You don’t have to leave the city to explore nature. Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs, the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people, are home to vast expanses of parkland, from manicured gardens to remnant bushland.

Winding through this verdant wonderland is the Yarra River and its tributaries, lined by extensive networks of walking and cycling trails. An afternoon spent among the trees offers a welcome reprieve from urban life.

Here are some of the best green spaces to explore in Melbourne’s north east.

Darebin Parklands
On the border of Alphington and Ivanhoe is Darebin Parklands, 33 hectares of reclaimed bushland on the banks of the Yarra. Once a quarry and then a municipal tip, Darebin Parklands is now home to a range of wildlife, including echidnas, kangaroos, flying foxes, native fish and 70 species of birds. Much of the regeneration of the site is the work of the Darebin Parklands Association, a dedicated community group founded in 1973 that has been responsible for planting new vegetation and restoring native habitats over the decades. A series of trails loop around the reserve, offering plenty of opportunities for walkers and runners to enjoy the leafy surrounds just a few kilometres from the CBD.

Separation Street, Alphington

Alphington Park and Wetlands
On the northern bank of the Yarra River is Alphington Park, an oasis for nature lovers and green thumbs alike. The park features display gardens that showcase sustainable design, as well as examples of native tree and plant species that can you can grow at home. In the 1920s, the site was the location of a riverside public pool that eventually fell into disrepair after WWII. The oaks and elms are a reminder of the stately gardens attached to the colonial mansions that once lined the river. At the southern end of the park is the Alphington Wetlands, home to thriving colonies of frogs and birds.

28 Parkview Road, Alphington

Yarra Bend Park
It’s hard to believe that just a few kilometres from the CBD lies more than 200 hectares of green space and natural bushland. The Yarra River snakes for 12 kilometres through Yarra Bend Park, an expansive stretch of bush that’s popular for everything from bushwalking and boating to picnics and fishing. Bike trails and walking paths offer stunning views of the city skyline. One well-worn path is the 850-metre Bushland Circuit Trail, a pram and wheelchair-friendly loop that begins on the Studley Park picnic area side of the river at Kane’s Bridge.

One of the most unusual features of the park is its colony of grey-headed flying foxes, which you can get a look at on the 500-metre Bat Colony Nature Trail. At sunset on a summer evening, as many as 30,000 fruit bats ascend into the sky and the surrounding trees to feed on fruit and nectar as darkness settles.

Access via Yarra Bend Road, Fairfield and Yarra Boulevard, Kew

Wilson Reserve
Named after an early 20th-century local landowner and scout leader, Wilson Reserve occupies a river floodplain that was transformed into farmland in the 1800s. Today, Wilson Reserve is an ecologically important site crisscrossed by picturesque walking trails. Its billabongs are home to seven frog species. It’s an avian sanctuary too: more than 120 species of native birds have been spotted at the reserve.

Access via The Boulevard and Irvine Rd, Ivanhoe

Fairfield Park Boathouse and Tea Gardens
Situated on a lush and leafy bend in the Yarra is the Fairfield Park Boathouse and Tea Gardens. Fitzroy local John St Clair built the original boathouse in the early 1900s, and it quickly became a popular picnic and boating spot for Melbourne society. Saved from ruin in the ’80s, it’s now a scenic riverside venue that hosts everything from weddings to yoga classes. Wander along the river and watch the vintage rowboats pass by.

Fairfield Park Drive, Fairfield

This article was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Home by Caydon Property.