Author Anna Carlile loves being outdoors. Her book Walks in Nature: Australia covers off more than 100 walking trails around the country, from iconic, multi-day bush treks to smaller gems closer to the city.
Here are three of her picks for trails you can take without leaving the city – cross over a creek, stroll alongside the Yarra, or go coastal with beaches and sandstone cliffs by the bay.
We’ve thrown in our top picks for takeaway food and coffee along the way, too.
Merri Creek Trail
The full Merri Creek Trail runs along a lovingly rehabilitated waterway for 21 kilometres. Start at Dights Falls on the Yarra River and head north along the well-marked trail alongside Merri Creek. The path crisscrosses the creek a few times before getting to Rushall Station. Turn right to cross the steel bridge just before the station entrance. Here, the path diverges from the creek, so pay close attention to the signs. Cross back over to the western side of the creek at St Georges Road. It’s a bit more of a walk to get to Ceres Community Environment Park, a rough-and-tumble environmental park that wears its sustainable heart on its sleeve. Get a coffee [note: Merri Cafe is temporarily closed due to Covid-19 lockdown]. Turn around and repeat your steps back to Abbotsford.
In short: a one-way inner-city creekside walk that runs from Abbotsford to Brunswick.
Location: 6 kilometres north-east of the CBD
Distance: 14 kilometres return
Broadsheet recommends: Grab a pastry or sanga from Uncle Drew Cafe before you start, and refuel at Taiyo Sun on your way back.
The Main Yarra Trail meanders through gorgeous patches of native forest in the middle of suburbia as part of the epic Capital City Trail. Grab a bite to eat in Richmond before your walk; Touchwood does a roaring breakfast. Start at O’Connell Reserve, with its two pretty rotundas, and head north along the riverside trail. Two bridge crossings lead you to both sides of the river, with Andrews Reserve Trail in between. The walk is mostly gentle, apart from a few climbs. Access to Collingwood Children’s Farm is marked from the trail, so follow the signs and head to The Farm Cafe, a rustic, shaded spot serving good food and restorative coffee. After a snack, turn around and retrace your steps.
In short: a loop with scenic views that’ll take you along the Yarra, and through expanses of native bush with birdlife
Location: 5 kilometre north-east of the CBD
Distance: 12 kilometre return
Broadsheet recommends: Pick up a few takeaway tinnies from the original Moon Dog at the mid-point of your walk. The journey back to the start is a little more difficult, but it’s a solid reward you can enjoy at home.
Sandringham to Beaumaris
This walk picks up the Coastal Trail at Sandringham. Start with a coffee at Sandy Beach HQ Kiosk before following the trail south to Beaumaris, then the easy-to-follow trail runs along the clifftops, weaving in and out of coastal vegetation, above sandy beaches and past rockpools. Bring your beach gear so you can take a dip at family friendly Half Moon Bay [when restrictions ease]. The trail is marked with signs explaining the environment, history, Indigenous past and art of the area. This stretch is part of the Coastal Art Trail, celebrating the works of Heidelberg artists including Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts. Further on, the Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary is a great place to explore coastal marine life. Worn sandstone cliffs fold down to the water’s edge, becoming easily accessible platforms and rock pools at their base. Pick up some fish’n’chips from Black Rock Fish & Chippery on your way back.
In short: a gentle, picturesque one-way coastal walk, passing rock pools and tea-trees, with views of the bay.
Location: 18 kilometre south of the CBD
Distance: 16 kilometre return
Broadsheet recommends: Start with takeaway from Port of Call near Sandringham Station.
This is an edited extract from the second edition of Walks in Nature: Australia by Anna Carlile, published by Hardie Grant. The book retails for $29.99 and is available in all good bookstores and online.
This article was updated on December 3, 2021.