Our favourite parks of inner city Melbourne – Australia. A guide to 3 parks close to the CBD, perfect for picnics, walks and a nature fix.
2020 has been an interesting year, to put it politely! Here in Victoria, we had several months of a ‘hard lockdown’, with a ‘ring of steel’ implemented between Metropolitan Melbourne and country Victoria, and limitations of 5km travel for recreation purposes imposed. Things were definitely tough for a couple of CBD based, outdoor loving travel addicts with a passion for wildlife photography. But one thing Covid 19 did allow us, was the opportunity to explore some local parks closer to home – 5km to be exact! Thankfully, living in the heart of one of the worlds most liveable cities still offers plenty of places to escape. The inner city parks of Melbourne became our salvation. The same parks we had visited many times, we now appreciated more than ever and explored as often as we could.
After multiple visits and lots of photo’s we thought we’d put together a little piece on 3 of our favourite parks of inner city Melbourne. Here’s just some of the beautiful flora and fauna we found right on our doorsteps within 5km of Melbourne CBD.
Just a few kilometres south of the CBD is Melbourne’s Albert Park and lake. Famously known as the Melbourne Grand Prix circuit, this park was our go-to walking track. Iits 4.7-kilometre (2.9 mi) walking track around the lake is a popular space for runners, cyclists and dog walkers. We love strolling round the lake on nice clear Autumnal evening as the sunsets bathing the city in golden light.
Albert Park is probably the best place to see one of Melbourne most iconic birds – the Black Swan. About 150 of these graceful birds live here. You’ll notice many are ‘collared’ which is part of a study on the movements and breeding of Melbourne’s Black Swans. The highlight for many visiting Albert Park is seeing the cute cygnets. Although Black Swans can breed at anytime of year, the cygnets are most common in Winter and Spring (June-November). They start their lives with grey downy feathers and are particularly photogenic.
There’s a surprisingly large number birds easily seen at Albert Park, with close to 200 different birds species recorded. Apart from the aforementioned Black Swans, Albert Park is an easy place to see lots of common water birds like Pacific Black Ducks, Western Swamphens and Dusky Moorhen. The park is also a great place to see many of Melbourne’s Parrots and Cockatoos. If your visit coincides with the Gum trees (Eucalypts) in full bloom, you’ll likely find several different colourful species feeding in them.
Yarra Bend Park
Our favourite of the parks of inner city Melbourne is Yarra Bend Park. This is Melbourne’s largest natural bushland park and has several really nice walking tracks. It certainly doesn’t feel like you’re only a few kilometres from the CBD when you’re out exploring Yarra Bend Park. The trails are popular with mountain bikers and trail runners too. You can even hire a canoe at the Studley Park Boathouse and paddle through the park. Surrounded by bush, the numerous trails and picnic spots are the perfect place to to escape city life and get into nature.
Yarra Bend Park is perhaps best known for its Grey-Headed Flying Fox (Fruit Bat) colony. Park up at the Bellbird Picnic Area and follow the trail to the viewing platforms. There are informative signs along the way for those who want to know more about these fragrant Flying Foxes. During the day you’ll find them roosting in the trees and at sunset watch them fly out en-mass. In the hotter months, up to 50,000 flying foxes can be seen, which is pretty impressive.
And it’s not just bats that can be seen here. Birds, snakes, lizards and even Swamp Wallabies reside at Yarra Bend Park. The birdlife in particular is really abundant and varied. With the Yarra River criss crossing throughout the park, there’s all sorts of water birds. And we have never visited the park and not seen dozens and dozens of parrots. Red-rumped Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeet and Eastern Rosella are everywhere! It’s also a great place to see other characterful native birds like the Laughing Kookaburra, Superb Fairy-wrens, Willie Wagtails and one of Australia’s smallest and prettiest birds – the Spotted Pardalote.
Click HERE for a Yarra Bend Park map and visitor guide.
The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
By far the most popular of the inner city Melbourne parks, is Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Garden. At close to 100 acres in size, the tranquil manicured gardens, lawns and lakes make this urban oasis the ideal place to unwind and relax. We love an early morning stroll around the garden before it gets too busy. This is the perfect place in central Melbourne for a picnic, ‘socially-distanced’ or otherwise depending on restrictions.
The park is said to have over 50,000 plants with about 8,500 native and exotic plant species from all over the world. With feature gardens like the Water Conservation Garden, Fern Gully, the Bamboo Collection the Arid Garden, these gardens are a great place to explore year round, subject to the Melbourne weather. The gardens are also home to the National Herbarium of Victoria, which houses over 1.5 million dried plant and fungi species.
The hotter months from Spring are not only a good time for picnic’s, but also a great time to see some baby birds. Cygnets, ducklings, Purple Swamphen and Dusky Moorhen chicks are easily seen around this time of year and even juvenile Kookaburra’s. Native birds like Bell Miner, Little and Red Wattlebirds, Eastern Spinebills, White-plumed Honeyeaters, Rainbow Lorikeet and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are regularly found here too. It’s also a good place to find the pretty Nankeen Night Heron
Click HERE for a Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne map.
Look after these special places
- Don’t litter! Please take all your rubbish away with you and recycle or dispose accordingly. Some of the filth that we have have seen left behind by picnickers, particularly since Covid restrictions were eased is truly disgusting! No one should have to tidy up after you. If you’re too lazy and/or just don’t care about the natural environment please don’t visit these places and ruin them for the rest of us!
- Don’t feed or handle the wildlife! ‘Melbourne Gardens provides shelter, natural foods and habitat for many species of birds and animals. Along with nearby parklands, we ask visitors to respect their wild nature and help us to keep them healthy by not feeding or handling them. It is also an offence under the Royal Botanic Gardens Regulations 2004 to feed any animals in the Gardens including birds, reptiles, amphibians or fish‘. This goes for both Albert Park Lake and Yarra Bend too. You may think its a harmless act, but it can have many negative impacts on the wildlife.