Living in the city is great, but sometimes you just need to go get amongst nature, you know? Near Melbourne, there are so many great walking tracks that are within easy reach of a car park or public transport, and here are some of our favourites.
There are maps, additional info and alternative routes available using our favourite internet oracle, Google. Happy hiking!
1. Heidelberg to Templestowe
14km out of Melbourne
This 17.5km circuit will take you around 7 hours to complete, so make a day of it and take a picnic to eat on the grassy flats. The track follows the Main Yarra Trail and curls around the Banyule Wetlands to give you a birds-eye view of the diverse landscape. You can expect to see native wildlife, numerous waterbirds, Aboriginal scar trees and, er, a golf course (so get the camera ready for that one). The set-off point at Banyule Flats Reserve is close to Heidelberg Railway station, and you can also start walking at Westerfolds Park in Templestowe.
2. Altona Wetlands
19km out of Melbourne
You might spot the rare Altona Skipper Butterfly flitting through the wildlife reserve of Truganina Swamp as you walk this 10.7km circuit. The trail follows a series of walking and cycling tracks round Laverton Creek, so even if you miss the butterfly you’re bound to see plenty of waterbirds including ducks, pelicans and spoonbills. At the 2.2km mark you’ll find a set of steps marked ‘The 100 Steps of Federation’, which lead to the top of a hill where there is a sculpture called the ‘Time Beacon’, and birds-eye views across Port Phillip Bay. Buses from Laverton to Williamstown are a good way to get here if you don’t have a car.
3. Dandenong Creek Parks
25km out of Melbourne
The beautiful parklands of the Dandenong Creek valley are well worth spending a day in, and there’s a great 8.6km walking circuit with a deviation to Jells Park Tearoom at the halfway point. You can expect to see native wildlife, exotic trees, numerous waterbirds and a very pretty lake as well as remnant natural forest at Shepards Bush. Don’t have a car? Bus services run from Glen Waverly Station along High Street Road right up to Nortons Lane, aka your starting point.
4. Braeside Park
26km out of Melbourne
The sandbelt region of Melbourne extends from Braeside to Frankston and was once made up of swamps and sand dunes. After Melbourne was settled, farmers set up shop there, and now one of the last remaining farms has been redeveloped into Braeside Park. There is an easy 5.9km circuit with zero hills (win!) that takes around 2 hours to walk. Two pretty mosaic walls near the end celebrate the cultural heritage of the park. Parking is plentiful and bus #812 runs from Mentone Railway Station past the entrance to the park – just see here for timetables.
5. Birds Land
40km out of Melbourne
Nestled in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, this small, pretty park is dwarfed by Victoria’as much larger Lysterfield Park. A scenic 10.5km circuit combines the two, threading around two man-made lakes which are home to happy-go-lucky ducks and water hens. It takes around 3.5 hours to walk and involves a fair bit of climbing so wear sturdy shoes. It’s best to get there by car – in part, so that you can go for an ice cream in the neighbouring town of Tecoma afterwards.
6. Barwon River
80km out of Melbourne
Barwon River flows through the suburbs of Geelong and has plenty of walking and bike paths - but we like the 20.6km circuit for a medium-hard walk. It passes through Yollinko Park, which was once the local aborigines’ winter base, then scoots around Buckley Falls, which were named after an escaped convict. You won’t find any public transport here, but there is parking galore and heaps of picnic shelters.
7. Bells Beach & Ironbark Basin
104km out of Melbourne
This 11.2km circuit follows sandy beaches under coastal cliffs to a lovely reserved area of bush known as Ironbark Basin. Once a farm, it’s now a fauna and flora reserve with pretty lookouts, small dams and an old mine which was once used to produce red ochre for painting trains in the 1920s. As with all beach walks, be careful to check tide times before setting out!
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Image credit: TravelVictoria.com.au