s free three-hour parking near the Leagues club.
Local government area: Parramatta
Bicentennial Park – west
An excellent go-between for picnickers in the Ryde and Parramatta Council areas. The 40-hectare green space around Sydney Olympic Park meets the stunning Badu wetlands along the Parramatta River. The best place for a premium view is atop the Treillage Tower in the middle of the park, where you can also prospect for a nice shady spot to unfurl your picnic blanket. Wander the trails and lakes, too – an abundance of birdlife calls the park home.
Local government area: Parramatta