Melbourne consistently tops international liveability rankings and is often considered the cooler, edgier and artier sibling to shiny, scenic Sydney. It’s at the forefront of fashion and state-of-the-art design, from exceptional restaurants and cafes influenced by the richly multicultural heritage of the city to elegant, contemporary accommodation (see the Langham).
No-nonsense, minimal chic is on display in its fitness centres, with warehouses utilised for spin classes (see Art of Cycling) and bouldering (Northside Boulders). Thanks to trams, trains, and lots of cycling lanes, it’s easy to get around and with the magnificent Yarra River and an abundance of beautiful gardens at its centre, it’s ideal for outdoor exercise.
If you’re after some proper nature and a bit of a trek, head to Mount Dandenong and tackle the 1000 Steps Kokoda Track Memorial Walk. Climb stone steps through lush forest and bushland to One Tree Hill (somewhat of a misnomer – it’s full of trees) and picturesque views. The well-maintained 2.8km return track will take about an hour and you’ll need decent footwear, especially on a wet day. It’s a long way from the actual Kokoda Track, but after your 1000th step you’ll have a small appreciation for what the soldiers endured.
The iconic ‘Tan Track’ is deservedly Melbourne’s most beloved run. Sweeping the perimeter of the Royal botanic gardens, with the Yarra skirting its side, the 3.8 km trail passes by a swathe of iconic Melbourne sights, including Federation Square, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Shine of Remembrance. Originally a horse trail, it’s now a wide, beautifully maintained, largely gravel track marked out at 250-metre intervals and offers joggers and runners a virtually uninterrupted course (there is one crossing at Government House Drive). To begin your run, catch a tram down Swanston St and disembark a couple of stops after you pass over the Yarra river.
Fitzroy Gardens Route
The Fitzroy Gardens jogging route is a verdant escape from the Melbourne CBD. This 2.7km route takes in a range of historical landmarks, including Parliament House and Captain Cook’s childhood home. That’s right: the childhood home of the British explorer who first recorded European contact with the Australian east coast as an adult. (The entire cottage was transported from England to Fitzroy Gardens for Melbournians’ viewing pleasure.) Expect the occasional hill, but an otherwise gentle jog, full of leafy foliage: huge elms, lush ferns, quiet ponds, bamboo jungles. It’s easily accessible from the city and a good option on a warm day.
Rowing The Yarra
The Yarra River stretches 242 km from its beginnings in the Yarra Ranges National Park and conclusion at Port Phillip Bay. Flowing through the centre and roughly dividing the city into two camps, north and south, it’s a familiar, beloved and culturally influential part of Melbourne. It’s also staggeringly beautiful to row, particularly at dawn or dusk. A number of rowing clubs dot its length (mostly around the CBD, Richmond and Hawthorn) and offer lessons from beginners to masters level. If you’d prefer to bring your own gear, Yarra Parks regulate the river and provide guidance on their website for the many safe launch and entry points
CBD Riverside Route
This track wends along the Yarra River on the southern edge of the Melbourne CBD. Starting at Federation Square, head west along the river. Pass the Melbourne Aquarium and cross the water at Seafarer’s Bridge to the Polly Woodside and Melbourne Convention Centre (known only to locals as Jeff’s Shed after the former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett). The return leg takes in Crown Casino and the lively Southbank Promenade. After you’re done, stop off for a refreshment at Ponyfish Island, a floating café and bar in the middle of the river (enter from the Southbank pedestrian bridge).