MEJ Masthead

Picnics reinvented

Amanda Whitley and Beatrice Smith

We speak to a new start-up that takes picnics to the next level.

Picnics sure aren’t what they used to be. Gone are the days of cobbling together some cold meats and salads and cramming onto a well-worn blanket. The modern picnic has gone upmarket, thanks to some of the biggest names in Canberra’s food and wine industry—James and Mary Souter, Kate Hibberson and John Leverink—the team from The Boat House and Pod Food.

“The inspiration came to me late last summer,” says James.

“My family have always been big picnic fans…and these are generally quite elaborate affairs with lawn games and hot food. It’s just a great way to reconnect with friends in a different setting.”

However, the preparation and clean up that comes with a picnic (think unpacking sticky Tupperware when you get home) can deter some people. And so Schmicnics—a pop-up gourmet picnic business—was born.

“It just struck me – what if you could just turn up and have all the fun of the picnic without lifting a finger? It sounded pretty great to me!”

For James, it was also all about location, location, location.

“People often talk about Canberra underutilising the foreshore, but I think there’s something really special about how the majority of Canberra’s waterfront has remained true to the concept of a garden city. It’s beautiful, and it means that the land is kept open to everyone.”

“We want to provide great food, drinks, and atmosphere without changing the nature and intent of the space, opening up the beautiful parklands to people, and make using that space a more inviting and accessible prospect.”

Schmicnics offers two types of picnics: hampers, great for smaller groups of two or more people; and parties for larger groups.

“The hampers are great for a day out, a casual after-work dinner in summer, or something a bit more special—like a proposal. Think Yellowfin Tuna Tacos, Blue Corn, Cultured Cream, Soy; Salt-baked Aalmon, Herb Waffles, Avruga Caviar; or Fire-roasted Corn with Togarashi Spice and Lime and more.”

“The parties are a little more elaborate. These are fully catered events with a range of delicious hot and cold food presented on a large grazing style picnic table as a centrepiece. Drinks can be BYO or available as an additional package.”

But food and drink is only part of what make picnics so magical—games like croquet, lawn bowls, Finska (a Finnish log-tossing game) all add to the fun, and rugs, scatter cushions and large shade umbrellas elevate the experience. The best part? the Schmicnics team deliver everything to your chosen location (and do all the cleaning up).

“The whole intention of Schmicnics is to get people out enjoying the beauty of Canberra and the lake area, so we’ll be encouraging people to choose one of the many picturesque picnic spot around the lake,” says James.

“We want to see those colourful picnic blankets on the green grass by the lake, people sipping a beer, enjoying some really great food, having a game of Finska and a laugh. Finding a new way to enjoy the beautiful Canberra summer with their friends and family.”

Find out more at

Five places for a five-star picnic


Lennox Gardens, set on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, offers beautiful views of Black Mountain, the Brindabella Ranges and the city centre. Kids can roam the expanse of lush green grass and there’s plenty of space to picnic, have a barbeque or just relax under the shade of towering trees.

Flynn Drive, Yarralumla.


As well as having plenty of gorgeous green space for picnics, this 40-hectare park has a wading pool, beach, miniature train and cycle track. Kids will love the playground with climbing net and swings, adventure playground and miniature train while the adults will enjoy a little Bocce or Pétanque.

Off Weston Park Road, Yarralumla.


Want to have your picnic spot all to yourself? Springbank Island is located in Lake Burley Griffin’s West Basin, accessed is exclusively by boat or paddle craft. A perfect spot for a family picnic with plenty of shady spots during summer, the Island is surrounded by trees and native vegetation.

Lake Burley Griffin – West Basin.


Nestled on the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin’s East Basin, Grevillea Park has beautiful views across the lake to Jerrabomberra Wetlands, Kingston and Parliament House. The perfect place to enjoy a magnificent sunset.

Accessible via Morshead Drive, Russell.


Black Mountain Peninsula is the perfect place to enjoy Lake Burley Griffin in every way: swimming, paddling, boating or just strolling along the beach or the water’s edge. This 22.2 hectares of foreshore parkland includes picnic areas, drinking fountains and all-ability-access playgrounds.

Photography: Tim Bean Photography

This article originally appeared in Magazine: Summer for Summer 2017/18, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here


Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author


Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author

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