Friday, 12 Aug 2022

Auckland’s ultimate level 3 picnic spots, and the best picnic recipes

As Tāmaki Makaurau’s new level 3 guidelines were announced, (allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people from two households) a few million people thought the exact same thing: Park picnics.

Many of us haven’t been this excited to sit on a grassy knoll and drink wine with our friends since we were teenagers. Meaning, we may now have a few questions like, how can we avoid the crowds that will no doubt rush to St Heliers or Takapuna Beach? Where are the best spots to park up and is it even legal to crack open a can or bottle of something to celebrate?

Whether it’s okay to drink or carry alcohol in Auckland depends on two things: where you are and what time it is.

Urban areas tend to operate a 24/7 ban while parks and beaches often require you to finish your drinks before 10pm during daylight saving.

Best Beaches + Parks for a summer picnic

Anchor Bay
It may be just 80 minutes north of central Auckland, but Anchor Bay feels like a world away, perched on the coastal edge of Tāwharanui Regional Park. With stunning white sand and clear waters, it may be popular on the weekends but with a little exploring around the area, you’re sure to find a quiet spot.
No alcohol ban in place.

Wenderholm Regional Park
Surrounded by dense forest, Wenderholm Regional Park is Auckland’s first (and arguably most beautiful) regional park. Located a few kilometres past Orewa, the coastal park is full of spots to picnic the day away with sweeping views of the Hauraki Gulf.
Visible/excessive consumption of alcohol prohibited.

Ōrewa Beach
One of the best in the city, Ōrewa Beach is a mere 30 minutes from the CBD and the perfect place to escape for a quick sunset session. Park up somewhere along the 3km of white sand, or enjoy a long stroll around the walking paths.
Alcohol ban: 10pm – 7am.

Gumdiggers Trail
Can’t decide between a beach, grass, bay or wharf location? This North Shore spot has all bases covered with an elevated cliff track linking Murray’s Bay Beach and wharf to Rothesay Bay Reserve and beach.
Alcohol ban: 10pm – 7am.

Cheltenham Beach
Across the bridge but far from the Takapuna crowds, this lovely little beach boasts panoramic views of Rangitoto. Take your pick of setting out on the sand, nearby grassy areas, or hike up the nearby Maungauika/North Head Historic Reserve for even better views.
Alcohol ban: 10pm – 7am.

Halls Beach Reserve
Hidden away in Northcote Point next to Little Shoal Bay, Halls Beach Reserve is a favourite gem amongst locals, with unbeatable views of the city’s harbour bridge. A tiny ‘blink and you miss it’ spot, make sure you have a backup plan in case it’s occupied by another bubble.
No alcohol ban in place.

Pākiri Beach
Remote and idyllic, this 14km-long beach is well worth the drive, decorated with pōhutukawa trees, a solid surf break and views of Little Barrier Island. Make a day of it with a visit to Goat Island Marine Reserve.
Visible/excessive consumption of alcohol prohibited.

Basque Park
What Basque Park lacks in views it more than makes up for in tranquillity; something hard to come by in the inner city. The large stretch of lush grass is full of places to pull out a picnic and enjoy the sun.
Alcohol ban: 10pm – 7am.

Dove-Myer Robinson Park
This park is a rose between the thorns of the inner city, otherwise known as the Parnell Rose Gardens. Grab a loved one and a top-notch spread because it doesn’t get more romantic than being surrounded by more than 5000 rose bushes.
Alcohol ban: 10pm – 7am.

Āwhitu Regional Park
Head through Waiuku and you’ll find the serene gem that is Āwhitu Regional Park. Just south of Manukau Heads, gazing out to Kauritūtahi Island, you’re spoiled for choice with park and beach picnic spots. Arrived by car? Make sure you head out before gates close at 9 pm.
Visible/excessive consumption of alcohol prohibited.

Need a refresher on what the new level 3 rules do (and don’t) include? Visit

Got another spot in mind? Check out Auckland Council’s alcohol ban map.


Food Editor Maggie Wicks has top tops for making your picnic a breeze

Whether you love Scotch eggs or white bread sandwiches, tarts and slices, or homemade cordials, read on for a selection of the best simple, delicious, seasonal and sensational picnic dishes to whip up this week.

For a last-minute invitation

For a fast dish, don’t forget to pack a pie. For speed and ease, vegetable tarts with ready-made puff pastry are a no-brainer. There are loads of easy vege tart recipes available – click here to see our full collection. Just use what is fresh and available.

Onion and gruyere quiche

If you can, have this gruyere tart warm from the oven. Get the pastry baked earlier in the day so you can just fill it and bake. The subtle flavour of gruyere marries well with slow-cooked onions and fresh herbs.

Anglea Casley’s upside down tomato tart

The tomato tart is oh-so pretty and perfect for a picnic. And it’s always great to have a vegetarian offering. Try to get tomatoes from a roadside stall or, even better, homegrown. The flavour will be sublime. Keep the wine flowing and have lots of fresh bread on hand as well.

Something more substantial

If you have time to make something a bit more involved, these recipes are sure to impress.

Annabel Langbein’s picnic roast chicken

Roasting a chicken is such a simple thing to do and squeezing some lemon juice over the top before cooking makes the skin golden and adds a lot of flavour. If you are taking this on a picnic make slaw and buy soft buns or baps.

Nadia Lim’s rabbit picnic pie

Rabbit is such an under-rated meat — it has quite a mild flavour (although different, it is most similar to chicken) and is very lean. Younger rabbits are more tender. If you can’t find rabbit, use a whole chicken (cut into pieces) and follow the same instructions. These pies can be eaten hot or cold, with salad, roasted baby carrots and peas, or just with tomato sauce alone — give rabbit a go and you’ll be converted to this delicious meat.

Add a salad for crunch

Two Raw Sisters’ broccoli buckwheat sesame salad

This salad shows you how easy, delicious and quick a plant-based meal or salad can be. It’s loaded with vibrant colours, flavours and textures. It will last three days in the fridge, so it’s perfect to prepare for trips to the beach or picnics in the park.

Annabel Langbein’s horseradish slaw

Often recipes have a little trick that takes them from good to amazing. When you’re making coleslaw the magic twist is to break up the cabbage by working it between your fingers so it becomes juicy. Try it – you won’t believe how it transforms your slaw.

Try a taste of nostalgia

Cheese, ham and rosemary pinwheel scones

These are fantastic for picnics and lunch boxes. They are very easy to make and delicious warm or cold.

Angela Casley’s traditional Scotch eggs

Over time, Scotch eggs were replaced with sausage rolls or the more glamorous quiche. Well, now they have made a comeback. The key to making Scotch eggs is to use good quality sausages. Plus, they can be made well ahead of time.

Finish with something sweet

Flourless, gluten-free rhubarb banana loaf

This flourless, gluten-free rhubarb banana loaf is delicious fresh from the oven or, if there is any left the day after, try it toasted. It’s just as good with a sweet or savoury topping. I’m a fan of butter, so it has to be a generous spread for me with homemade jam. Try it with ricotta and tomato or almond butter with a little fruit jam.

Edmond’s picnic brownies

The Edmonds Cookery Book has screeds of recipes for more picnic pleasers. Here’s their classic peanut brownie recipe with a few extra add-ins from the cupboard.

A quick and easy picnic drink

A homemade drink is not just healthier than ready-made options, it’s just as charming

Elderflower and lemon cordial

A bottle of elderflower cordial and a lemon tree is what you need for this simple drink (add a dash of alcohol, and you could even call it a cocktail.

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