Urban hiking. Isn’t it just a fancy name for taking a walk in your neighbourhood? Pretty much, but why not add to the adventure and make it sound adventurous? Especially in these more restricted COVID times we’re still experiencing in parts of Australia.
Urban hiking is a great way to stretch the legs without having to travel too far from home.
Where can you go?
The city and suburbs are your oyster. Urban hiking provides such a diversity of backdrops and environment. It might be the back streets of your neighbourhood, a reserve or park, the nearby creek, the CBD, the beach, or your local wetlands.
Urban hiking can take you through areas that are made by humans and built up, and equally it can take you to more natural parts of the city or suburbs that you didn’teven know existed.
Yeah, yeah, it’s not Cathedral Ranges but urban hiking in the cities can be just as interesting as out bush.
Just a couple of kilometres out of the second biggest city in Australia, sections of the Yarra River have you feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Pros and Cons of Urban Hiking
There are many benefits to urban hiking. Here are a few:
- Closer to home
- Explore new places
- Close to public transport
- Often quite flat and not too challenging
- Relatively safe
- No special equipment required
Like with any form of hiking, there can be downsides:
- Air quality isn’t as good as out in the bush
- Not as challenging
- Pounding the concrete can be harsh on the joints
- Not the ‘same’ as real hiking
‘Descending the track’ at Como Park, in Melbourne. 😂
What do you need to pack for an urban hike
One of the best things about urban hiking is you don’t really need special equipment. What you’ve already got is probably good enough.
If you’re doing a short walk through the streets and parks of your neighbourhood, some comfy shoes and weather appropriate clothing (jeans and a tee, if you want) is all you really need. Carry your phone just in case—or to pump some tunes or a podcast. Your card or cash in case you want to grab a coffee along the way. You’re set.
Because I’m a biased merino wool fanatic I do recommend a merino wool t-shirt and socks even for urban hiking. But, hey, I wear merino pretty much 24/7, so of course I’m going to say that.
If you’re smashing out some real ks and your urban hike is taking you further from home, you might want to carry some essentials like a small day pack, water, snacks, sunscreen, rain coat, and whatever else you need to make the day enjoyable and safe. Why not a packed lunch, or even a lightweight stove to cook something up like you’re on a real adventure? Nothing wrong with being that eccentric type at the local park kitted out in your shorts-over-thermals, long rain jacket, cooking up a meal on your Trangia!
I wear a pair of Merrell Trail Glove 5s for my urban hiking exploits.
Top urban hikes across Australia
Every city and town across Australia has a trove of awesome urban hiking opportunities. This is a form of hiking where you can really choose your route and your own adventure—though, use commonsense essentially if your urban setting takes you off the footpath. Some folks are taking it to all new levels by drawing pictures using apps like Strava.
That’s one way to make your urban hike more interesting. Source: Wearable.com
Here are some popular urban hikes across Australia:
Main Yarra Trail – Following the mighty Yarra from Westerfolds Park, Templestowe, all the way to Southbank, in the centre of Melbourne, this track covers 33kms and is ideal to chip away at in sections.
Albert Park Lake – Doesn’t get much easier. It’s almost completely flat, so is suitable for pretty much anybody, even those in wheelchairs. Stunning views over the CBD. Lots of birdlife. Though, lots of people too.
Plenty Gorge – Feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of suburbia. Half hour drive from the CBD, to the north east, plenty offers plenty of walks and hikes for people of all fitness levels. Great in winter when the creek is flowing.
That’s a bit more like it, don’t you think? Plenty River in Plenty Gorge. Only half hour from Melbourne, surrounded by the suburbs.
Bondi to Bronte – This urban hike takes in an iconic stretch of coastline. At 4km long, it’s a perfect Sunday afternoon stroll. But, as you can imagine, it can get very busy.
South Head Heritage Trail – Yes, yes, it’s one the tourist trail but the views are quite special. Catch the ferry from the CBD to Watson Bay and stroll to Hornby Lighthouse. It’s a right of passage for Sydneysiders, no?
Riverside Walking Track – Lane Cove National Park. Who would have thought such a thing existed only 9km from Sydney CBD. A piece of paradise near the city.
Linear Park Trail – At 30km, this is a mighty old track and is probably one that you wouldn’t do in one hit but in sections. It follows the Torrens River from Athelstone, in the foothills of the Adelaide Hills, through the CBD, to West Beach/Henley Beach. The 14km from the CBD is a popular walk or bike ride and takes in some of the best parts of the track.
Adelaide CBD – Just walk the CBD and make your own adventure. Beautiful architecture, wide, quiet streets. Victoria Park. The Parklands. The Torrens River. North Adelaide. So much to see, and some good coffee stops along the way. Really cool little laneway bar scene too. (Pop in to La Moka on Peel Street and tell ’em Paul sent you.)
Cobbler Creek – For the northside dwellers, Cobbler Creek offers a bit of everything. Light walking trails, mountain bike tracks, history, rural landscapes. Must do if you’re out north.
Kings Park and Botanic Gardens – Just to the side of the Perth CBD, Kings Park offers a range of nature trails and river side walks. Doesn’t get much more central.
City Loop via Southbank or Botanic Gardens – You have to do your city walk at least once, and Brisbane has a few ways to do it. Stunning views of the river and CBD.
Battery Point Sculpture Trail – If you’re an out-of-towner, walking the streets of Battery Point reveals the essence of Hobart. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Tasmania has the most beautiful and interesting architecture in Australia.
Mount Wellington – Definitely more in the ‘hike’ category, Mount Wellington, that mighty ol’ thing looking over Hobart, offers a range of great hikes close to Hobart CBD. Only 8km away in fact. The weather can change rapidly on Mount Wellington, so pack appropriately. (This isn’t a jeans and tee kind of place.)
The urban hike suggestions here are a tiny, miniscule fraction of the options across Australia and New Zealand. Comment below your favourite urban hike and a short description as to why it rocks, and I will include it.