Shake out the picnic rug and raid the fridge - because when the sun is shining, nothing beats a picnic. Whether it's bush, beach or well-trimmed lawns as a backdrop, Michael 'The Tripologist' Gebicki can recommend a spot for an ideal al fresco spread.
New South Wales
CAMPBELL RHODODENDRON GARDENS, BLACKHEATH
These gardens are known principally for their rhododendrons, yet the extensive plantings of deciduous trees - especially along the track known as Maple Crescent and also near the intersection of Bacchante and Wentworth streets - make this an autumn extravaganza. Sprawling across 18 hectares, the rambling, woodland garden incorporates creeks, fern glades, natural bushland and a lake spanned by a stone bridge, which has been a boon to the wedding photography trade. While there are no picnic tables, visitors are welcome to take a rug and a picnic basket down to the area known as The Valley.
Where Bacchante Street, Blackheath.
Prime time Summer, of course, but also October-November for rhododendrons and azaleas and April-May for amber autumn colours.
Stay Federation Gardens and Possums Hideaway; family-size lodges, cottages and cosy cabins for two in quiet bushland location. federationgardens.com.au.
AUSTRALIAN BOTANIC GARDEN, MOUNT ANNAN
Sprawling across 400-plus hectares of the Macarthur district at Sydney's south-western gateway, this is easily the biggest botanic garden in the country. The loop drive meanders through bushland, past wetlands and over hilltops, with dedicated picnic areas along the way. Each has free gas barbecues, and some sit beneath roofed shelters. The garden consists of a series of "rooms", and there's something for everyone here - cyclists, mountain bikers, hikers and bird watchers, as well as flower fanciers. Close to the visitor centre is a restaurant with a smart, bistro-style menu.
Where Narellan Road, Mount Annan.
Prime time All year.
Stay Rydges Campbelltown; sleek, modernist hotel close to the city's arts and leisure complex; micro-brewery on the premises. rydges.com.
CORBETT GARDENS, BOWRAL
As well manicured as you would expect in Bowral, the belle of the Southern Highlands, this small but jewel-like park features many mature exotic trees, some of them planted when the park was established a century ago. Picnic facilities are limited to tables, but the lawns make a fine runner-up. This is one of the showpieces of Bowral's Tulip Time celebration in spring, when the gardens light up with 100,000 massed tulips and 20,000 annual plants.
Where Wingecarribee Street, Bowral.
Prime time Summer and also mid-September-October and April-May.
Stay Links House; historic guesthouse that combines the charm of the Edwardian era with stylish, contemporary accommodation. linkshouse.com.au.
STANWELL PARK BEACH RESERVE, STANWELL PARK
Generously endowed with green lawns, this reserve backs away from the golden sands of the surf beach at Stanwell Park, one of the gems of the Wollongong region. This is an ideal base for a day at a great beach without eating sand with your sandwiches. Swim in the patrolled areas, as the beach slopes sharply and there are rips. Look up to watch the hang-gliders spiralling down from Lawrence Hargraves Lookout.
Where Park Parade, Stanwell Park.
Prime time All year.
Stay Quality Suites Pioneer Sands; modern, apartment-style accommodation with security under-cover parking in Towradgi, just north of Wollongong. pioneersands.com.au.
SLOAN RESERVE, MOUNT WILSON
This 0.8-hectare rainforest reserve close to Ferny Corner is a revegetation project undertaken by the local Bushcare group, and it stands now as evidence of their dedication. Heavily vegetated with rainforest species and well shaded, this is ideal for warm-weather picnics. On weekends, it sees fewer visitors than the picnic area at the town's Waterfall Reserve. The reserve is about the mid-point on the Mount Wilson Village Walk, a 3.5-kilometre ramble that knits together most of the attractions of this gorgeous mountaintop village.
Where The Avenue, Mount Wilson.
Prime time Summer and also March-April and September-October.
Stay Chimney Cottage; three separate and luxuriously appointed lodgings set in a glorious garden within a private domain; close to Waterfall Creek. chimneycottage.com.au.
BASS POINT RESERVE, SHELLHARBOUR
The long peninsula that curls to embrace Shellharbour to the south, Bass Point has a small picnic area just above the waves at its eastern extremity. The peninsula has several significant Aboriginal sites, linked by a walking trail that winds through coastal rainforest. The intertidal rock pools provide endless fascination, and there is much more to see if you pack a snorkel. Bushrangers Bay, the figure-eight-shaped bay at the very end of the peninsula, is an aquatic reserve with excellent, sheltered conditions for snorkelers and divers.
Where Bass Point Tourist Road.
Prime time All year.
Stay Idle Time Cottage; handsomely renovated two-bedroom cottage located on a 25-hectare farm just outside Jamberoo. boutiquetravel.com.au.
AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDENS, CANBERRA
Located at the foot of Black Mountain, these sprawling gardens are home to an astonishing array of native flora from Australia's rainforests, deserts, alpine meadows and scrublands. The Main Path is an easy, one-hour stroll that takes in the Tasmanian Rainforest Gully, the rock gardens, the hakeas and the Eucalypt Lawn, the perfect spot to unfurl your rug, although there are also picnic tables scattered throughout the gardens. On weekends throughout January, the lawn is the backdrop for the evening Summer Sounds Concert Series.
Where Clunies Ross Street, Acton.
Prime time October to April.
Stay Diamant Hotel Canberra; luxury boutique hotel with calm, crisp and uncluttered rooms in soothing colours. 8hotels.com.
