Melbourne is known as Australia’s garden city, an epithet earned by its swathes of verdant parks, sun-dappled waterways, secluded reserves, winding trails and blooming gardens. It’s also home to tropical hothouses, wide waterfalls and sandy beaches, all of which are best viewed at the leisurely pace offered by your own two feet. Culture Trip explores seven of the most scenic walks through Melbourne’s abundant green spaces.
Melbourne loves its outdoor activities. The city’s green spaces are overrun each weekend with locals and tourists alike, all walking, cycling and running along the 1,900 kilometres (1,181 miles) of beautiful, well-maintained trails spread across the city’s 14 unique suburbs. Melbourne’s relatively flat elevation, easily navigable layout, excellent public transport and mild climate make it the perfect place to explore on foot. Whether you’re interested in glimpsing Australian wildlife, exploring abandoned military forts, wandering beachside boardwalks, lounging in botanic gardens or gazing at waterfalls, use this Culture Trip guide to explore the best of Greater Melbourne’s walking trails.
The Tan is a wide, flat, easy 3.8-kilometre (2.4-mile) track made out of fine sand and bitumen surrounding the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne’s CBD. Pleasantly shaded during the day and floodlit from 5.30am until midnight, it’s the ideal place for a stroll, no matter the hour. Cafés surround The Tan’s central location, so there are heaps of coffee and snack options along the route. The Shrine of Remembrance, a stately war memorial commemorating the Australians who gave their lives in each war the country has fought can be admired from the trail. How to get there: Take tram route 3/3a, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 or 72, getting off at Stop 19, Shrine of Remembrance; or bus route 605, getting off at Melbourne Observatory/Birdwood Avenue.
The breathtaking Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria can be reached from The Tan track. This 36-hectare (89-acre) oasis in the middle of the city is home to many beautiful sights, including the impressive Melbourne Observatory, built in 1861; Guilfoyle’s Volcano, a picturesque water reservoir built in 1876 and surrounded by desert flora; Fern Gully, a secluded grove of immense tropical trees and shaded wooden pathways; and many more exotic habitats. You might catch a glimpse of the garden’s black swans, kookaburras and cockatoos in the trees. The Observatory Café and Terrace Café are on hand to supply snacks and drinks. How to get there: The gardens are surrounded by public transport options. Take tram route 3/3a, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 or 72, getting off at Stop 19, Shrine of Remembrance; or bus route 605, getting off at Melbourne Observatory/Birdwood Avenue.
The 4.7-kilometre (7.4-mile) easy gravel track at St Kilda’s Albert Park Lake offers walkers an unparalleled view of the city skyline, along with the peaceful sound of the lake lapping at the shore and opportunities to spot some of Melbourne’s most impressive yachts. It’s a great spot for birdwatchers: graceful great egrets, majestic black swans and colourful rainbow lorikeets frequent this park. The wind can be strong off the water, but the brisk breeze is refreshing on sweltering days as there’s very little shade on this walk. There are many picnic areas and cafés in the park and in the surrounding neighbourhood. How to get there: Take tram line 12 or 96, getting off at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre stop.
For those who want more of a bush walk, the 4.2-kilometre (2.6-mile) Dights Falls Loop Trail in Abbotsford is the perfect place to find it. The paved path leads you across Kanes suspension bridge and through native gum and eucalyptus trees to Dights Falls, an artificial weir built across a natural rock bar in the Yarra River. You can see rainbow lorikeets from Galatea Point, an elevated overlook. Head to the stunning Studley Park Boathouse and sit on the patio over the water, or check out Farm Café at gorgeous Abbotsford Convent nearby for food and refreshing drinks. How to get there: Take bus route 200 or 207, getting off at the Yarra Bend Park stop.
This easy, flat and paved 11-kilometre (6.8-mile) trail from Sandridge to Elwood along Port Phillip Bay is the walk to take if you want sand and sun. Admire the city skyline, spot starfish from Princes Pier, wander the century-old Luna Park or cool off in the St Kilda Sea Baths. (There’s an incredible view to be had on the convivial rooftop there.) There are many kiosks, shops and cafés along this trail, so you’ll have plenty of post-walk options for lunch or a snack. If you get thirsty along the way, drinking fountains are placed periodically along the trail. How to get there: From Sandridge Beach in Port Melbourne, take bus route 236, getting off at Sandridge Life Saving Club stop; or tram route 109, getting off at Beacon Cove/Light Rail stop.
For those who want a bit more adventure in their walk (and have access to a car), the views from the cliffs that drop gradually away on either side of Point Nepean in Portsea are breathtaking. This is an easy-to-moderate paved walk with dramatic ocean and beach vistas you won’t find nearer to downtown. World War II-era military tunnels, turrets and forts are open for your exploration, and you can plunge into the clear blue water at Cheviot Beach if you get too hot along the way. Pack a picnic and pick up some water in Portsea before your hike. How to get there: This hike is an hour-and-a-half drive from the CBD. When you’ve parked, begin the walk at the Point Nepean entry gate. Vehicle access to the park is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
Located a three-hour drive from the CBD in Grampians National Park, this 4.2-kilometre (2.6-mile) rock-hopping, water-crossing hike to the summit of The Pinnacle is a moderate trek through some of Victoria’s most beautiful bush. You’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of Halls Gap and the Grampian peaks from the top, and you’ll have the opportunity to see some of Australia’s most famous native fauna – koalas, kangaroos and echidnas – along the way. Pack a lunch and a lot of water and enjoy it at the peak. How to get there: It’s a three-hour drive from the CBD. Park in the Sundial Carpark for an easy-to-moderate walk up to The Pinnacle lookout.