20 Picnic Hotspots in and around Mumbai

Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Pic courtesy: PV Ramakrishnan

Averil Nunes

When was the last time you spent a day at the beach? Now, how about a day at the mall? We rest our case. Do revisit these old picnic haunts before you lose touch with the art of packing a quick picnic lunch and truly making the most of your day off.

Green Havens

Sanjay Gandhi National Park – Deer crossing the street, peacocks on parade and the Buddhist Kanheri Caves are just a few of the many attractions at Borivli National Park, officially known as the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which sprawls over 104 sq km in North Mumbai.

Aarey Milk Colony – Spread over 16 sq km alongside the Western Express Highway, Aarey Milk Colony, is one of the world`s most modern milk colonies. You could go boating in Chota Kashmir, chatter over sandwiches in the garden with a name as obvious as its function i.e. Picnic Spot, and more.

The Kamla Nehru Park and Hanging Gardens (Mumbai not Babylon) – Crowning Malabar Hill, in South Mumbai, the Kamla Nehru Park and the Hanging Gardens have an abundance of flora and fauna that make for an excellent photography expedition, or a simple laze in the grass.

Karjat. Pic courtesy: Joshua Fernandez

Karjat – The 91-kilometre drive from Mumbai to Karjat (which sprawls over the western ghats as well as the Deccan plains), takes about 2 hours. Amidst the picturesque fields and farms houses, are the Ulhas Valley, the Peth Fort, the Bhor Ghat and the Buddhist Kondana caves.

Favoured Fortresses

Vasai – Alight at the third-last station on the western railway line as you head towards Virar, and head to the Bassein Fort, for a mix of archaeology and verdure. The full form of the fort`s name in Portuguese is Fortaleza de São Sebastião de Baçaim (the Fort of St.Sebastian of Vasai).

Karnala – 61 km (~2 hours by car) south of Mumbai, alongside the Mumbai-Goa Highway, the Karnala Bird Sanctuary is home to over 148 species of local and 37 species of migratory birds. You can set up base in the guest house run by the forest department and visit the nearby fort and soap factory.

Sinhagad – The 184 km to Sinhagad (Lions` Fort) takes a little over 3 hours to cover from Mumbai, but the view is well worth it. Perched 1,312 m above sea level, on an isolated cliff of the Bhuleshwar range in the Sahyadris, it was once the centre of many a battle.

Hill-station Highs

Matheran – About 100 km from Mumbai, Matheran nestles cosily in the Sahyadris. You can be there within two hours you take a train from Dadar to Neral. Trekking up to Matheran from Neral can take between 45 minutes to 4 hours, depending on your pace and the route you choose.

Lonavala and Khandala – Approximately three hours by road from Mumbai and about two and a half hours by train, the hills and valleys of Lonavala and Khandala have been traditional summer getaways for generations on end. Don`t forget to pick up some chikki on the way home.

Kamshet – About three hours from Mumbai, Kamshet has come to be known as a destination for paragliding and other adventurous activities. Its location on an incline, ancient Buddhist caves and the Visapur and Lohagad forts in the vicinity, make it a popular getaway with history buffs and trekkers.

Island Escapes

Gorai & Manori : Off the coast of North Mumbai, on the north-western edge of the island of Salsette, are the villages of Gorai and Manori. A 15-minute ferry ride from Marve beach will lead you to these popular coastal stretches where there are several homestays, or even bed and breakfast possibilities.

Elephanta – The island of Elephanta lies on the other end of an hour-long ferry ride across the Arabian Sea, heading north-east from the Gateway of India. Vendors flank the stepped path that leads to the caves where gods and goddesses dwell. If you`re carrying a snack, stay alert for greedy monkeys.

Alibaug – An hour`s sail off the South Mumbai coast to Mandwa, and thereon by bus, lie the rural environs of Alibaug. Do not be fooled by the simplistic homes and mud roads, this could well be India`s version of the Hamptons. Beyond Alibaug, lie the beautiful beach stretches of Nagaon and Kihim.

Manori Beach. Pic courtesy: Avril-Ann Braganza

Beach Breaks

The North Mumbai Beach Strip – Running along the beach strip that marks the coast of North Mumbai, all the way from Marve beach to Madh Island, are quaint cottages that are available for rent and make a cosy getaway for a family or even a community picnic.

Kashid – Approximately 160 km from Mumbai, on the Alibaug-Murud Road, this 3-kilometre stretch of white sand is a popular getaway. While a lot of the property in this area is privately owned, local cottages are a better option than the hotels for a taste of authentic Konkan food and lifestyle.

Bordi – About 180 km from Mumbai (3.5 hours by road), renting an old Parsi bungalow by the beach is a great option, if you’ve grown past the stage of picnic mats and hampers. Aside from the traditional Parsi cuisine, it’s the coarse black sand and chickoos that this region is known for.

Amusement Arenas

Esselworld – Accessible via the northern suburbs of Malad and Borivli, this 64-acre park, has been a staple on school picnics since its launch in 1986. The Water Kingdom section added in 1998, and 34 major rides as well as coin-operated games, make it a favourite with kids, both young and old.

Tikuji-ni-Wadi – Go-karts, roller coasters, giant wheels and a water park are some of the major attractions at Tikuji-Ni-Wadi, in Thane, about 40 km from Mumbai. A realistic-looking dinosaur park is amongst the more recent additions.