This article was first published on More Gold Coast - your insider's guide to the Gold Coast.
Let's face it, Gold Coasters are spoilt for choice when it comes to picturesque BBQ and picnic spots.
In fact there are more than 380 barbecues available for use at parks and reserves across the city.
Burleigh Heads, Kirra, Broadbeach, Southport and Paradise Point are some of the most popular spots to socialise, but what about those haunts that are off the beaten track, the hidden gems that maybe aren't as frequented or as popular as others.
Sure you can't beat views of the ocean and coastline, but for those wanting somewhere a little different and less busy to spend the day, why not check out some of these places.
Perfect for a family picnic or birthday BBQ
It's a picturesque drive to Hinze Dam and its associated picnic areas; so why not make a day of it and pack the kids scooters and bikes and take advantage of being able to ride around the dam. Located about 20 minutes inland from the M1, it has a cafe as well as a picnic area so you can either bring your own food or buy it.
My kids love clambering atop the rocks at the foreshore of the lake and finding all sorts of treasures in nature. The circular bike track is perfect for small ones just learning to ride a bike or scooter. Below the spillway gates there's a picnic area that offers some shade, plenty of green space and a playground for kids. It has decent toilets, barbecues, a drinking fountain and plenty of parking.
Address: Hinze Dam Rd, Advancetown, 15 kilometres south-west of Nerang.
Perfect for a quiet picnic and play in the water
Popular with swimmers and stand up paddle boarders (SUP), Currumbin Creek is a sheltered spot to relax and watch the world float by. Most people go to the south side of the river but it's pretty packed and by 8.30am on weekends it's almost impossible to get a park. This is why you should try a little spot near Salk Oval on the other side of the river, between the Thrower Drive and Pacific Motorway bridges. My husband wasn't keen on me sharing this secluded spot because it's always easy to get a park and is never crowded, oops! Anyway, it's just below the bridge and is where canoe clubs put in their vessels; it's also an off-leash dog area which you'll either love or hate. There are no amenities on this side but it's a short walk across the bridge to get a great coffee, give the kids a whirl on the playground or visit the loo, better still why not swim or paddle over? Being tidal, it's wise to set up your picnic further up the embankment. For those with older kids, I've been told there's a skate park at Salk Oval that's worth checking out.
Address: Salk Oval, off Thrower Road, Currumbin.
Perfect for a day of fun with the kids
With sheltered picnic tables and a large playground for kids of all ages, this park is located beside a lake packed with ducks, fish and eels. If you miss out on a covered spot there's heaps of space to put down your picnic blanket, gazebo or camp chairs and table and watch the kids on the flying fox, spider web or swings. There's a designated toddler area that is fenced which is great for parents with 'runners'.
Older children can bike around the lake, play a game of footy at the adjacent games field or get active on the various fitness stations located near the lake. On the weekends in summer it's a popular place for birthday parties so don't be surprised to find parents securing spots as early as 7am. It has electrical outlets, plenty of picnic tables, and is conveniently located opposite a restaurant, a supermarket and other speciality shops.
Address: 149 Pacific Pines Boulevard, Pacific Pines
Perfect for paddle boarding in the sun
Tucked away in a secluded spot that is just minutes from the heart of Surfers Paradise is a sheltered inland sandy retreat along the Nerang River that offers shade and sunshine. Budd's Beach is loved by locals and those wanting a ramp for jet skis and boats. It's also becoming popular with stand-up paddle boarders who don't want to trek down to the southern Gold Coast to have a paddle. It's a family-friendly spot with a playground, a jetty where you can throw a line in and great coffee across the road. If you're a SUP'er you'll get a bird's eye view of the million dollar waterfront homes, but just be careful of boaties who often 'forget' the 6-knot rule in the canals. It has showers to wash the sand off, an amenities block with taps and an abundance of picnic tables. Kids can also climb trees, make sandcastles and go swimming without having to worry about large waves.
Address: River Drive/Cypress Avenue, off the Gold Coast Highway in Surfers Paradise.
Perfect for larger gatherings
Hidden from the road and just minutes from the M1 at Helensvale, Park Lake Park is adored by people of all ages; from toddlers learning the ropes, teenagers looking for an oval to kick a ball and grandparents wanting a nice cuppa in a picturesque rotunda. There's a massive slide that kids either love or loathe, a toddler's pirate boat playground that will keep parents busy and for more independent children there's five swings, a flying fox and a sand filling station. My three small children enjoy walking across the creaky bridge and searching for bearded dragons sunning themselves on rocks.
