Whether you’re looking for a grassy patch to picnic or a public playground for kids, somewhere to fire up a BBQ or a shady spot to people watch, Melbourne is blessed with green spaces of all shapes and sizes.

From blissful botanic gardens to river islands accessible only by kayak, here’s our pick of the city’s best parks to explore.

Crowds of people sit on a sloping grassy hill in Birrarung Marr watching the Men's Singles Final match of the Australian Open on a large outdoor screen.
Crowds watch the Australian Open on a large screen in Birrarung Marr © Vince Caligiuri / Getty Images

Birrarung Marr

Multi-terraced Birrarung Marr is one of Melbourne’s most unique parks, featuring grassy knolls, river promenades, thoughtful planting of indigenous flora and great viewpoints of the city and the river. There's also a scenic route to the Melbourne Cricket Ground via the ‘talking’ William Barak Bridge – listen out for songs, words and sounds representing Melbourne’s cultural diversity as you walk. Birrarung Marr means 'river of mists’ in the language of the Wurundjeri people, the traditional owners of the area, and you’ll find Indigenous Australian art dotted along the park’s main pathway.

Edinburgh Gardens

Established European elms line the tranquil walking paths of this 140-year-old parkland. A short walk from the main strip of North Fitzroy, these gardens are an ideal place to laze about. Drop into local favourite supermarket Piedmonte's to pick up picnic provisions beforehand. Should the mood take you, there's a lawn bowls green next door, while the lovely outdoor Fitzroy Swimming Pool is a five-minute walk to the south.

Read more: When to go to Melbourne

People lie on the grass under the shade of large trees in Flagstaff Gardens, Melbourne.
Flagstaff Gardens is a top spot for a picnic © Jeff Greenberg / Getty Images

Flagstaff Gardens

Originally known as Burial Hill, these gardens in the heart of the city were the site of Melbourne's first cemetery, where eight of the city’s early settlers were buried. If that doesn't deter you, grab a picnic from the Queen Victoria Market and pull up a patch of grass beside workers on their lunch break. There are BBQ facilities, tennis courts, a rose garden and trees more than 100 years old. There are also plenty of possums about, but don't feed them.

Collingwood Children's Farm

Is a farm a park? Either way, there’s plenty of green space to unwind at this rustic riverside retreat in Abbotsford that’s much beloved, and not just by children. There are frolicking farm animals that kids can help feed, as well as cow milking and guinea-pig cuddles. The fantastic, open-air cafe can be visited without entering the farm itself, while the monthly farmers market is a local highlight.

A jogger runs along a paved pathway through an autumnal Fitzroy Park in Melbourne. The leaves of the large trees lining the path are gold and orange in colour.
Find model villages, tree stump art and local Aboriginal landmarks at Fitzroy Gardens © James Braund / Lonely Planet

Fitzroy Gardens

The city drops away suddenly just east of Spring Street in East Melbourne, giving way to Melbourne’s beautiful backyard, Fitzroy Gardens. The park's stately avenues are lined with English elms, flowerbeds, expansive lawns, fountains and a creek. There's also a playground with a dragon slide. Other attractions include the miniature model Tudor Village, a gift from a London pensioner to thank Melburnians for sending food to Britain during WWII (there’s a matching village in London’s Vauxhall Park), and Aussie artist Ola Cohn’s kooky carved Fairies' Tree, a 300-year old stump embellished in the 1930s with fairies, pixies, kangaroos, and possums.

Another park landmark is known as a scarred tree: now a large stump, it was once stripped of a piece of its bark by the local Aboriginal people to make a canoe. There's another one, fenced off near the MCG.

Royal Park

Fittingly located in the Parkville neighbourhood of Melbourne, Royal Park's vast open spaces are perfect for a run or power walk, and there are sports fields, netball and hockey stadiums, a golf course and tennis courts. In the northwestern section of the park, Trin Warren Tam-boore is a recently established wetlands area, with boardwalks and interpretive signs for spotting native plants and animals. There's also a great playground near the Royal Children's Hospital.

