Parks, Gardens and Picnic Spots in Perth
Perth is blessed with brilliant picnic spots – by the beach, on the river, and in the heart of the city. Here are some of our favourite parks and gardens with the best picnic spots in Perth and what makes them worthy of a long lunch on the grass.
I love picnics. I love searching for that perfect spot to spread out the blanket, pulling out the picnic goodies, and leisurely lingering over a long picnic lunch with friends, preferably somewhere with sunshine, water views, wildflowers, birdsong, and wine.
Another reason to stay in apartments over hotels is because it makes putting together a picnic so much easier. See our tips at the end on what to pack for the perfect picnic and where to pick up picnic supplies.
Our favourite parks, gardens and picnic spots in Perth
With its sprawling lawns, shady trees, sweeping vistas over Perth’s gorgeous skyline and the glassy Swan River, plenty of birdlife and abundant wildflowers, Kings Park should be your first choice for a location for a late afternoon picnic.
Just minutes from our Adina apartment on Mounts Bay Road, where we hopped on the free CAT bus downstairs, Kings Park is a breeze to get to from anywhere in Perth CBD. The bus stops right outside the park and then it’s just a few minutes stroll to a plethora of perfect picnic spots.
The 400-hectare Kings Park, located on Mount Eliza, is one of Australia’s largest inner city parks, with loads of lawn, and dedicated picnic areas, so there’s no shortage of spots to spread out a blanket. An added bonus: 250 species of plants and 100 native animals.
I like the gentle slope beside tree-lined Fraser Avenue (make sure you get a photo of the canopies of majestic lemon-scented gums); the grassy areas around the State War Memorial, which boast the best views; and the bench by the nearby rotunda, known as the Jarrah Pavilion (a popular spot for wedding ceremonies) if you prefer a seat.
Before you settle down to eat, burn off some calories and inhale the fragrances of the Australian bush on one of the many walking paths that criss-cross King’s Park. Start by wandering through the superb 17-hectare Western Australian Botanic Garden. The state of WA boasts the most spectacular wildflowers in Australia and if you’re lucky to be able to do a road trip in spring you’ll see the countryside blanketed with vivid native flowers.
The Western Australian Botanic Garden is the next best place to enjoy them. While the spring wildflower festival in September, which we were lucky to be there for, is the best time to visit, you can gawk at wildflowers year round in the excellent garden. Divided into the different landscapes found across the state, each section is planted with the wonderful (sign-posted) specimens that distinguish them.
You’ll spot everything from the fantastic red kangaroo paws, above, to tiny miniature orchids, which we saw in abundance on the Cape to Cape Walk, as well as no shortage of bird life. The park is home to some 70 species of birdlife (take this superb little guide to birdlife in Kings Park with you), from the rainbow lorikeets pictured above to pink and grey galahs, sacred kingfishers, rainbow bee-eaters, and more.
You’ll probably even spot the very handsome, yet sadly endangered, Carnaby’s black cockatoo, which love to munch on banksia seeds. Whatever you do, make sure not to miss the Banksia Garden. These incredible flowers are unique to Australia and 62 of 76 species are endemic to Western Australia.
After your lesson in Western Australia flora, set off on any one of the easy nature walking trails that traverse the park. Click through for a map of Kings Park walking tracks and cycling trails. Two thirds of Kings Park is protected native bushland and you can inhale the aromas of eucalyptus from easy nature trails on sandy tracks and raised boardwalks. Don’t miss the elevated Lotterywest Federation Walkway, which meanders through the canopy of treetops, high above a valley in the park, offering birds eye views of the forest floor.
While the lawns near the War Memorial and Fraser Avenue are the prime picnic spots as far as I’m concerned, the Saw Avenue Picnic Area has free electric barbecues and picnic tables if you’re planning on cooking and a fancy table setting. There’s also an adventure playground for kids, with a fort, climbing net, logs, and tunnels, making it great for families.
Needless to say there is a kiosk if needed, clean toilets, and bubblers to fill the water bottles right across the park.
Stirling Gardens and the Supreme Court Gardens
Back in the Perth CBD, Stirling Gardens may not boast Swan River views, but it’s smack-bang in the centre and super-handy for a picnic lunch if you’re focusing your time on exploring the city centre.
Located on the corner of Barrack Street and St George’s Terrace, it was just a two-minute stroll from our Adina Apartment Hotel Barrack Plaza, so it couldn’t be more central.
Stirling Gardens is the city’s oldest botanic gardens, opening in 1845 as an acclimatisation garden (Western Australia’s first grapes were grown here) which means it has some of the city’s oldest trees, which for picnickers means plenty of shade.
Quirky kangaroo statues, lots of lawn, strategically placed park benches, and drinking fountains make this a fine spot for picnics. Oh, and one of Perth’s best banh mi places, Saigon Pastry House, is right across the road.
Adjoining Stirling Gardens are the Supreme Court Gardens, which have even more mature trees, grassy areas, and play host to events like Carols by Candlelight and Opera in the Park, and have views of the top of the nearby Bell Tower.
