Picnicking: An Australian Pastime

Is there anything better than enjoying a picnic lunch on a beautiful day?

Picnics have been an Australian institution for centuries—and this wholesome tradition continues on today!

To usher in the spring picnic season, we brought back our beloved traditional-style Picnic Rugs, made with 100% Australian Merino wool. They’re available in four tartan designs that pay homage to Peter Bulman, the Scotsman who founded our mill in 1874.

In honour of the homecoming of our fan-favourite pieces, we’re exploring the history of the Australian picnic. Read on to learn about how our treasured outdoor gatherings came to be and how they’ve evolved over the years. We’re also giving you our top tips for ensuring your picnic goes off without a hitch.

Picnicking: An Australian Pastime

PICNICS GET POPULAR IN THE 19TH CENTURY

South Australia allowed the legal formation of unions in 1876—the first place in the British Empire to do so. The union movement brought with it the work picnic.

In 1881, thousands of miners and their families and friends came together for the Ballarat Miners’ Association first annual picnic at the Botanical Gardens. Fun Fact: This rowdy party ended early when some young gatecrashers partook in too much beer.

In 1884, thousands gathered at Parramatta Park for a picnic to celebrate the eight-hour day. But it wasn’t just union members having all the fun.

FOND PICNIC MEMORIES

The National Library of Australia’s oral history collection highlights some amazing memories of Aussie picnics in the 20th century.2 Here are a few highlights:

  • “Picnics were enjoyed at La Perouse, the National Park at Wattamolla and the Botanic Gardens by Sydney Harbour. Ronnie describes an idyllic scene. ‘[My dad would] put a blanket out under a tree and walk along the foreshore. [We’d] watch the boats. It didn’t ever enter our minds that we were poor.’” – Ronnie Gauci, who grew up in Sydney in the 1950s and 1960s

  • “Many a relationship started at a picnic. Beatrice remembers that when she grew up in the inner west of Sydney, picnics provided an opportunity for boys and girls to mix freely together. ‘We went out on our picnics - boys and girls all together - and we didn’t have chaperones with us.’” –  Beatrice Gerdes, born in 1902

  • “We took the kids for picnics most Sundays just out into the hills or the pine forests. We used to go off to the Stromlo Pine Forests and have picnics down on the river there and up on the pine trees… The kids enjoyed it I think, and we liked that kind of healthy outdoor life for the children on weekends anyway.” – Charles Price, whose family was based in Canberra in the 1950s

THE MODERN AUSTRALIAN PICNIC

Fast-forward to 2022, and the Australian tradition of picnics is alive and well. Enjoying the outdoors and being one with nature are an integral part of Australian life, and picnicking naturally fits into the Aussie lifestyle.

With so many beautiful and varied natural landscapes at our fingertips—from gorgeous shorelines to lush parks to botanical gardens—we take to picnicking like fish to water.

TOP 5 TIPS FOR A GREAT PICNIC

  1. Pack a durable (and attractive) picnic rug.
    Our 100% Australian Merino wool Picnic Rugs are as hard-wearing and durable as they are timeless.

  2. Make a graze-friendly spread.
    Think cheeses, olives, dips like hummus or baba ghanoush, olives, sliced fruit, crudités, fancy crackers, some sliced pita bread and something sweet for dessert!

  3. Pre-mix cocktails or mocktails.
    That way all you have to do is open your vessel and pour! Wine is always easy, too, especially if it comes in a can or twist-top bottle.

  4. Bring insect repellent.
    Nothing ruins a picnic like getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Don’t forget the spray and a citronella candle.

  5. Keep it eco-friendly.
    Cloth napkins, a charcuterie board and reusable utensils make your picnic spread feel extra special, and they help to prevent excess waste.

Happy picnicking!