Melbournians are a lucky lot, not only do they live in a cosmopolitan city with wonderful galleries, cafes and restaurants at their doorstep they also have some of the best bushwalks within an hour or so’s drive – as these four day walks show.
Bushrangers Bay to Cape Schanck / Two Bays
For an easy day stroll, walkers can hit the trail amid farmland on the Rosebud-Flinders Road where you dive into banksias and a bustle of birdlife, including honeyeaters and wrens. Follow the creek line before detouring down to sandy Bushrangers Bay. From there, double back to track along the basalt coastline to postcard-famous Cape Schanck Lighthouse. Be sure to head out to the point, reached via a boardwalk, to admire Pulpit Rock, a stack that is actually a volcanic plug. The light station includes a lighthouse, museum and former lighthouse keeper’s residences dating from 1859. Guided tours are held each day and overnight accommodation is available in the residences. You can then either turn around for a return leg viewing, continue on to Gunnamatta Surf Beach, or play a round of golf. For a longer walk, try the Two Bays Walking Track which begins across the peninsula in Dromana, darting south through Arthurs Seat State Park, Green Bush and on to Bushrangers and Cape Schanck. It’s the longest continuous Walking route in the Mornington Peninsula.
Distance from Melbourne: 90km south
Length: 10km return (Two Bays: 26km)
Grade: easy (Two Bays: moderate)
Start: carpark along Rosebud-Flinders Road (Two Bays: Dromana)
Finish: Cape Schanck Lighthouse
Kokoda Walk, Ferntree Gully
Ferntree Gully’s Kokoda tribute walk is “1,000 steps” lodged up a grade steep enough to give you a taste of what the diggers pushed through on the real Kokoda trail. There’s a plethora of interpretation boards along the way. Tree ferns and manna gums dominate the rainforest. Still, despite this ‘taster’ trail being 1/38th the length of the real deal, it's more than enough of a challenge for any bushwalker. An hour's solid going will see you to the top of the trail at One Tree Hill. From here there is good news and bad news. The bad news is you'll have to walk all the way back as you’re still in the middle of the Dandenong Ranges NP, the good news is it's all downhill. If you're not into the Kokoda walk there are plenty of other short walks criss-crossing the park that take in the beauty of the surrounding forest for its own sake (including the Living Nature Bush Walk loop) and you can link up any number of them to make your day out a longer one, should you wish.
Distance from Melbourne: 40km east
Grade: moderate to difficult but short
Start: Ferntree Gully Ranger’s office
Finish: One Tree Hill Picnic Ground
Warburton to Mt Donna Buang, Yarra Ranges NP
The walk begins with a stroll up Martyrs Road, one the steepest residential streets in the world. Your goal is the 1250m summit, 14.5km away, reached after climbing over 1km in altitude. It’s damp country so expect to slip and slide a bit until you reach the flatter, ridgeline sections at higher altitudes. Despite the testing terrain, the walk is a beauty, passing first through tree fern country and then heavily forested stands of mountain ash and some beech, all alive with plenty of wildlife (including lyrebirds and wombats). It wasn’t always all so lush – this was logging country for a long time. At the top, on a clear day, you’re peering across to the Cathedral Ranges, the Dandenongs and even right on down to the skyscrapers of Melbourne’s CBD. The trek down is as always quicker, but more haste, less speed is the mantra – many have come a cropper with knee trouble navigating the lower, steeper sections. The reward for getting down in one piece is a well earned latte at the Good Food Room on Warburton’s main street.
Distance from Melbourne: 80km northeast
Start: Martyrs Road, Warburton
Finish: Main Street Warburton
Lerderderg Gorge offers a tranquil yet brutal beauty fashioned by impressive rock layers and interestingly hewed formations, evidence of a shallow inland sea. Historians would quote the Ordovician period at you when looking at the exposed layers of sandstone and slate. That’s a phase of the Palaeozoic era 488-443 million years ago (give or take a day) when the area was covered by shallow seas and part of a larger southern hemisphere mass called Gondwanaland. More recent history is on show, too, with aqueducts and diggings from the gold mining era. A tunnel dug to divert the river to expose its bed also remains. Lerderderg marks the drop from the Ballarat Plateau where the Lerderderg River has carved a 300m deep gorge on its way down through eucalypt woodland and several patches of rare and endangered plants. Walking trails, often following the river and old water races provide walks from short, easy strolls to this challenging overnight (2-3 days) expedition: O’Briens Crossing – Lerderderg River – Mackenzies Flat.
Distance from Melbourne: 65km west
Start: O’Briens Crossing
Finish: Mackenzies Flat carpark
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