Melbourne is a city in which the journey can very easily become the destination, so pull on your most fashionable trainers and head out to explore on foot.
There are plenty of guided walking tours that traverse the CBD, but here’s a selection of the best self-guided Melbourne walks. Not only are they free of charge, but each one will take you a little further afield.
Oozing character from every grungy pore, St Kilda is one of the most popular and accessible tourist precincts outside of the city centre (just jump on the number 96 tram from Bourke Street). It’s home to iconic landmarks such as Luna Park, the venerable Palais Theatre, St Kilda Pier, Catani Arch and the St Kilda Sea Baths.
Download one of the excellent self-guided St Kilda walking tours from the City of Port Phillip website. The Acland Street Village Walking Tour will take you around 90 minutes to do and takes in O’Donnell Gardens, the sublime St Kilda Botanical Gardens, the bustling Acland Street strip and plaza, and a good proportion of the foreshore.
While you’re in the ‘hood, it’s an easy six-kilometre waterfront walk from St Kilda to Port Melbourne along Beaconsfield Parade. Download the City of Port Phillip’s Foreshore Trail — a self-guided three-hour walk that charts the bay front from Port Melbourne all the way to Elwood. You’ll be doing a section of it in reverse.
Along the way you’ll enjoy views across Port Phillip Bay to your left, and magnificent period waterfront residences to your right. Heritage sights along the trail include Princes Pier — the departure point for many Australian servicemen headed for the battlefields of WWl, and Station Pier — the point of arrival for thousands of post-war immigrants in the mid 1900s.
Located at the mouth of the Yarra River, and reachable by train or ferry, Williamstown is one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs and served as the city’s main port in the early years. Download the Hobsons Bay Visitor Information Centre’s Waterfront Heritage Walk — a just-on-three-kilometre self-guided stroll that covers many of Willie’s (as it’s referred to by the locals) heritage must-sees, including Gem Pier, Customs House and the Time Ball Tower.
As you navigate the Victorian-era streetscape and cobbled laneways, think back to the days when the precinct had close to thirty pubs — making it one of the seediest and most volatile locales in Melbourne.
From hipsters to historians, everybody wants a piece of Fitzroy. It’s also one of the most culturally significant parts of Melbourne to the city’s Indigenous population. Home to the Wurundjeri First People pre-settlement, from the early to mid 1900s Fitzroy had a large Aboriginal community and would later become a hub for social and political activism. To learn more, follow the City of Yarra’s Fitzroy Aboriginal Heritage Walking Trail along Gertrude and Smith Streets.
The Docklands sits at the western end of the Melbourne CBD and is almost a city within a city. Soaring office and residential towers pack the precinct, and public art has been used with great effect to soften this world of concrete and glass. So much so that the art has become a drawcard in its own right. Visitors can download the Docklands Walking Tours app and follow an art trail that connects 26 pieces by predominantly Melburnian artists. There are three sections to the walk, and each takes around an hour to complete.
Animals feature prominently on the trail. It’s hard to miss the eye-catching Cow Up a Tree by John Kelly, or the 23-metre-high Eagle by Bruce Armstrong. Also lookout for Signature Work — a large toy bunny and selfie magnet.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best self-guided Melbourne walks? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel writer and author. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket. Her first novel — The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman — is now available in bookstores.
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.