Explore these hidden walking trails around Victoria.
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As we head towards a ‘COVID normal’ summer, many of us are starting to think about spending more time outdoors.
Exercise or simply staying active may have given way to other priorities throughout this year, but now’s a great time to either start or get back to being physically active over summer.
So if you’re looking to get some fresh air, connect with nature and feel great bushwalking could be a great activity to try. Below we cover the bushwalking basics for beginners. We also share our tips for hitting the quieter trails and tracks so you can walk at a relaxed pace while keeping a safe distance from others.
Where to start with bushwalking
If you’re new to bushwalking or hikes, it can seem a little daunting at first. Where can you find a trail or track that’s easy to navigate or not too hilly? What equipment you need? How can you find someone to go with? These can all be barriers to getting started.
Richelle Olsen from Escaping Your Comfort Zone, an organisation which runs body positive hikes for women and non-binary people and is supported by VicHealth’s This Girl Can - Victoria program, says that often you don’t need specialist hiking equipment.
“Don’t get caught up in the hype of needing to buy hiking boots if you want to go hiking,” she said.
“Yes, hiking boots are brilliant if you are doing long hikes, carrying a large pack, or are hiking on super rocky, technical trails and you need some extra ankle support. But when you are just starting out, just wear the most comfortable trainers/runners you have.”
“Ideally wear a shirt that is breathable, but it doesn't really matter if you are only out for an hour or two.”
Richelle also recommends taking a rain jacket if there’s a chance the weather turns when you’re out walking.
For more tips on getting started with bushwalking, you can read this blog on the Escaping Your Comfort Zone website.
With the weather warming up it’s also important to remember to be sun smart, particularly if you’re spending an extended period outdoors. See our simple tips to protect yourself this summer here.
Quiet bushwalking and hiking spots across Victoria
For Victorians in metropolitan Melbourne, finding remote, quiet places to enjoy a bushwalk or hike can be a bit of a challenge. But there are plenty of options within driving distance of the city to choose from.
Richelle says some of her favourite places which can provide a safe, ‘great outdoors’ experience are rail trails.
“Rail trails are great as you can go as far or as short as you like, plus they are usually relatively flat. You can pick a section, park the car, and walk from there,” she said.
What are the benefits of bushwalking in Victoria?
Ben Rossiter, CEO of Victoria Walks, says the benefits of taking the time to explore walking areas around the state are numerous, and not just for individuals.
“Before COVID, walking was already the most popular physical activity of Victorians, then during lockdown most of us explored our neighbourhoods on foot like never before, but now we are ready to roam further afield,” he said.
Victoria Walks has put together a list of lesser known and quieter walks for people looking to avoid popular spots.
“As it feels like everyone wants to get out and walk and reconnect with nature, you might want to avoid some of the well-known walks like the 1000 Steps, the Redwood Forest and the You Yangs,” Ben said.
He also recommends considering travelling to regional areas, which have been hit hard not only by the pandemic, but also in some cases by last summer’s devastating bushfires.
“Now is a perfect time to visit regional areas recovering from the pandemic’s economic hardships and Alpine Shire has some fabulous walks that were not impacted by last Summer’s horrific bushfires and we encourage people to visit, particularly around Bright.”
More walking inspiration can be found on the Victoria Walks website.
Being in a natural environment also has tremendous benefits for our mental health, according to VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio.
Sandro recently discussed the practice of ‘nature bathing’ on ABC Radio Melbourne, which you can read more about here.
Tips for getting started (or back into) bushwalking
- Do some googling about walks or trails in your area. You often don’t have to go far to start with, but make sure if you’re just starting out that the walk isn’t too long or over difficult terrain.
- Look the part, but don’t break the bank. You don’t need to rush to your local outdoor clothing shop before a hike. Clothing such as lightweight t-shirts or shirts, shorts, leggings or trackpants (depending on the weather) and runners or trainers are usually all you need for bushwalking. However, if you’re going to invest in one thing, make it a waterproof rain jacket – Victorian weather can be unpredictable.
- Carry some essentials with you. Take a small backpack with you which can hold things like your rain jacket, a small first aid kit, sunscreen, water and some snacks. Adjust what you take depending on how long you’ll be walking for. Usually you can find advice on how much water to take in the information for a trail or track.
- Tell someone where you’re going. If you’re going on a more remote walk on your own or in a small group, tell someone else where you’re going before you leave. That way if something happens, they can help.
- Remember some coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions still apply. Although masks don’t need to be worn outside now, you still need to carry one with you and wear it if you can’t maintain physical distance from others or indoors. Physical distancing must also be maintained, and you should wash your hands as often as you can.