Get close to nature without getting too close to people
Many of Melbourne's walking trails are narrow or crowded, making it hard to maintain social distancing from other walkers during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some walking tracks in and around Melbourne that will still allow you to exercise and enjoy nature, but at a safer distance from other walkers.
What makes a COVID-19 friendly walking trail? It's all about being able to maintain a minimum of 1.5 metre distance from other people who are not in your walking group. Features that make a path more resistant to COVID-19 transmission include wider walking tracks, turnouts on narrow tracks, one-way circuit loops, and remote locations.
Within the Melbourne metropolitan area, one of the best is Braeside Park in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs. The main trail along Cypress Drive is luxuriously wide along almost all of its 2 km length. On a return journey, that's a 4 km hit of exercise-induced endorphins, all whilst staying several arm lengths away from others. There are also numerous narrow trails that run off the main path. These are rarely used, so it's unusual to bump into someone when exploring them.
The wide walking trail along Cypress Drive at Braeside Park, Braeside
In Melbourne's northern suburbs, a similarly wide walking trail can be found along the Running Creek and Wallaby walking tracks in the Kinglake National Park. This is a four-wheel drive access track (closed to vehicles other than for maintenance and emergency access) that is several metres wide. It runs for around 7 km through native bush in fairly steep terrain, from near the top of Mount Sugarloaf down to either Masons Falls or the Blackwood Picnic Area.
The start of the wide Running Creek Trail in Kinglake National Park
The northern end of the Werribee Gorge Circuit Track in Werribee Gorge State Park runs for several kilometres along a several metre wide track. This walk offers spectacular views from the rim of the gorge to the north from a couple of lookouts. Once the track starts winding its way down into the gorge, it narrows and becomes less COVID-19 friendly, but if you have made it this far there are generally few people around.
Walking along the wide Circuit Track at Werribee Gorge
For a different way of combatting the spread of COVID-19 along an otherwise narrow track, the boardwalks running through Lower Sweetwater Creek Nature Reserve offer regular turnouts where you can stand aside and let others pass without coming within close contact. This walk at the back of Olivers Hill in Frankston South crisscrosses a steep gully before running through dense forests of swamp paperbark. Parts of the Creek Trail can be narrow, particularly at the bridge crossings, so you might still need to be patient on weekends at these locations to avoid close contact. The fire track running along the eastern edge of the reserve tends to be much wider than the Creek Trail, but still quite picturesque.
The turnouts that can be used to let others pass at a safe distance in Lower Sweetwater Creek Nature Reserve
If everyone walks in the same direction around a loop trail, then you are unlikely to come into contact with other walkers, provided you don't try to overtake them. An example of a circuit walk in greater Melbourne where everyone is encouraged to walk one-way is at Kings Falls in Arthurs Seat. It's only a 1 km circuit through undulating bushland, but there's no limit on how many times you can go around, so you can get as much exercise as you like. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that everyone will follow the arrow at the trailhead, and head in the same direction as you. It will be interesting to see if Parks Victoria more strongly encourage one-way walking around the circuit as people start to travel more freely under the more relaxed coronavirus restrictions.
Follow the arrow for one-way, coronavirus free walking at Kings Falls
These are only a few examples of more COVID-19 friendly walks around Melbourne. If you know of others, please leave a comment to let other readers know, so as to spread the load across these tracks. Keep healthy by exercising but stay safe, and maintain your social distancing until we come out the other side of this pandemic.