Melbourne's suburbs are often a bottleneck of congestion, noise and pollution. Even the most skyscraper-loving city slickers eventually reach a point where an adventure beyond the concrete jungle is necessary.
Thankfully, Victoria's regions are encompassed with many highly accessibly national parks and plenty of walking trails within them. Regardless of your fitness level or desired hiking length, there will be a suitable nature trail to save you from the busy city streets. Below are four popular hikes within a couple of hours' drive from Melbourne.
1. Mount Dandenong Climb
The steep climb to Mount Dandenong is one for the most determined of fitness freaks. Although, the all-encompassing view at the top is what attracts a variety of people to attempt the hike. Beginning at the end of Glasgow Road in Montrose, the fire trail zigzags up the hill for approximately fifteen minutes before turning into a direct vertical route.
By the time we reached the top (a full forty minutes of torture), I had sweat pouring out of every pore in my body. But, I admit, it was worth it. In a gap between the dense forest, puffing hikers are able to indulge in a view that showcases all of Melbourne's Eastern suburbs. In the far distance, it is even possible to see the mountains of the Yarra Valley and the skyline of Melbourne itself.
The short (yet challenging) hike is approximately two kilometres one way from Glasgow Road. Despite little signage, the track is easy to follow. I recommend wearing appropriate sneakers or hiking boots, as the terrain can get quite rocky in parts. In Winter, expect slippery, muddy slopes.
Enjoying the sunset after a climb up Mount Dandenong.
The easy-to-follow path can be accessed from the Boneo Road car park. All 2.5km of the flat trail is relatively un-scenic, however once arriving at Bushranger's Bay, the landscape becomes remarkable. The bay itself is a large, peaceful cove. Because the beach can only be reached by foot, it is usually quite empty and provides the ultimate feeling of isolation.
My advice is to start the walk in the afternoon, watch the sunset as it falls behind Cape Schanck, and return to your car with head torches.
Afternoon sun at Bushranger's Bay on Mornington Peninsula.
Two hours North-East of Melbourne is the Yarra Valley's Cathedral Ranges State Park. One of the most popular and admired hikes in this forestry area is the dramatic Southern Circuit, which takes walkers to a high viewing point.
Despite only being an 11km return hike, the Southern Circuit is not a breezy stroll. The trail is considered to be Grade 4 and can take anywhere between 3-6 hours depending on your pace and fitness level.
Particularly around Sugarloaf Peak, the path reduces to a rock scramble and hikers must find their way by following reflector arrows glued onto trees and stone. However, if you are willing to grind your muscles and test your navigation skills, then visiting Cathedral Ranges is a must.
Because the park has been left in a very natural state, wildlife remains in abundance in the area. Not to mention, the views across the surrounding areas are ones to make your jaw fall off.