Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The lost art of the Australian picnic

Photo from

Growing up, picnics were still a central feature of Australian life. There were organised events such as sunday school picnics, school picnics or picnic races. But far more common was the simple domestic picnic.

These were in part excursion, getting out to a nearby picnic spot. But they were also a central feature of travel, with families stopping by the side of the road to have a cup of tea or coffee and something to eat.

Then, almost overnight, they seemed to vanish, replaced by fast food or BBQs. Don't get me wrong, I like a good BBQ, but the picnic has the advantage that you can eat in many more places.

Picnics still exist, but they have become much more ornate occasions. Again don't get me wrong. I do not object to a range of specially prepared food. However, there is a lot to be said for simplicity.

I think that the key thing about a picnic is that it can take so many forms.

When travelling on a tight budget in Europe, we used to picnic in our hotel room at lunchtime, combining bread, cheese and things such as olives and salami, washed down with a rough red.

Travelling in Australia, I fear that we have fallen into the habit of stopping at those monster road side stops that now dot the express ways. This is a real error. It quite destroys the pleasure that can be obtained from a more relaxed stop in a pleasant place.

Yes, the monster road stops are useful when travelling quickly from point A to point B, although even then there is something to be said for stopping by the road to picnic. But there is really no excuse when touring.

One of the real pleasures of Regional Australia is that there are just so many nooks and crannies that come alive when you stop and look. A second pleasure is that there is now such a variety of food that you can bring with you or buy on the way to try.

This is one case where I need to reform myself!


In a nice comment, Barbara Martin recorded her own nostalgia about picnics of the past. Barbara's own blog is a gentle view of Canadian life.


Barbara Martin said...

I came across your blog by accident, and am very glad I stopped.

As a child, I remember going on family car trips where almost every meal was from a picnic hamper or from items bought at a grocery store en route to wherever we were going: Elk Island National Park west of Edmonton, Canada, or one of the many lake beaches in the area or going to Banff or Jasper in the Rockies. We camped in a tent, and it was a great family outing.

Thank you for bringing up these fond memories.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Barbara. I have mentioned the comment on the post itself.

Barbara Martin said...

Jim, just a note to advise you that the Canadian history posts have been moved to Wednesdays.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thank you, Barbara.