Underrated Day Walks 1 Hour from Melbourne (or Less!)

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As much as I love Melbourne, I always had one big bone to pick with it: you have to drive a couple of hours outside of the CBD to access some of the area’s best hiking spots. Or so I thought.

Being from North Yorkshire in England, where I can walk out of my front door and into a network of thousands of public footpaths with no people in sight, I found it a little suffocating to not have those kinds of easy walking opportunities in Australia. That being said, I decided to make it my mission to find the best walks 1 hour from Melbourne (or less!). Surely there had to be some!

And I surprised myself. In the outer suburbs, there are heaps of state parks, forests and trails that make you feel like you’re a million miles away from the city, despite the fact you’re very much not. Some hikes take only an hour or two to complete, so you can be back in Melbourne in time for lunch if you wanted.

So after five years of exploring walking routes beyond the obvious (you won’t find the Kokoda 1,000 steps or any of that nonsense in this list!), here are my personal top underrated walks near Melbourne, ideal for a day, or even a half day trip escape.

Melbourne day trips for outdoor enthusiasts don’t get much better than this!


underrated day walks from Melbourne

Mt Lofty Loop

  • Location: Warrandyte State Park
  • Time to drive from CBD: 1 hour
  • Distance: 5km 
  • Duration: 1 – 1.5  hours
  • Elevation gain: 146m
  • Difficulty rating: easy – moderate
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If you’re looking for a short walk to get your heart pumping, and something that isn’t just a gum tree forest (and hey, I’m not dissing them, just some variety is nice), then this walk atop of the rolling hills of Warrandyte State Park is a beauty. Of all the Warrandyte walks in this article, this one is my favourite.

The walk begins at the Wittons Reserve car park and takes you on a circular route across the top of Mt Lofty, with stunning views across the gentle hills, lush fields and winding Yarra River. Unlike the parts of the Yarra Trails closer to the CBD (like the Yarra Bend Park), this section feels more rural, despite the fact it’s pretty well trafficked.

You can go up the hill any way you like, but I prefer going up to the right, anticlockwise first. If you do, you get the short steep part of the hill done first, with the long downhill part towards the end, winding beside the river.

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It’s very exposed though, with not all that much shade, so be careful in the heat and as always, water is essential. 

The wildlife here is also fantastic. I had an echidna walk right up to me (my Snow White moment), and saw many butterflies, dragonflies, and also wallabies hiding in the bushes. 

Lerderderg Heritage River Walk

  • Location: Wombat State Forest, Blackwood
  • Time to drive from CBD: 1 hour 10 mins
  • Length: 9km
  • Duration: 2 – 3 hours
  • Elevation gain: 226m
  • Difficulty rating: easy – moderate
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I recently walked the Lerderderg Heritage River route with some friends and we were all equally impressed with this lovely 9km circular trail. My pictures certainly don’t do it justice!

For some reason, we thought the Wombat State Forest was going to be more dry and dare we say it, a little boring. However the Heritage River Walk was very pretty, with some interesting and varied features and scenery; old hidden mine shafts, damp and pretty temperate forest carpeted with moss, fungi and ferns, and also some elevated tracks with fab views into a small valley/gully.

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We walked anti clockwise with the lower elevation first following the orange arrows. The walk would be equally as nice clockwise. If it’s going to be a warm day, I’d perhaps recommend going clockwise so you get the more exposed and higher stuff out the way in the morning, to finish in the cool temperateness at the end as it heats up. It’s also pretty flat, following much of the old miners’ water races.

At the end of the walk we enjoyed a pie and salad at the small cafe-come-gardens of Garden of St Erth (St Erth Fork to Fork Cafe). The menu is very small and it gets pretty busy, so book in advance if you want to have lunch here at a table. Or just bring your own picnic to eat somewhere on the walk.

Pigeon Bank Trail

  • Location: Warrandyte State Park
  • Time to drive from CBD: 1 hour
  • Length: 6.5 – 7km 
  • Duration: 1.5 hours
  • Elevation gain: 155m
  • Difficulty rating: easy
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There is so much the Warrandyte State Park has to offer for those looking for easy walks close to Melbourne. This bush walk only took me a 45 minute drive to access from Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs.

The Pigeon Bank Trail is located to the north of Warrandyte State Park and follows the western bank of the Yarra River through woodland, thick shrubbery and at times, wider open trails. Though primarily an out-and-back trail, its two loops — one at the beginning and another near the end — add variety and interest.

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Although there is 146m of elevation gain, the Pigeon Bank Trail feels generally flat. However there is one small steep section – the circular loop at the start (which can always be skipped if required). 

I admit some later parts of the walk are a little average (on two occasions you have to walk between paths via quiet residential roads) but there are some very pretty spots, especially the loop at the end which is secluded and teeming with wildflowers and birds. I’d recommend taking this circular part in a clockwise direction, along the river first.

AllTrails is a great idea for this walk as there are a couple of turn offs I would have otherwise missed without it, and the walk isn’t signposted.

Plenty Gorge Loop via Blue Lake

  • Location: Plenty Gorge Park
  • Time to drive from CBD: 40 minutes
  • Length: 7.5km
  • Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
  • Elevation gain: 209m
  • Difficulty rating: moderate
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Only a 40 minute drive from Melbourne’s CBD is the Plenty Gorge Park, with a loop of the western side of the park being a popular walking highlight.