This isn’t one of the most exciting picnic spots in Perth but it’s a terrific one for active groups of friends or fans of city skylines.
Used mainly for informal sporting matches and fireworks and therefore exposed to the elements, the long green space that runs along Riverside Drive is best for early evening summer picnics when the sun is low in the sky.
Perth’s mini Manhattan-like skyline is only matched by the views from the south side of the Swan River and is the big draw here. The abundance of grass also makes it a great spot for post picnic footie and Frisbee-throwing.
Point Fraser and Heirisson Island
From Langley Road, cross to Ozone Reserve, and beyond that to Point Fraser, a wetlands area accessed by interconnecting boardwalks, with interpretative signs explaining the significance of the area from an indigenous, historical and environmental perspective. The point has riverside beaches, boats moorings, a kids playground, and peaceful picnic spots.
From here you can stroll across a causeway to Heirisson Island, named after the French navigator-explorer, Francois-Antoine Heirisson, who mapped the Swan River, including the mudflats that formed the land.
What makes the island special is that it’s home to a colony of Western Grey kangaroos, as well as a statue of Nyoongar leader Yagan. The island was a significant hunting ground for the indigenous people of the area.
Victoria Gardens, Arden Street Park and Mardalup Park
From Langley Park, you can turn left into Plain Street and walk about eight blocks, passing Queen Gardens, until you reach the lovely Victoria Gardens and Arden Street Park, and on the other side of Claisebrook Cove, Mardalup Park.
This is a charming little area of East Perth, which we only discovered recently on the Swan River cruise. It’s quite European in feel with its small lanes, dense housing, riverside cafés, and lively waterfront, where you’ll find locals jogging, cycling and rollerblading.
As tempting as it might be to join the locals for a drink, especially on a Sunday afternoon, the landscaped Victoria Gardens and adjoining Arden Street Park, which runs down to the riverside, are a wonderful place for a picnic with shady bench seating and public barbecues.
Across the cover in Mardalup Park you’ll find a basketball court if you can muster up the energy for a game after lunch. There’s also a kids playground, making the park a better choice for families.
Sir James Mitchell Park, South Perth
Boasting stunning vistas of the Swan River and city skyline, this lovely parkland stretching from the Mends to the Coode Street jetties on the South Perth foreshore is another fabulous area for great picnic spots in Perth.
There are 62 hectares of green space, riverside beaches, plenty of picnic tables and park benches, a barbecue, kids playground, and toilets, making this a perfect picnic spot. There’s always lots of activity going on, from locals walking their dogs to old blokes throwing in a fishing line.
There isn’t a lot of shade, so this area is definitely best for late afternoon or early evening. In fact, while the sun will be setting behind you, it’s still one of the finest spots to savour dusk and watch the lights of the city go in.
Don’t miss the fragrant Scented Garden, for the visually impaired, which is a popular location for weddings. The excellent Perth Zoo is also a short stroll away if you want to spend some pre-picnic time with some furry creatures, and the historic Old Mill is close by and worth a look.
You can also do a wetlands stroll along a wooden walkway that wends beneath the paperbarks. South Perth is also easy to get to by ferry from Barrack Street Jetty.
Perth is, of course, the only capital city in Australia where you can watch the sun set over the sea, so I couldn’t not share a couple of picnic locations with Indian Ocean views.
One of my favourite picnic spots in Perth is the grassy area beneath the towering Norfolk pine trees above Cottlesloe Beach.
Cottlesloe Beach is Perth’s most beautiful beach and the views from here of the aquamarine ocean and creamy sand are simply breathtaking. Bonus: you can swim pre- or post-picnic. Just watch out for sharks (actually, helicopters is what you want to be looking for) and wait 45 minutes for your food to settle as my Nanna used to say.
There are public barbecues and there always seems to be a lot of active people about, enjoying a game of beach cricket or volleyball or jogging and stretching or doing their yoga moves. But it’s much more enjoyable on a picnic to do nothing but eat and drink and laze around.
Cottlesloe is easily accessible from Perth by train on the Fremantle line and then it’s an easy walk to the beach.
Sunday afternoons are wonderful for a picnic if you like things lively, although it’s then tempting to abandon your picnic to join the locals at one of the pubs on Marine Parade for the Sunday session. Mid-week it’s much quieter, with most people here for the exercise.
South Beach, Fremantle
You’ll find plenty of shady places to spread out a blanket at The Esplanade park, which is a great choice in Fremantle for families with its skate park and ferris wheel. It’s also very close to Fremantle’s hip West End if you want to grab some good coffee or do a bit of pre-picnic shopping.
But we recommend you hop on the free CAT bus and make a beeline for another of my favourite ocean-side picnic spots in Perth at South Beach.