It's close to a swim school with cafe and a skate park, and there's adult exercise equipment if you're really keen. This spot is fabulous for large gatherings because of the huge amount of green space, gas barbecues, the ablutions block and the fact you can see your kids from most vantage points. There aren't many picnic tables and so it's best to bring your own gazebo, chairs or blankets.
Address: Greenway Boulevard off Binstead Way, Maudsland
Perfect for fitness fanatics and family BBQ's
Despite being frequented by runners and cyclists, this park is a great all-rounder because it has gas barbecues, covered picnic tables, a playground kid's love and a lake that families can bike, scooter or walk around. The 3.9km track is dotted with fitness stations and there's an off-leash area within the park so be prepared to meet plenty of pooches. Kayakers and SUP'ers use the lake and if you're lucky you'll time it on a day when remote-controlled toy speed boats are racing. The only downside is the lack of shade so it's wise to bring a gazebo if you're planning to make a day of it. As for amenities, this park has them all as well as a drinking fountain, an accessible toilet and a boat ramp.
Address: Watersport Lane, located off Heathwood Drive in Oxenford.
Perfect for a romantic sunset picnic or for early morning risers who can watch hang gliders take off
Technically this isn't a spot with barbecues or picnic tables, but it's one of the most spectacular places to take in a sunset or watch hang gliders do their thing. We've only visited twice but my children are always begging me to take them back up to Mount Tamborine so we can have a picnic on the side of the mountain and watch the sun go down.
You can't miss the spot; it's on a cleared patch of the western escarpment accessed via Main Western Road and is equipped with benches and binoculars. You can either pack a picnic or get some local fare from a nearby restaurant or eatery. Even if it's cloudy the scenery will still blow your mind, as will the antics of the hang gliders that seem to effortlessly throw themselves off a mountain! Take your rubbish with you as there are no bins, long drop toilets are located nearby.
Address: Main Western Road, Mt Tamborine.
Perfect for a day of fishing and kayaking or swimming in crystal clear water on the incoming tide
Burleigh's beauty is undeniable, but just a few minutes' drive away is a little park that packs a punch, especially for those who prefer peace over pace. Koala Park, as it's known by many, is located off the left of the Gold Coast Highway (northbound) just before the Tallebudgera Creek Bridge.
It's dotted with barbecues and picnic tables and looks across to the more popular and busy beach on the other side of the creek. Keen fishermen line the rock walls and below SUP'ers paddle up and down the picturesque river. We love this spot because it's just a short stroll under the bridge to a little beach that is accessed via Ikkina Road near George's Paragon, here you'll also find showers and toilets. The water is shallow for longer on this side of the creek so perfect for kids, and just above this is the incredibly beautiful ocean view walk in the Burleigh Heads National Park. I don't mind you visiting this fab spot but just don't tell everyone!
Address: Awoonga Avenue off Beelyu Street that runs parallel to the Gold Coast Highway, Tallebudgera.
Perfect for a lazy day surrounded by beautiful lush gardens
An incredible amenity smack bang in the middle of Benowa, the Botanical Gardens, or Rosser Park as it used to be called, has a sensory garden, boardwalks, a children's playground and picnics areas. Many people also don't realise Coffee at the Gardens is now located on site and offers visitors delicious treats such as ice-creams, organic coffee and gluten-free fare.
Birds, ducks and kookaburras also call this peaceful place home and parents and kids alike will get a kick out of smelling roses or visiting the native butterfly garden. Pack your picnic chairs and table and wander around until you find a shady spot that takes your fancy. There's a toilet block and the display garden and lake boardwalks are flat so are suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. A great place to let the kids roam among the gardens and be reminded of all the beauty nature has to offer.
Address: 258 Ashmore Road, Benowa, opposite Benowa State High School.
Perfect for the wildlife lover
If you want to spot a kangaroo while snacking on a sandwich then pack your picnic and blanket and head to Coombabah Lakelands. This hidden gem is part of an estuarine corridor extending from Lake Coombabah to the Broadwater and Southern Moreton Bay. It has an impressive array of walking tracks and while it's not a spot you'll find a gas barbecue or sheltered picnic tables, it's well worth a visit. The last time we went, the kids and I had to stop the car to let a koala cross the road, it was incredible! The Myola Boardwalk is worth doing, and if you're lucky you might see a small plane take off from the Southport Flying Club airport. Just be mindful that there are no amenities and you'll have to take your rubbish with you.
Address: Rain Tree Glen via Pine Ridge Road and Shelter Road off the Gold Coast Highway, Coombabah.
This article was written by Emily Toxward.