Going on an outdoor adventure is an exhilarating experience. With today’s global health restrictions, however, travel plans would have to wait. You can always go on short walks or city tours, though. Sure, a trip within the neighbourhood sounds less exciting, but it’s just as rewarding as any multi-day hike. Plus, urban hiking in Australia takes you to beautiful parks, scenic views and cityscapes without all that planning and packing!
What is Urban Hiking?
Urban hiking in Australia means taking short walks within cities or suburbs. Some may define it as taking the adventure away in a supposedly adventurous hike. Well, you’ll likely see buildings instead of lush forests and encounter more people than wildlife. And it mostly involves hard concrete paths, traffic noise and the all-too-familiar city air.
But the thing that I like most about urban hiking is discovering new places without being too far away from home. There is no extensive planning or specialised equipment required, and public transport is very accessible. You won’t have to brave steep terrains or extreme weather either, so it’s relatively safe, especially for hiking beginners. The trip only lasts for a few hours, too – perfect for busy people in need of some leg exercise.
Where to Go Urban Hiking in Australia?
Before embarking on your mini-adventure, you might want to make a few preparations. No matter where you’re going, make sure you wear weather-appropriate clothes and comfortable shoes. You might want to bring a water bottle, your phone and some cash. And if the trip will take longer than a couple of hours, having a small day pack with snacks wouldn’t hurt.
All set? Here are some of the best city walks in Australia that you should try.
1. Main Yarra Trail, Melbourne
- Distance: 33km
- Highlights: native bush, scenic river views, multiple tourist spots and off-road cycling
The Main Yarra Trail is one of Victoria’s iconic walking tracks that runs from Westerfolds Park in Templestowe to Southbank. This busy trail is a popular route for bikers commuting to work. So, if you plan to visit on weekdays, it’s best to avoid peak hours. It’s quite a long walking trail, but track conditions are flat and safe. It has no defined starting points either so you can plan your scenic walks in sections.
This trail will take you to urban bushland without being too far off Melbourne’s bustling CBD. During your walk (or cycling trip), you’ll pass by several popular stops. Make sure to visit the Yarra Bend Park, Abbotsford Convent, Royal Botanic Gardens and Collingwood Children’s Farm. If you’re going with the kids, they will surely enjoy the 2km miniature train ride at the Diamond Valley Railway. There are toilets, picnic tables and restaurants within the area, too, so stopping for snacks and drinks won’t be a problem.
2. Battery Point Sculpture Trail, Hobart
- Distance: 2km
- Highlights: fascinating view of Hobart’s past and stunning backdrop
If you’re into art, history and urban hiking in Australia, then Battery Point Sculpture Trail ticks all the boxes. This award-winning walking track gives you a glimpse of the city’s past through a unique sculpture-by-the-numbers theme. Here, visitors can take a stroll from Salamanca Place to Marieville Esplanade and see nine numerical sculptures along the way. Each custom-designed figure has a story relevant to its location.
You won’t get lost as every site has directions describing where to go next. Plus, you can see these large sculptures from 200m away, so they’re pretty hard to miss! One of its notable stops is site #1, where 1833 represents the year for building the New Wharf. Another is site #4 at Finlay Street with figure 2,000, which stands for the amount (in tonnes) of canned fruit produced annually. The art site also pays tribute to women cannery workers of early industrial times.
3. Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk, Sydney
- Distance: 10km
- Highlights: harbour and ocean views, historical rock engravings and beach time with the family
The Manly to Spit Bridge Coast Walk is perfect for adding some water element to your urban hiking adventure. Here, bushland meets harbourside trails. Visitors are in for a treat the moment they start at the viewing platform of Dobroyd Head and see the Sydney Harbour. You might even witness migrating whales here if you come between May and November. The walk should take about 3 to 4 hours to complete, depending on the stops you make.
From your starting point, you can continue and take a dip at Reef Beach and Forty Baskets Beach. The rock pools of Fairlight Beach are also popular among snorkelers for spotting shallow-water fish. Make sure to visit the Sydney Harbour National Park to see thousand-year-old rock carvings, representing the city’s Aboriginal heritage. With picnic areas, playgrounds, restaurants and BBQ facilities in the vicinity, you have everything set for fun family time.
4. Kings Park, Perth
- Distance: depends on walking trail
- Highlights: self-guided walks, immaculate gardens and plays areas for the kids
You don’t have to be in the middle of the wilderness to see unique flora. At Kings Park in Western Australia, you can see thousands of them in one location. One good thing about Kings Park is that it has several trails available, depending on your preference and fitness level. Here some of its popular self-guided walks:
Botanic Garden Discovery Walk. For this trail, you can choose the 40-minute Short Walk or explore the entire area for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The Long Walk lets you see beautiful spots such as the Lotterywest Federation Walkway and the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Fountain. Make sure to get yourself a map for a description of every plant and sculpture in the area.
Law Walk. This premier trail is 2.5km long and takes about 45 minutes to complete. Here, you get spectacular views of the Swan River as well as birds like Carnaby’s cockatoos and New Holland honeyeaters. You might want to keep an eye for dolphins at Matilda Bay, too. Take care while walking, though, as you’ll come across some steep areas. Ramps for wheelchair access are also available.
Boodja Gnarning Walk. This one features the life of the Nyoongar people and has two separate paths. The Maarm Track is 2.4km long and highlights how Nyoongar men use land and trees for shelter, tool-making and hunting. The 1.8km Yorgra Track, on the other hand, showcases Nyoongar women’s role in medicine creation and food gathering.
Urban hiking in Australia is a great starting point for more challenging treks ahead. When you’re all warmed up, these single-day hikes will have you planning your next trip!