It’s a strange time. The state – and the country – is grappling with a surge in Omicron cases, and the streets are unusually quiet as many Melburnians choose to lay low.
But keeping your distance doesn’t mean you can’t still get out and about in a Covid-safe way. So, here are 10 socially distanced things to do in Melbourne (and beyond).
Head to the drive-in
Piling your car with doonas and snacks and heading to the drive-in is the perfect middle ground between getting out and staying in. (And it counts as a fully fledged cinema experience.) Catch a new release or cult classic from the socially distanced comfort of your car at drive-ins in Coburg, Dandenong and Dromana. Plus, the Disney+ Drive-In by Openair Cinemas has popped up at Melbourne Showgrounds for the summer.
See some outdoor art
Art isn’t limited to within gallery walls. Get “phygital” at the Royal Botanic Gardens with a new augmented-reality art experience that will have you Seeing the Invisible, while ACCA exhibition Who’s Afraid of Public Space? is taking over billboards, public squares, car parks, housing developments and suburban shopfronts across Melbourne. And then there’s Pond[er], transforming the NGV’s Grollo Equiset Garden (out back) with a salute to the state’s pastel-pink salt lakes – and you can splash through it.
Walk the walk
Tired of your usual walking route? Get back to nature without leaving the city with these three trails (one runs along clifftops, above sandy beaches and past rockpools). A little further afield, here are five stunning walks that are far enough away to make you feel like you’re in holiday mode. And for the ultra-keen, we’ve got eight one-day walks worth travelling for; our state is filled with natural beauty and these take in everything from secluded beaches to lush rainforests and windswept granite peaks.
Set sail on the Yarra
Want to roll on the river? Go Boat lets you captain your own eco-friendly picnic boat. They’re bookable for up to eight people (kids included), but you can opt for a couple’s cruise or make it a family affair if you’re looking to keep your distance. The picnic part is up to you; go fancy with cheese and charcuterie or keep it simple with maximum chips. Then sit back with a tinnie or glass of rosé in hand, and the wind in your hair.
Try forest bathing
The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”, has become somewhat of a global phenomenon. Now widely referred to as forest therapy, the wellness pursuit is about immersing your senses in the natural world and reaping the mental and physical health benefits. This guided version – in the Royal Botanic Gardens’ quiet, green surrounds – runs for two or three hours, and is designed to reduce stress by slowing your pulse and lifting your mood. Ideal for unprecedented times.
Make a (socially distanced) splash
Avoid the crowds at your local pool by hopping in the car and beelining for one of the state’s many natural swimming spots. Fresh-water fan? Find our guide to 10 gorgeous destinations close(ish) to the city here. Prefer to hit the beach? We asked five big-name Melburnians where they swim over summer (and where they get a feed afterwards); read their answers here and get some swimspo for your next day trip.
Pick your own strawberries
There’s nothing better than fresh, juicy strawberries. Especially when you’ve picked them yourself. And you can do just that at Sunny Ridge – one of the largest strawberry farms in Australia – set among the Mornington Peninsula’s lush, scenic hinterland. With its “U-Pick” offering, Sunny Ridge lets you purchase an empty punnet and fill it with the plumpest strawberries you can find on the farm. The only rule: once full, you have to be able to close your punnet’s lid.
Sunny Ridge is slated to reopen on January 14.
Take a desert detour (well, sort of)
Are you a sucker for succulents? Wander through more than 3000 species at Melbourne’s new-ish Arid Garden. Some were sourced in South America and others in Arizona in the US; some weigh up to a whopping 250 kilos and are more than 80 years old. Or, if hitting the road is on the cards, at Cactus Country, Australia’s largest explorable cacti collection will transport you across continents. While a three-hour drive, the 12-acre desertscape is a sight to behold.
Set up camp
One excellent way to get as far away from civilisation as possible is to plan a weekend camping trip. Need some inspo? If you want to pitch a tent by the water, here are eight spots surrounded by secluded ridges, idyllic coastal stretches, highland lakes and more. And if you’re lucky enough to have (or are up for hiring) a campervan, we’ve also rounded up 11 spots where you can legally camp in a van – from the banks of a majestic pink lake to a base camp for some of the best hikes in the state. Happy camping.
Unfurl a picnic rug
As we’ve learned, picnicking is a good way to socialise a little more Covid-safely. So, grab your favourite takeaway and head to one of Melbourne’s best picnic spots. Or you can escape the city by checking out one of the state’s best picnic spots (less than two hours from Melbourne). There’s a “Versailles-like” garden, a mountain-top expanse with spectacular ocean views, and perhaps the Victoria’s most storied picnic spot.