One of the loveliest places to visit in the area is Wilson Reserve, in Ivanhoe. The walking tracks in Wilson Reserve are a nature-filled respite from the hustle and noise of the surrounding suburbs. Not only do the walking tracks take in a long stretch of the Yarra River, but there are also billabongs that are often brimming with waterbirds, particularly if you take the time to watch and listen.
If you've got binoculars, bring them along, and allow for some time to sit and do a spot of bird watching. A great resource to learn about birds in a particular area is eBird - check out the list of birds seen at Wilson Reserve. For example, if you're lucky (like me on two separate visits!), you might see a Nankeen Night-Heron hiding in the wetland plants. The distinctive call of the Bell Miners can also be heard in the trees around one of the billabongs.
Birds the author has seen at the reserve, including Nankeen Night-Heron, Rainbow Lorikeet and Pacific Black Duck.
The main walking track is a loop of around 1.6 km. It's a relatively short walk, however, the real value in exploring Wilson Reserve is through taking time to stop and watch the wildlife along the Yarra River and in the adjacent billabongs. There are also interpretive signs along the tracks, including information about the reserve's history (read about the Sea Scouts!), as well as natural features.
Wilson Reserve can be accessed by road from two main locations in Ivanhoe: from a small dirt carpark down a steep driveway off The Boulevard, or from a larger carpark at the end of Irvine Road, at Chelsworth Park. Both carparks have playgrounds nearby. The loop trail can be started from either of these points, and all the intersections of the walking track are very well signposted so there should be no issue with getting lost.
One of the playgrounds, with a billabong, and a seat to sit and watch, in the background
Wilson Reserve has a very active and enthusiastic Friends group, and their dedicated work can be seen in the reserve through the many plantings of indigenous plants and the extensive areas of weed control.