Starting to feel a little hemmed in by the city? Feel like getting back to nature but don’t want to pack boots and a tent? Fortunately, Melbourne offers a fine selection of hikes that will have you home by dinnertime.
Werribee’s rugged river gorge is Melbourne’s mini-answer to the Grand Canyon. Situated an hour out of the city towards Ballarat, it offers a variety of walks down steep bluffs into the 200-metre-deep gorge. You can head across Werribee River and along cliff faces, with options for rock climbing.
The longest and most exciting option is the 10-kilometre Circuit Walk; the adventurous can drop down to the river and scramble along the bank using a wire rope as a guide. Be careful if attempting after heavy rain as the river may become impassable.
Lerderderg State Park
The leisurely option here is to park the car at Mackenzie’s Flat and walk the well-marked riverside track to Grahams Dam; a wonderful swimming hole.
Depending on how you feel, and how high the river is (it’s not usually that high) you can then continue upstream into more gorgy territory. Keep your eyes peeled for stone relics from the gold-mining era, as well as snakes. The state park is just over an hour’s drive north-west of Melbourne.
1000 Steps, Dandenong Ranges
The Dandenong Ranges are visible from just about anywhere in Melbourne, and perfect for day hikes. A great place to escape the heat and get some shade, the ranges offer walking options for all levels of fitness.
If you’re out to burn some calories, the 1000 Steps (part of the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk) could be the one for you. Originally made from the trunks of tree ferns, the 1000 steps pay tribute to the Golden Staircase, cut by Australian soldiers on the Kokoda Track.
Dights Falls, Yarra River
Standing at Dights Falls on the Yarra River, it’s hard to believe the Eastern Freeway (once a creek bed itself) thunders past just out of sight to the north.
The walk starts at Kanes Bridge and is a pleasant meander through Melbourne’s history, taking in a former asylum, the site of the Deep Rock Swimming Club and the Koori Garden, a gathering site for the local Wurundjeri people. Although usually placid, Dights Falls can become a reasonably spectacular torrent after heavy rain.
Pound Bend River Walk, Warrandyte State Park
You don’t need to go far north-east of Melbourne to find yourself in the rural fringe. While swimming in the Yarra River near the city is not recommended, the river’s upper reaches offer safe and secluded swimming holes, as well as some of the best bushwalking you’ll find anywhere.
From the picnic area at Pound Bend in Warrandyte, you can walk to a historic tunnel, constructed to divert the river during the gold-mining days in the late 19th century. The three-and-a-half-kilometre walk takes you alongside the river, where you can listen to the birds and spot koalas dozing in the trees.