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Top 5 Picnic Spots

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As part of our new Top 5 column I bring you the top 5 parks for a picnic. Picnics are great because they can cost anything from R50 to R500 (sometimes even free) and they require you to be outside, which can only be a good thing after the slog of a work week.

With the help of my esteemed colleagues I tirelessly created this list but I would like to point out that there are far more than five great picnic spots in and around Johannesburg. However, as this is called the 'Top 5' column I had to trim the list down to the parks I felt were unique in some way, are safe and would appeal to most people (you - the readers).

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden
This first pick was almost a no-brainer - the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens are vast and stunning with an array of flora and fauna, a waterfall, educational walks and even a black eagle which nests perched atop the waterfall kraans. They are open weekdays and weekends and will sometimes have a show or celebration happening. They also have a mini-train that operates on weekends - great fun for the kids (and possibly the only operational mini-train in Gauteng.) Tip: Make sure you check before you go as I'm sure you don't want to take your significant other on a romantic picnic to find that Robbie Wessels is throwing it down over the loud speakers all day. Fact: Walter Sisulu usually always wins the 'Best Picnic Spot in Joburg' award and did win the 2010 award. Visit the SANBI website.
Venue: End of Malcolm Road, Poortview, Roodepoort
Cost: R10 to R25

Walkhaven
This ones for the dog lovers out there. Walkhaven started in 2006 with the strict purpose of being a safe environment to exercise your pooches but now only four years in have added a restaurant, a kennel and a function/entertainment venue with hordes of families making the trek to spend the day with their family and mans best friend. It's situated in quaint Muldersdrift on a 22 hectare plot of rolling grassland featuring a little dam for your dogs enjoyment.

Walkhaven are holding a 'Puppy School Sundae' in conjunction with Hills on Sunday, 14th of November, 2010, to show the benefits of Puppy School, encourage responsible pet ownership and at the same time raise funds for welfare organisation Animals in Distress. Visit www.walkhaven.co.za for info or to register.
Venue: Plot 77, Zwartkop, Johannesburg
Cost: R10 to R20. Tip: Visit their website for info on getting an annual pass which also entitles you to other perks.

Gillooly's
Another great picnic venue, Gillooly's is a staple on the more eastern side of town. This big piece of grassland features everything from braai areas (very rare in parks these days) to conference venues and have a restaurant on the property. It's beautiful, safe and is perfect for picnicking with friends as you can braai and play sport or sun tan on the lovely flat and soft grass. Tip: Saturdays tend to be a little busy and sometimes a little ruckus (they don't only allow braaing but also alcohol which is fun for some... not so fun for all). Call +27 11 453 8066 for more info or visit their website.
Venue: Boeing Road West, Bedfordview.
Cost: Free

Emmarentia Botanical Gardens
The central Joburg contingent - Emmarentia Dam and Botanical Gardens is the utmost perfect venue for a picnic. You don't pay entrance and are exposed to a world of beauty and a view of the city which intrinsically forms the ambience of the park. It's known for the dam on the property and more recently for the big rock shows hosted there with paddle boat hire and benches skirting the dam. This is the most popular park in central Johannesburg and is a must for people who haven't yet visited. Fact: The Emmarentia Botanical Gardens is in fact not one of the eight National Botanic Gardens, it's run by the Joburg Parks Dept, Walter Sisulu on the other hand is a National Botanic Garden and is therefore run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
Venue: Olifants Road, Emmarentia
Cost: Free

Van Gaalans Kaasmakerij
A personal favourite of mine, Van Gaalans is, as the name suggests a cheese factory, although using the word factory when referring to this little slice of tranquillity would be blasphemy. They do Gouda and only Gouda and they do it well. From very aged cheeses to young softer ones their Gouda is immaculate but enough about their cheeses before I start drooling on my keyboard. The property boasts a restaurant, a small quiet river and of course the cheese 'factory'. They provide tours of the cheese making process and allow patrons to use their property for picnics. Tip: If you phone a day ahead they will make you a picnic basket for R310 which includes every and anything you could possibly want for a picnic. If I'm not mistaken that even includes some wine...yum! Another tip would be to book ahead for their restaurant if you ever plan on heading out there because it can get busy.
Venue: Skeerpoort off the R512 (turn off to the Magaliesburg) Call or visit their website for more info.
Cost: R310 for a picnic basket

Thats my top 5 but as I said before, there are lots more to choose from. Below is are a few thoughts to get your ideas going:
  • Zoo Lake - Boats for hire (makes for a great picnic)
  • Ethel and James Grey Park and Bird Sanctuary, Houghton
  • Riversands Farm, just off William Nicol
  • Rietvlei Nature Reserve
  • Your back garden
by Byron Marais
Visit my Google Profile.

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