Birdsland Reserve is a 50 minute drive from Melbourne's CBD, and is accessed from McNicol Road, off Burwood Highway at Tecoma (Melway ref: 84 C1)
With its forest and lake setting, Birdsland is popular all year, offering bush walking and facilities for a picnic or BBQ.
The picnic area, beside the car park, can be busy in summer, so get here early, with free BBQs, picnic shelter and toilets. There's a grassy area large enough to kick the footy or just loll about. You probably won't be able to loll for long – it's hard to resist the enticing walking track. It's a level path, suitable for strollers and bikes.
The path crosses Monbulk Creek, one of the few places in Melbourne where platypus remain, although they're not easy to spot. Chorusing frogs are vocal all year. In winter, there's the bonus of golden blossom on all the wattle trees.
Following the creek, the path reaches a lake. There are wide, green views of the adjoining farmland. Ducks and swamp hens study you intently from the lake's edge, probably hoping you'll throw them some bread.
Turning a corner, you cross the creek again, and another lake comes into view. The 2km track loops around this lake, past the occasional fisherman. Looking at the lush green trees and undergrowth, you'd hardly guess the park was burned in the bushfires in February 2009.
If your energy extends beyond this 2km walk, you can follow Dragon Track at the end of the second lake, heading uphill. The panoramic view from the hilltop is worth the short climb – there are great views of green, rolling farmland and the forested slopes of the Dandenongs.
Afterwards, the nearby Tecoma Bakery and Hot Bread, (turn right onto Burwood Highway) has a good range of pies, pasties, quiches and cakes. Their pies start at $3. And after all that fresh air and exercise, you've earned it.