5 Lesser Known Day Hikes Within Two Hours of Melbourne

With day hiking here in Melbourne, and almost certainly around Australia, taking off in amongst the current pandemic it has certainly created a high volume of walkers using some of our more popular trails.

So, with that in mind, this article will feature five lesser known day hikes located within two hours of Melbourne.

The Scenic Rim, Lerderderg State Park

It’s often said that the Cathedral Ranges Southern Circuit is one of the hardest day hikes in Victoria.

However, I reckon the Scenic Rim track in Lerderderg Gorge is right up there.

Stunning view across Lerderderg Gorge on the Scenic Rim Track

It’s 16km of steep rocky terrain, several river crossings and, most importantly, stunning scenery.

Starting and finishing at Mackenzies Flat Picnic Ground, you’ll almost certainly be out there for a full day.

For mine, it’s a mixture of both the Southern and Northern Circuit at the Cathedral Ranges, with shades of Mitchell River and Werribee Gorge.

If you’re a casual bushwalker you may not want to tackle this one just yet, but if you’re up for the challenge, and want to avoid the crowds, then this one might just be the one for you.

Grade: 4
Distance: 16kms approximately
Type: Circuit/Loop
Location: Mackenzies Flat Picnic Ground, Lerderderg Gorge
Nearest Town: Bacchus Marsh

Starlings Gap to New Federal Mill Return, East Warburton

Unfortunately, Warburton is one of those places that has now become overrun with people flocking to its various short walks including the Redwood Forest.

But, funnily enough, there are other walks in the area that will whet your adventurous appetite and one them is Starlings Gap to New Federal Mill return hike.

As part of the area’s Walk Into History multi-day trail, this 18km return section of the hike follows a muddy path through dense, green rainforest.

Hikers in the forest near Starlings Gap in the Yarra Ranges National Park

It’s covered with so many ferns and Mountain Ash that at times it feels borderline claustrophobic – but the good, outdoorsy kind.

Either end offers a great spot to stop and have some lunch, with a side trip possible to the popular Ada Tree from New Federal Mill.

It’s not an overly taxing walk but given the terrain you find yourself in, expect a leech or two to try and hitch a ride with you along the way.

For those of you who are keen on overnight hiking, this is an ideal spot to do so with plenty of room available at Starlings Gap.

And best of all – it’s free to camp!

Grade: 3
Distance: 18kms
Type: Return
Location: Starlings Gap Camp Ground, East Warburton
Nearest Town: Warburton

The Cumberland Track, Cambarville

Marysville is a fairly popular spot in Victoria to go for a day walk (especially Steavenson Falls), but not far away is a great little track – The Cumberland Track, Cambarville.

Now, it might only be only be 4kms in distance, but with the trail choc-full of ferns and a two nice waterfalls – Cora Lynn and Cumberland Falls – to boot, it’s ideal for any casual walker looking for something different.

Lush forest and ferns on the Cumberland Track

And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll also come across a big tree called Big Tree that stands at 87ms tall which, let’s be honest, is incredibly impressive.

Grade: 3
Distance: 4kms
Type: Circuit/Loop
Location: Starlings Gap Camp Ground, East Warburton
Nearest Town: Warburton

Dargon Track, Lysterfield Lake Park

In the south-east region of Melbourne lies the suburb of Lysterfield and the Lake Circuit.

It’s a fairly popular location for casual walkers, cyclists and adventure racers with its easy to follow path around the lake.

Also, if you love your wildlife (and who doesn’t), you’re a huge chance to see a kangaroo or three.

But enough about that! I’m here to talk to you about the nearby seven kilometre Dargon Track.

Grassy track on the Dargon Track

A circuit track that I would describe as having everchanging scenery the entire way, it offers the same easy track to follow as the Lake Circuit but without the crowds.

Accessed from a few points – Wellington, Nixon or Ryans Road – there are a number of trails within this trail that you could add to extend it out.

But the 7kms is just enough to keep you satisfied and as it’s located an hour out of Melbourne, it makes it an ideal walk for those of you who are looking for a half day hike.

Grade: 3
Distance: 7kms
Type: Circuit/Loop
Location: Lysterfield Lake Park, Lysterfield
Nearest Town: Lysterfield

Windy Point Track, Bunyip State Park

This is an official track in the Bunyip State Park but not one that most wouldn’t think of doing when visiting the area (that title belongs to the Four Brothers Rocks Track).

Starting at the popular Mortimer Picnic Ground, and heading north on the Triangle Track, this is 10kms of an easy to follow track through some pretty impressive bushland (even with the fires that came through in early 2019).

And, best of all, if you’re looking for a relatively easy walk but with a small challenge along the way, you’ll get exactly that in the form of a decent hill at about the halfway mark.

Windy Point hiking track and forest

Because, let’s be honest, what’s a hike without a challenge!

And if you find yourself finishing earlier than you thought you would, you’ve got the ability to hike some of the other trails from the picnic ground including the Mortimer Circuit (9.4kms) and the Four Brothers Rocks (13kms) just to name a few.

Grade: 3
Distance: 10kms
Type: Circuit
Location: Bunyip State Park, Bunyip
Nearest Town: Gembrook

John Feeney is the owner and main guide of The Hiking Society; an adventure company that offers the best hiking tours in Victoria.


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2 thoughts on “5 Lesser Known Day Hikes Within Two Hours of Melbourne”

    1. John Feeney’s response about Bunyip in the group was: “Windy Point is open. There’s a small section from Mortimer, which Windy Point is a part of, that is open. But yes 90% of the park is closed.”

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