GREEN PATCH, JERVIS BAY
Crimson rosellas, king parrots and eastern grey kangaroos are common visitors at the picnic area at Green Patch, in the pristine coastal wilderness of Booderee National Park at the southern end of Jervis Bay. The park is one of the state's coastal treasures, with walking trails that wind past a succession of beaches cradled between knuckles of rock and backed by blackbutt, ti tree and mahogany forest. Such credentials make Green Patch picnic area and the adjacent campsite a popular spot, and the summer school holiday period and warm weekends are best avoided.
Where Booderee National Park.
Prime time February to May.
Stay Hyams Beach Seaside Cottages; a collection of romantic, pastel-coloured cottages in a peerless location right on Hyams Beach. hyamsbeachseasidecottages.com.au.
PEBBLY BEACH, SOUTH COAST
The picnic area at Pebbly Beach in Murramarang National Park, south of Ulladulla, is an ideal place to get close and personal with the eastern grey kangaroos that inhabit the surrounding bushland - a little too close in some cases, since the 'roos are completely fearless. Some of the bolder members of the mob will even plunder picnic baskets, so be on guard. They have even been known to enter the surf, although body boarders need not fear.
Where Murramarang National Park.
Prime time November to April.
Stay Bannisters Point Lodge; resort-size serving of facilities, a location that makes the most of its stunning, blue-water outlook and a Rick Stein seafood restaurant. bannisters.com.au.
Alfred Nichols Memorial Gardens
Named after its founder, who made a fortune from aspirin, this hillside garden is a never-ending array of delights. Spring lights up the garden with camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, followed by the hydrangeas, fuchsias, native ferns and terrestrial orchids of summer, then the autumnal glory of the maples, beeches and ginkgos.
Sherbrooke Road, Sherbrooke
Considering the novel and the film that were set here, it is only natural this striking volcanic rock formation in the Macedon Ranges has become a popular picnic destination. The region has a thriving locavore food scene, and the local farms, provedores and wineries can set you up with everything required for a gourmet picnic.
South Rock Road, Woodend
Moonlight Creek Picnic Area
A remnant of the soaring mountain ash and blackwood forests that once covered the western Strzelecki Ranges, this is a lovely spot for a picnic on a hot day and easily accessible. Walking trails from the picnic area wander through tree ferns. Don't miss the Giant's Circuit Walk which takes you past the Standing Giant, a mountain ash seven metres in diameter.
Mount Worth State Park, between Warragul and Korumburra
National Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda
At Olinda in the Dandenong Ranges, the National Rhododendron Gardens reach a spectacular climax in spring, when 15,000 rhododendrons, 12,000 azaleas, 3000 camellias and 250,000 daffodils create a blaze of colour. While other times of the year are less dramatic, each season has its own rewards.
The Georgian Road, Olinda
Badger Weir, Healesville
Located in Yarra Ranges National Park, this gorgeous picnic spot close to Badger Creek is surrounded by rainforest species, including majestic examples of mountain ash. King parrots, rosellas and the superb lyrebird are just some of the bird species frequently seen.
Seven kilometres from Healesville, and signposted.
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, Maleny
A short drive east of Maleny in the Blackall Ranges, Mary Cairncross Reserve is a 52-hectare reserve crammed with rioting rainforest greenery. Scattered throughout the reserve are shady picnic areas and, if you're quiet, you might even spot red-legged pademelons.
148 Mountain View Road, Maleny
Binna Burra Picnic Area, Lamington National Park
Green and serene, this picnic area lies within Australia's largest surviving parcel of subtropical rainforest. About 200 square kilometres of ancient volcanic lava flows has been colonised by lush vegetation, full of exotic bird noises, frogs and fungi. Tackle some of walking trails.
From Broadbeach drive to Beechmont via Nerang.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mount Coot-tha
The state's premier subtropical gardens, this is also an oasis for birds and animals. Themed areas include a Japanese garden, a bonsai house, an arid zone, and the biosphere that houses tropical plants, making the gardens a year-round delight.
Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong
Sandy Creek Circuit Picnic Area, Tamborine Mountain
Located in tall, open forest at the start of the Sandy Creek Circuit Walk, this spot offers superb views from its elevated position. The big attraction is the 2.6-kilometre walking track, which winds through thick forests of carrabeen trees, with a short spur track leading to Cameron Falls - don't miss it.
Via Main Street and Knoll Road, Mount Tamborine.
Kondalilla National Park, Blackall Range
A short downhill walk from the car park leads you to a big grassy area with picnic tables at this cool mountain refuge. While you could easily go no further, the 1.7-kilometre Picnic Creek Circuit Walk is highly recommended. A slight extension of this walk will take you to Kondalilla Falls, which tumble in a glistening arc through the green forest.
Off Kondalilla Falls Road, Montville
THE RUG Preferably tartan, but I'm also a big fan of Asian-style mats, which roll up to nothing and they're cooler.
THE SEATING Those fold-up versions with a stubby holder in the handle are a godsend for those times when you can't find an empty picnic table.
THE COFFEE A billy will no longer do. Pack a Bialetti-style espresso maker.
THE RUBBISH BAGS Not only for your scrapings but also for wrapping the dirty cutlery, crockery and bowls.
THE INSECT REPELLENT Even more important than the food. How did we end up with the world's peskiest flies?
PICNIC GAMES FOR THE FAMILY Here are some ideas to entertain the kids outdoors while you relax on the rug.