Whenever we’ve rented apartments in Fremantle, we’ve often driven down to South Beach for a late afternoon stroll on the sand with the dog walkers. It is pretty much locals down at South Beach, with nearby residents taking advantage of the community facilities, including a large grassy picnic area, plenty of public barbecues, and a kids’ playground.
Although it’s not unusual to see backpackers camped out in their Kombi vans in the car park. And who can blame them for trying? The sunsets from here are magic!
With more time on your hands, you could take the catamaran across to Rottnest Island, which must boast some of the finest picnic spots in Perth. And they’re everywhere. There are prime picnic spots on rocky headlands with views of picturesque coves, by sandy beaches overlooking boats bobbing in the water, and beneath shady trees beside shimmering salt lakes.
Best of all, you get to ride a bike along a scenic cycling track with vistas of the turquoise sea, craggy rocks and creamy beaches to get to them, which only adds to the beauty of the adventure. Better yet, stay a few days and you can picnic for every meal: breakfast, lunch, and sunset dinners.
Rottnest has excellent shops, crammed with delicious goodies, where you can fill your basket, but if you’re worried about what they stock take some supplies with you. Although the only thing you really need to worry about are uninvited guests. The adorable furry quokkas might pretend to be your friends, but they really only want your food.
Where to fill your picnic basket
The picnics of my 1970s childhood were simple and old-fashioned affairs. My Nanna packed a roast chicken, big Tupperware containers of potato salad and coleslaw, white bread rolls, and a baked apple pie. My Russian baboushka’s picnic was essentially a variation of the same, only with her famous pink potato salad, and extras like piping hot piroshki wrapped in tea towels to stay warm, jars of rollmops and gherkins, boiled eggs and caviar, and black rye bread.
If we’re at home, we’ll make the picnic fillers obviously, but when we’re travelling we’ll buy them. It’s a fantastic opportunity to sample local produce outside restaurants and cafés.
If you’re staying in the centre of Perth, then pop over to Northbridge to the beautiful Kakulas Bros (183 William Street), which was established in 1929, and if you’re in Fremantle, make a beeline for Kakulas Sister (29-31 Market Street), dating to 1994, but sharing the same rich culinary heritage.
The Kakulas family specialises in stocking the finest quality spices, flours, nuts, seeds, cereals, beans, pulses, and coffee, so their shops are a delightful assault on the senses. If I close my eyes I can easily imagine that I’m standing in the Egyptian Market in Istanbul. Don’t leave without a small bottle of olive oil and some good salt and pepper.
They also have Perth’s best deli counters, with hundreds of local and imported goodies, including olives, anchovies, artisanal cheeses, and charcuterie, including everything from the finest Italian prosciutto to the sweetest Spanish jamon. I also love their confectionary – it’s hard to go past a box of rose-flavoured Turkish delight – and their homemade cakes.
Perth CBD doesn’t have its own market like other Australian cities do, so if you don’t want to leg it over to Northbridge then your best bet is to hit the deli counter at Woolworths supermarket (166 Murray Street), which has a decent selection of olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cheeses and cold cuts. The cold fridges are where you’ll find the better quality Australian cheeses and dips.
In Fremantle, you can easily fill a picnic hamper at Fremantle Markets, with fresh fruit, cheeses and cold cuts, or specialties such as the Turkish gözleme.
With your own wheels you could drop into Abhi’s Bread in South Fremantle for some organic sourdough before pushing past the nonnas shopping at Galati & Sons (19 Wray Avenue) for home-made mozzarella, seasonal tomotoes and fresh basil to whip up an ensalata Caprese.
If you’re taking the train to Cottlesloe, take a detour via Kirkwood Deli (63 North Street), which has a wonderful selection of breads, cold pressed juices, dips and crackers, a charcuterie bar, and makes their own fantastic salads and other take-homes, from lasagne to pies, pastries to cakes. They also stock beautiful Hawthornden olive oil. Take an empty bottle and they’ll fill it up. And, if you really can’t be bothered putting together your own feast, they also sell some of the best picnic hampers we’ve seen, basket included.
A picnic in Australia wouldn’t be a picnic without a bottle of bubbly, some ice-cold beers, and a bottle of Aussie white or two. In Perth CBD, head to Vintage Cellars (891-893 Hay Street); in Fremantle, the Freo Doctor Liquor Store (27 Arundel Street); and in Cottlesloe, the Ocean Beach Hotel bottleshop (140 Marine Parade).
If you do like a drink with your picnic lunch, look for a sign before spreading out your towel: some parks in Australia do not allow liquor consumption due to a history of anti-social behaviour in that area, or they only allow alcohol in certain places in parks, such as the barbecue and picnic areas.
Drinking in public, eg. on the street, beach, parks, and hiking trails, is technically illegal, but local councils have authority over public parks. If it’s a designated drinking area or alcohol is forbidden there will be a sign-post somewhere telling you so.
For more ideas for picnic spots in Perth see the wonderful website of the Urban Bushland Council WA.
Do you have any favourite picnic spots in Perth? And where do you like to fill your picnic hamper in Perth?