Melbourne nature walks
We’ve uncovered a few of the best walks near Melbourne that cater to all ranges of experience. Admire the beautiful scenery and a whole host of wildlife whilst wondering why you haven't left the city more often.
What is a nature walk?
As the name would suggest, a nature walk is a walk that involves spending time in nature, though this can also include urban areas that sit sympathetically within the natural environment. Generally speaking, nature walks tend to be shorter than bushwalks, and primarily focus on the culture, fauna or flora of a particular area.
Rest assured, you don’t have to be a professional explorer to enjoy the wide variety of nature walks that the Melbourne region has to offer. With excursions to suit all abilities, fitness levels and time constraints, your only problem will be trying to choose which nature walk to try first.
Popular nature walks in Melbourne
Australia’s second largest city in terms of population with 5 million inhabitants, Melbourne is a large city known primarily as Australia’s premier arts and cultural centre. Although for many Melbourne is primarily a term that applies to the city centre, it has a greater urban area of 2,080 square kilometres and a topography that includes the coastline of Port Phillip Bay, the Yarra Valley and both the Dandenong and Macedon Ranges.
In short, a Melbourne nature walk has a lot to offer both amateur and experienced walkers alike. It can take years to discover all the nature walks available, so here are just a few to get you started.
Capital City Trail
Distance: 30 km
Time: 1 day
There’s no better place to start your Melbourne nature walk itinerary than the inner city. Called the Capital City Trail, this superb walk is for those that have plenty of time and don’t want to travel too far from the heart of the CBD. Although there is no need to do it all in one go, this 30 km loop spreads from east to north, and is an easy, flat walk with a wide range of coffee stops. Almost entirely paved, the walk is often used by runners and cyclists, so be sure to keep your ears out for those travelling at speed. For foreign travellers, it is important to remember that the same rules apply on the road as off it, so stick to the left on footpaths and cycleways where possible.
So grab your comfortable shoes, day pack and water bottle and head to Federation Square to begin at the beginning, though you can start and leave the walk at any point. Wander along the lazy bends of the Yarra River through the waterside park of Birrarung Marr. Keep your eyes out for some of Melbourne’s most famous landmarks, including the MCG, Royal Botanic Gardens and Como House.
The second half of the nature walk will take you along the old Inner Circle Railway through Royal Park - the 1860 starting point of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition that aimed to cross the continent from south to north.
Continue on through the Docklands area and past the Polly Woodside Maritime Museum and Exhibition Centre, before returning to Southbank. With plenty of shops, parks and restaurants along the way, this is the perfect way to explore the inner city one step at a time.
Banksia Park to Heide
Distance: 5 km
Time: 2-3 Hrs
Love nature and art but don’t want to have to choose where to spend your time? The Banksia Park to Heide Museum of Modern Art walk is the perfect nature walk to scratch both those itches simultaneously. Starting at the popular dog-friendly Banksia Park in Bulleen, approximately 15 km from the city centre, the walk takes you along the Yarra River to Heide Sculpture Park and Museum, also known simply as ‘Heide’.
Once a former dairy farm owned by renowned art patrons John and Sunday Reed, famous Australian artists such as Sidney Nolan and Joy Hester gathered together on the property to paint and explore cultural ideas. Indeed, it was in the dining room of the old Heide farmhouse that Sidney Nolan painted his famous Ned Kelly series.
This artistic commune, birthplace of the ‘Heidelberg School of Art’ and the ‘Angry Penguin’ art movements, is one of Australia’s most important modern cultural sites and sits amongst 16 acres of beautiful landscaped parklands, heritage listed gardens, sculptures and an Indigenous Remnant Conservation Zone. With a cafe and numerous buildings, galleries and exhibition spaces, Heide is the perfect place to spend a day. <https://www.heide.com.au/>
The Beeches Trail
Distance from Melbourne: 98 km
Drive time: 1.5 Hrs
Distance: 4 km
Time: 2 Hrs
While Melbourne is known for many things, rainforests unsurprisingly don’t usually spring to mind. Yet only one and a half hours away (and 98 km) outside the quaint village of Marysville in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, you’ll find a beautiful 4 km circuit that winds its way through dense rainforest. Starting and finishing at the Beeches picnic area on Lady Talbot Forest Drive, this nature walk can be done in either direction.
The perfect place to become one with nature, the temperate rainforest is breathtaking, with moss-covered myrtle and sassafras trees, and a cooling canopy that brings a welcome respite from the sun in summer. The path follows the Taggerty River to the Taggerty Cascades, where the waters of the river meet with Whitehouse Creek. Be extra quiet and you may spot a lyrebird fossicking through the underbrush or a platypus playing in the water.