The trail starts off very urban, skirting through the suburban park with wildflowers and grasses down to the river. Here you have to cross a makeshift (and somewhat dodgy) log bridge to access the other side of the park (as the footbridge that was once there is missing).

There are a few short steep sections which might get very muddy after rain, and you’ll likely need to follow AllTrails (as there’s no signage). However it’s a lovely well-trafficked native walk where you’ll likely see lots of wildlife like echidnas and roos – we saw a chunky echidna!

There was also a section where we walked right at the edge of a high grassy bank, looking down to the horseshoe bend of the river below, which was very cool!

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The only downside to this walk is that a lot of the footpaths are actually mountain bike trails. I met no cyclists on a sunny spring Saturday, but on some blind corners, or steep hills, you did have to be quite alert to ensure no one came flying by.

Quarry, Wallaby & Glen Track

  • Location: Lysterfield Park
  • Time to drive from CBD: 50 minutes
  • Length: 10km 
  • Duration: 2 – 3 hours
  • Elevation gain: 275m
  • Difficulty rating: moderate
Quarry Track Lysterfield

Lysterfield Park has loads of great hiking and mountain biking trails to explore. If you’re not scared of hills, then a good one for a little work out is the Quarry circular via Wallaby and Glen Track.

This walk, only 40 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD, takes you up to a working hard rock quarry, and offers pretty views across the parklands, forest and Lysterfield Lake. Most of the route is well sign posted and via wide fire trails, often shared with the odd mountain biker and other walkers.

The native flora here is wonderful and when I went in spring, the forest floor was carpeted with white three cornered leeks and striking arum lilies. I also saw plenty of kangaroos and birds – lorikeets, galahs and cockatoos, all making a delightful ruckus. If you’re lucky, you might see an echidna. 

Nature Walk via Blue Tongue Bend and Stane Brae Track

  • Location: Warrandyte State Park
  • Time to drive from CBD: 55 minutes
  • Length: 7km 
  • Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
  • Elevation gain: 188m
  • Difficulty rating: moderate
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Didn’t I say Warrandyte State Park has plenty to offer?!

The Nature Walk via Blue Tongue Bend and Stane Brae Track is a predominantly circular 7km trail to the eastern side of the Yarra River. It’s more varied in terms of the terrain/scenery and a little longer and slightly more challenging than Pigeon Bank Trail.

From the start, the walk is uphill, skirting the Yarra River initially, if taken in a clockwise direction. This Blue Tongue section along the river is definitely the highlight of the walk with a mixture of lovely elevated views and other times, skirting only a few feet from the edge of the river.

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The out-and-back Stane Brae Track is perhaps the least interesting part (most of it is not too dissimilar from a fire trail), however there’s an abandoned farmhouse in a large open grassy area, often with lots of kangaroos, which makes it worth adding this part on. Otherwise, you can always opt for just the loop part without the Stane Brae Track section to reduce the length slightly.

Note that dogs are not allowed on this trail due to the wildlife, so unfortunately you’ll have to leave pups at home this time. 

All of these trails prove that there are plenty of great and underrated walks near Melbourne, less than a 1 hour drive away. From temperate forest to rolling hills, bush walks to riverside strolls, Melbourne does indeed offer a variety of interesting surrounding terrain to explore.

I will continue to add on new walks 1 hour from Melbourne that I find and love, as and when I discover them! If you know of any, please send recommendations my way.

Heading to Victoria soon? Don’t forget these essentials!

Flights: compare and search for the cheapest flights using Skyscanner

Accommodation: hotels to hostels, glamping to apartments, I always use Booking.com

Tours: to find the best group tours and activities worldwide (with up to 20% off), use Viator

Guide books: Lonely Planet’s guide to Australia or Lonely Planet’s guide to Melbourne and Victoria

Visa: don’t forget to check the entry requirements for the passport you are travelling with

Inspiration: to kick-start your next adventure, how about Lonely Planet’s Guide to the World?

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7 thoughts on “Underrated Day Walks 1 Hour from Melbourne (or Less!)”

  1. Such beautiful trails within an hour of Melbourne! Beautiful photos and great info. Where I live in Florida, I often struggle to find hiking trails that are long(er) and not very busy so I understand your frustration! Being able to step outside to a quiet footpath like you could in the UK sounds heavenly!

  2. Your photos are amazing – I love how green all of the places are! It makes me quite keen to visit Victoria again as my hubby and I love hiking, especially with our furbaby. We only really saw a bit of the city last time.

  3. I love that you made it your mission to find so many lovely mini hikes near Melbourne! I hope you keep adding to this as you find more – it’s a great resource! 😀

    We are really spoilt in the UK for the network of trails aren’t we!? I appreciate it more whenever I go home.

  4. I always love exploring natural spaces on my travels! I’ve only been to Melbourne twice and I had no idea about some of these spots! Thanks for sharing these with me. I’ll have to check them out on a future trip!

  5. I think I would like the Quarry, Wallaby & Glen Track. I love to see animals, particularly kangaroos/wallabies out and about in the wild.


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