Cléa Vincent performing as part of So Frency So Chic at Werribee Park. The image is taken from behind the artist on stage, with a large crowd visible in the grounds. Behind them is a grand old building.
Werribee Park plays host to regular music festivals and events © Naomi Rahim / Getty Images

Werribee Park Mansion

Werribee Park Mansion, in the western suburb of Werribee, is surrounded by beautiful, formal gardens complete with picnic areas. Audio headphones re-create the 1870s soundscape, when the Italianate mansion was built. It also plays host to a luxe hotel, spa, and occasional festivals. Of particular note is the Victoria State Rose Garden, which has more than 5500 rose bushes arranged in the shape of a giant Tudor rose.

Gasworks Arts Park

This former gas plant lay derelict from the 1950s before finding new life as an arts and culture hub, with two free red-brick galleries, a theatre (check the website for details of upcoming shows) and ultra dog-friendly parkland. You can meet local working artists on a pre-booked guided tour (adult/child $25/15), or come for the farmers market and open studios on the third Saturday of each month. The on-site Priscilla Jones Cafe has a peaceful outdoor seating area.

Read more: The 7 best road trips from Melbourne

A view of a section of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. A patch of green lawn is visible, beyond it are a number of colourful bushes and trees of various shapes and sizes.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are one of Melbourne's must-visit sights for nature lovers © EQRoy / Shutterstock

Royal Botanic Gardens

From the air, these stunning, 38-hectare gardens suggest a set of giant green lungs in the middle of the city. Drawing over two million visitors annually, it's considered one of the finest examples of Victorian-era landscaping in the world. Here you'll find global plantings and a range of Australian flora. Mini ecosystems, a herb garden and an indigenous rainforest are set amid vast, picnic-friendly lawns and black-swan-spotted ponds. Be sure to book the Aboriginal Heritage Walk.

In summer the gardens play host to Moonlight Cinema and theatre performances. Other features include the 19th-century Melbourne Observatory for tours of the night sky, and the excellent, nature-based Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, a whimsical, child-scaled place that invites kids and their parents to explore, discover and imagine.

Herring Island

This untouched river island is a sanctuary for the Yarra's original trees, grasses and indigenous animals. Within is an impressive collection of environmental sculpture, including work by Brit Andy Goldsworthy and numerous Australian artists, among them Julie Collins, Robert Jacks, Robert Bridgewater, John Davis and Ellen José. There are designated picnic and BBQ areas. On summer weekends, a Parks Victoria punt operates from Como Landing on Alexandra Avenue in South Yarra; at other times you'll need a kayak to get here.

A jogger makes their way around a track in Albert Park Lake. Behind them is the large lake, and beyond that the skyline of central Melbourne.
Cycle, jog or walk the lovely loop around Albert Park Lake © Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

Albert Park Lake

Elegant black swans give their inimitable bottoms-up salute as you jog, cycle or walk the 5km perimeter of this artificial lake. Lakeside Drive was used as an international motor-racing circuit in the 1950s, and since 1996 the revamped track has been the venue for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix every March. Also on the periphery is the Melbourne Sports & Aquatic Centre, with an Olympic-size pool and child-delighting wave machine.

St Kilda Botanical Gardens

Taking pride of place on the southern side of the Barkly-Carlisle-Blessington Streets triangle, the Botanical Gardens are an unexpected haven from St Kilda's hustle. Wide gravel paths invite a leisurely stroll, and there are plenty of shady spots for sprawling on the inviting lawns. Features include local indigenous plants and wildlife, a subtropical-rainforest conservatory, a rose garden and an ornamental pond home to a family of ducks.

You might also like:
The best beaches in and around Melbourne
Top 10 national parks in Australia
How to get around Melbourne

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