A former stop on the gold mining route in the 1860s, Marysville is a thriving community with festivals, trout fishing and mountain biking in summer and skiing in the winter months, so it’s worth spending a few days in the area. Other walks include a 700 m track to see Victoria’s highest falls, the 84 m Steavenson Falls, as well as the 3.2 km Ada Tree walk. So what ever you do, plan to have a good time in one of Melbourne’s most spectacular areas. http://www.marysvilletourism.com/
1000 Steps Walk/Kokoda Track Memorial Walk - Dandenong Ranges
Distance from Melbourne: 40 km
Drive time: 1 hr 20 mins
Distance: 4.3 km
Time: 1 - 2 hr
Grade: Moderate/difficult - steep sections
Although popular amongst tourists and locals alike, fitness fanatics and professional athletes are among the greatest users of this well known trail and for good reason - it’s perfect for a killer cardio workout. Following a bubbling creek through a lush ancient bush valley in the Dandenong Ranges, the walk is now officially known as the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk.
There are actually only 770 steps in the climb, though it definitely feels like at least 1000, especially if done quickly. The climb starts about 800m from the park entrance, with it being 1.8 km to the top from here. If you’re lucky and there’s no joggers nearby, you may see lyrebirds searching for food off the track. At the top there are glimpses of the surrounding district, though this walk is more for the natural beauty and sense of accomplishment than the views.
To get back down, either return the way you came or head down the Lyrebird track - slightly longer at 2.5 km. Sounds like too much effort? Then take the Living Bush Nature Walk from the Acacia Picnic Ground just before the start of the 1000 Steps walk. A 2.5 km loop that’s relatively easy, you’ll get to enjoy towering Mountain Grey Gums and tree ferns aplenty.
What should I bring on a nature walk?
Regardless of the time of year, it is important to understand that Melbourne weather conditions can change quickly. A southerly storm in summer could see heavy rain and a quick drop in temperature, while daytime winter temperatures often don’t exceed 10c in Melbourne’s hilly outskirts. In other words, it’s important to know the forecast, and plan accordingly.
Whatever the distance you’re planning on walking or the terrain, it is vital to have sunscreen, a hat (preferably with a full brim), ample water, warm clothing and sturdy shoes. If it’s longer than an hour or two, then a small day pack with some food (like muesli bars, sandwiches or fruit) is also advisable. Even if your nature walk is relatively flat, easy and accessible via multiple forms of transport, it is important to remember the basics.
What should I wear on a nature walk?
No matter what the season, a hat, sturdy enclosed shoes and sunscreen is essential for a nature walk. While a tshirt/singlet and shorts/dress is perfectly fine for most summer nature walks, don’t forget that UV levels can get extremely high, especially during the middle of the day. As the iconic 1980s song went, “Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat”.
Long sleeves and long pants (light in summer, thicker in winter) are also recommended if in the actual bush (and not on a guided path), as they will provide protection from the sun, insects and branches, as well as warmth in the cooler months.
If the nature walk is longer than 2 hours, a small pack to carry a raincoat, snacks and water is also suggested. Water should always be carried in summer, no matter how long the walk. Always look at the weather forecast before you leave, and pack accordingly.
Types of animals you see on a nature walk
World-famous for many things, Australia is perhaps best known for its unique wildlife. From kangaroos and koalas to quokkas and quolls, many nature walks provide the perfect chance to see some of these iconic creatures up close and personal. While there is no guarantee of seeing native animals on your nature walk, especially given some animals (like wombats and possums) are nocturnal, be sure to have the camera ready just in case.
In the Melbourne region kookaburras, cockatoos, lorikeets and rosellas are all quite common. Kangaroos and wallabies are often present in the areas furthest from the city centre, as are goannas, blue tongue lizards and echidnas. Some native animals have discovered that picnic grounds are a great place to get free food, so be careful not to feed them despite how insistent they may be, as it can greatly endanger their health.
In late spring and summer, it can be quite common to see snakes sunning themselves on pathways and rocks after a long winter hibernation. Although they may look scary, snakes as a rule won’t engage nature walkers unless they feel immediately threatened or cornered.
If you see a snake, back away slowly to a safe distance and give the snake a chance to escape. Note the direction it leaves in, and then wait a minute or two to ensure that it is far enough away before proceeding. If the snake hasn’t moved, then don’t engage it with sticks or rocks - not only are snakes a protected species, but they play an important part in our ecosystem.
If the snake remains, then turn back the way you came. Be mindful that snakes are very well camouflaged and may be obscured by shadows, so tread carefully and always watch where you are going, especially if you are stepping over rocks, branches or tree roots.
In short, be respectful of our native wildlife and keep your distance where possible.
Did you know you can earn Qantas Points doing all kinds of activities. Simply download the app, keep your phone or wearable device on you - and get moving.
You can also earn points with your Qantas Health Insurance.
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