Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden
The Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden is a vast expanse of stunning flora and fauna. It has a beautiful cascading waterfall, educational walks and even a black eagle which nests atop the waterfall kraans. It is open on weekdays and weekends and will sometimes have a show or event taking place. The Garden also has a mini-train that operates on weekends which is great fun for the kids (and possibly the only operational mini-train in Gauteng).
Tip: Make sure you call before going as sometimes the Botanical Garden hosts events which can be loud and interrupt your idea of a quiet afternoon picnic.
Details: End of Malcolm Road, Poortview, Roodepoort
This one’s for all the dog lovers out there. Walkhaven started in 2006 with the strict purpose of being a safe environment to exercise your pooches. Walkhaven has a restaurant, a kennel and a function venue with hordes of families making the trek to spend the day with their furry best friends. It’s situated in quaint Muldersdrift on a 22-hectare plot of rolling grassland and features a little dam for your dogs’ enjoyment.
Tip: Visit their website for info on getting an annual pass, which also entitles you to other perks.
Details: Plot 77, Zwartkop, Johannesburg
Gillooly’s Farm is another great picnic venue 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. They even have a restaurant on the property. It’s beautiful, safe and perfect for picnicking with friends as you can braai, play sport or suntan on the soft sprawling lawns.
Tip: Saturdays tend to be a little busy and at times, so there can be a bit of a ruckus (they don’t only allow braaing but alcohol too, which is fun for some… but not for all).
Details: Boeing Road West, Germiston, Johannesburg
Emmarentia Botanical Gardens
This central Joburg contingent is the perfect venue for a picnic. You don’t pay an entrance fee, are exposed to a world of beauty and have a brilliant view of the city. The Emmarentia Dam and Botanical Gardens is known for its dam and, more recently, for the big live music shows hosted there. They also offer 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 it, as well as for those who have.
Interesting Fact: The Emmarentia Botanical Gardens is in fact not one of the eight National Botanic Gardens and is run by the Joburg Parks Department. Walter Sisulu, on the other hand, is a National Botanic Garden and is therefore run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
Details: Olifants Road, Emmarentia, Johannesburg
Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij
A personal favourite is Van Gaalen, which is actually a cheese factory (although we feel that using the word factory when referring to this little slice of tranquillity is blasphemy). They do Gouda and only Gouda as they do it so damn well. From aged cheeses to young, softer ones, their Gouda is immaculate! But enough about their cheeses before we start drooling on our keyboards. 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 on the banks of the Skeerpoort river. Another tip would be to book ahead for their restaurant if you plan on heading out there because it can get busy.
Details: Skeerpoort off the R512 (turn off towards Magaliesburg). Call or visit their website for more info.
As Joburg’s original park, Zoo Lake used to be the place where the Randlords went to have picnics. With 9 hectares of play area and almost nowhere to park, Zoo Lake is one of our favourite spots to check out. If you forget the picnic goods at home, you can pop into Moyo and grab a bunch of stuff to eat. You can also go for boat rides on the lake – at R10 a pop (it’s been R10 since forever, but just make sure as this price can change before we know it).
Tip: The weekends get pretty packed so try and go early to get a decent parking spot. Alternatively, you can park at Moyo but then you have to buy something from the restaurant.
Details: Zoo Lake, Parkview, Randburg, 2122
Ethel and James Grey Park and Bird Sanctuary
“Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed…” The poet Walt Whitman said that. Though he’s never been to Ethel and James Grey Park and Bird Sanctuary, we’re pretty sure he would have enjoyed walking the path around this beautiful piece of flora and fauna. The soft green grass, the chirping of birds and the sun shining softly on your cheek makes for a great picnic experience. With 36 hectares of land to put your blankie down on, we highly recommend the old Ethel and James Grey Park and Bird Sanctuary.
Details: Edgewood Avenue & Melrose St, Melrose, Johannesburg, 2000
Hands down the friendliest park in Jozi, Riversands Farm on the outskirts of Fourways (just past Dainfern) boasts tons of activities. Above and beyond soft grass and a relaxed atmosphere, this picnic hotspot is a great place to take the pups for a walk. There’s also a zipline, cafe, sports grounds and other cool stuff to get up to if the picnic basket runs empty. Riversands Farm is also known for hosting events such as the SA Gin Festival, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their events calendar. Oh, and before we forget, there’s a Sunday market happening, well, every Sunday. Count us in, please!
Tip: Bring sunblock. There’s not that much shade.
Details: Riversands Commercial Park, Rose Road, Knopjeslaagte, Midrand, 2189
Rietvlei Nature Reserve
Just past Pretoria, you will find 4 000 hectares of prime picnic fun. Rietvlei Nature Reserve is home to 404 species of birds, a big fat dam and loads of trees. So grab some blankets and picnic baskets, get the kids in the car and drive on over.
Tip: Don’t take a wee in the water. Rietvlei Dam supplies over 41 million litres of water to Pretoria on a daily basis. Also, if you’re driving through from Jozi, pack a snack to keep your wandering fingers out of the picnic basket on the way.
Details: 14 Game Reserve Ave, Rietvallei 377-Jr, Pretoria, 0181
Your Very Own Back Yard
Yup. We went there. It saves you a drive, you can keep the beer cold, and no one is going to yell at you for making a fire.
Tip: If you don’t have a backyard, check out the other nine venues… just saying.
Venue: Where the Wi-Fi connects automatically.
by Shawn Greyling
Remember that our “Top Picks” are not paid for and are compiled at the discretion of the journalist. We only write about what we love.