Close to Melbourne and short in duration – perfect for your daily nature hit!
Caption: Walking, Dandenong Ranges National Park 📷 Parks Victoria
Dandenong Ranges National Park
The Dandenong Ranges is about as close to mountains as Melbourne can get! Take a walk through the lovely mountain ash forests that it has to offer and challenge yourself to the 1000 steps Kokoda Memorial Trail at 3 kilometres in length. It may be busy on weekends, so you might want to plan around the crowds – mid-week or early morning are often quieter. Other walks in the area include the Belview Loop at 4.5 kilometres, or if you’re after something shorter, the Ramblers Track Loop is an easy 1.5 kilometres.
Getting there: Hop onto the Belgrave Line Train from Flinders Street Station to Upper Ferntree Gully Station. From there, it’s just over a 1-kilometre walk to the base of the Kokoda Memorial Trail, where there are three different loop tracks to tackle.
Note that there are several facilities (picnic grounds, toilets) in the area currently closed due to weather damage and other changed conditions, so it’s worth checking the Parks Victoria website before you go.
Caption: French Island National Park 📷 Parks Victoria
French Island National Park
French Island is a walkers’ paradise with a variety of tracks. Cycling is also popular on the island, and you can bring your own bike on the train or hire one at the general store, 1 kilometre away from Tankerton Jetty. Home to a large population of koalas, there is also a diverse range of environments from mangrove saltmarshes to woodlands that are worth exploring and campgrounds if you’d like to make your journey longer. The Old Coast Road Track also starts at Tankerton Jetty and is a flat 5 kilometres each way track that gives you the best of all environments. The West Coast Wetlands Walking Track is also popular for birdlife and orchids and includes the Pinnacles Lookout for spectacular views of the wetlands, bay and land across it.
Getting there: Jump on the Frankston Line from Flinders Street to Frankston Station, then onto the V/Line service to Stony Point. From here, you’ll need to get on a passenger ferry to French Island’s Tankerton Jetty. Check timetables and book tickets here: www.westernportferries.com.au
For those that want something a little different from their next weekend away, or to fully immerse themselves in a nature experience, these wonderful walks and spectacular campgrounds can be enjoyed while leaving the car at home.
Caption: The highlight of the MacKenzie Falls Track 📷 Parks Victoria
The Grampians-Gariwerd National Park
Halls Gap at the base of the Grampians is accessible by V/Line coach and is very central to the Grampians-Gariwerd, with various loop trails accessible from here. Make sure you go to the Halls Gap Visitors Centre to pick up a map of the Southern Grampians. The Pinnacle Walk is fantastic, as is the MacKenzie Falls Track. You can link the two through a variety of walking tracks.
Various campsites are close to the town, including the caravan park and bush campsites marked on the map. There is also a variety of local accommodation options that are well worth the look.
Getting there: Hop on the Ararat V/Line train to Ararat from Southern Cross Station. From here, there are two options: use the Dimboola V/Line coach from Ararat to Stawell and then the Halls Gap V/Line coach to Halls Gap Information Centre; or use the Warrnambool V/Line coach from Ararat to Halls Gap Information Centre.
Note that there are several facilities (campgrounds, staircases) in the area currently closed due to weather damage and other changed conditions, so it’s worth checking the Parks Victoria website before you go.
Caption: Coastal walk, ocean views 📷 Parks Victoria
Great Otway National Park
The Great Otway National Park is accessible by public transport. The Surf Coast Walk is a 44-kilometre walk that runs through the park from Torquay to Aireys Inlet and can be broken up into 12 parts, so you can stop and start wherever you please. You can also do sections in day trips, as most of them start and end in towns with V/Line coach stops. Ironbark Basin to Anglesea is a popular section that runs directly through the park and is 9.7 kilometres. Currawong Falls Circuit Track is accessible from Distillery Creek Picnic Area in Aireys Inlet and is wonderful after a bit of rain to see the waterfalls in all their glory. Be wary, as there are some steep sections along this walk, 12 kilometres total.
Getting there: Jump on the V/Line train to Geelong/Waurn Ponds from Southern Cross Station and depart at Geelong. Then onto a V/Line coach towards Apollo Bay. There are several stops along the Great Ocean Road where you can walk to access points along the Surf Coast Walk.
Note that there are several facilities (campgrounds, day areas) in the area currently closed due to weather damage and other changed conditions, so it’s worth checking the Parks Victoria website before you go.
Caption: History along the Goldfields Track 📷 Parks Victoria
Greater Bendigo National Park/Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park/Wombat State Forest on the Goldfields Track
These parks and forests are destinations on the ‘Goldfields Track’, a 210-kilometre track from Creswick/Ballarat to Bendigo for both bushwalkers and mountain bike riders. It is relatively flat to hilly territory. The trail is broken up in to multi-day and shorter sections in proximity to towns with public transport options at Ballarat/Creswick, Daylesford, Castlemaine and Bendigo. They are great ways to explore the bush and towns of central Victoria.
The Ballarat/Creswick to Daylesford section is a multiday walk through pastoral land and Wombat State Forest. The Daylesford to Castlemaine section is 61 kilometres and shows changes in environment types and the famous Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park. The Castlemaine to Bendigo section shows off Mount Alexander’s granite tors and box-ironbark forest.
Getting there: Take the Bendigo/Epsom/Eaglehawk/Echuca V/Line train from Southern Cross Station to Castlemaine or Bendigo. There is also a coach from Woodend Station to Daylesford. If planning to start from Creswick, take a Ballarat/Wendouree line train and there are regional coach services to Creswick. The walks themselves often start/conclude at the train/bus stations.