Melbourne’s best creek walks

RoyalAuto magazine

Urban creeks offer a slice of the bush in the middle of the city. Here’s our guide to five of Melbourne’s best.  

Story by: Philip Thomas. Illustrations: Oslo Davis
May 2018.

Many people in Melbourne live within walking distance or a short drive of one of our hidden creeks. They are fascinating places with unexpected treasures and it is well worth the effort to discover them – walk or ride along these paths and you might find an old drive-in cinema, a tranquil scene under a freeway, kids camping out, or even a mob of kangaroos.

The Dandenong, Gardiners, Merri, Moonee Ponds and Kororoit creeks are only a handful of Melbourne’s creeks, but they neatly divide up the city.  All up, the total length of trails along these creeks is about 150 kilometres – enough to keep a keen walker or cyclist busy all year.

Facilities: These trails cross through suburban areas so you will find facilities such as seats, water, picnic spots and shops at regular intervals.

Difficulty: Most walks follow paved bike tracks (so if you’re walking, keep to the left), and generally have a flat, even surface with very few steep sections, but some of the more remote outer sections of the Dandenong, Merri and Moonee Ponds creek trails are unsurfaced.

When to go: The tracks are all-weather prospects, but in summer, the Dandenong and Gardiners creeks usually have more tree cover and a little more shade.

Dandenong Creek

At 50 kilometres, the Dandenong Creek is by far the longest walkable creek. It rises in the rainforests of Olinda and reaches Port Phillip Bay as the Patterson River. In between it runs through the stringybark and wattle bushland of Bayswater and Boronia, along the Dandenong Valley Parklands and through Jells Park, and then from Dandenong through to Port Phillip Bay at Carrum. Walk the 20 kilometres from Wantirna to Dandenong and for much of this distance, urban Melbourne is just a distant memory.

Where is it: Suburbs include Boronia, Wantirna, Glen Waverley, Dandenong and Carrum.

Highlights: Jells Park is one of Melbourne’s premier metropolitan parks, while Shepherds Bush just to the north is a tangle of tracks in a natural bush setting.

Best walks: Glen Waverley – the Shepherds Bush circuit between High Street Road and Waverley Road is four to five kilometres return. Wantirna – try the seven-kilometre circuit east of Wantirna Road to the footbridge at Hoskin Street.

Gardiners Creek

Gardiners Creek is the shortest but one of the prettiest of these creeks, which is what you might expect for a creek that winds through some of Melbourne’s leafiest suburbs. In Burwood, you’ll see many students from the nearby Deakin University campus using the trail and the Dorothy Laver Reserve in Glen Iris presents an idyllic scene of picnicking families and toddlers feeding ducks.

Where is it: Suburbs include Blackburn, Box Hill South, Malvern East and Glen Iris.

Highlights: The trail next to Scotch College in Hawthorn is a cycleway slung underneath the Monash Freeway and a unique walking experience. Be sure to walk around the charming Blackburn Lake, which is home to more than 165 bird species.

Best walks: Burwood – the three-kilometre return walk from Station Street to the Burwood Highway via Deakin University campus. Blackburn Lake to Middleborough Road via pretty Jeffery Street, five kilometres return.

Kororoit Creek

Kororoit Creek slices through the western suburbs, breaking up the basalt plains. The downstream end at Williamstown and Altona is remarkable for its biodiversity. There are mangroves around the creek mouth and birdlife including black swans, pelicans, ibis, oyster catchers and spoonbills.

Also near Port Phillip Bay you will find a curious collection of huts, jetties and moorings including the Brunswick City Anglers Club and the Kororoit Creek Angling Club, a world away from the outer-western suburbs and the manicured estates of Caroline Springs.

Where is it: Suburbs include Caroline Springs, Albanvale, Sunshine and Altona.

Highlight: Undoubtedly the lower reaches of the creek near Port Phillip Bay.

Best walks: Albanvale – experienced walkers can explore the remote area from Main Road West to Bullum Bullum Reserve, four to five kilometres return. Williamstown – from the mouth of the creek at Maddox Road then around Altona Coastal Park, four to five kilometres return.

Moonee Ponds Creek

You could walk the Moonee Ponds Creek all the way from Tullamarine to Docklands, but some sections might require a bit of dedication. Downstream of Pascoe Vale the creek is enclosed in a concrete channel and while the trail follows a beautiful section of clear water fringed by reeds at Flemington, you’ll have to contend with cyclists rushing past, a railway line on the other side of the path, and City Link freeway traffic above you. But in its outer reaches at the Woodlands Historic Park, you can see gatherings of 50 or more kangaroos in a remote and natural setting.

Where is it: Suburbs include Greenvale, Westmeadows, Essendon and Kensington.

Highlights: The Woodlands Historic Park near Tullamarine Airport, and the trestle bridge at Glenroy.

Best walks: Woodlands Historic Park: there are numerous walks up to five kilometres return from the car park off Somerton Road, Greenvale. Flemington Bridge Station to Dynon Road, four kilometres return.

Merri Creek

Since Prime Minister Bob Hawke opened the Merri Creek Pathway in 1985, the walking trails along the Merri Creek have become a Melbourne favourite. The natural environment is different from the east – basalt plains instead of sandstone, and the trees are different – river red gums and sheoaks instead of stringybarks and wattles. Even the birds seem different.

The walkable part of the creek starts just north of the Ring Road in the Galada Tamboore Parklands where you can admire the vast Merri Creek valley with its native grasslands, expansive views and kangaroos.

Where is it: Suburbs include Fawkner, Coburg, Northcote and Clifton Hill.

Highlights: The CERES Community Environment Park in Brunswick East is a wonderful community resource. And the junction with the Yarra River is something special – unexpected solitude next to the Eastern Freeway and Dights Falls.

Best walks: The six to seven-kilometre return Rushall Station to Dights Falls path. Fawkner, from Moomba Park to Bababi Djinanang at Jukes Road, three to four kilometres return.

Indigenous culture

People from three different Aboriginal language groups occupied the Melbourne area before European settlement. The Wathaurong people occupied the lands to the west (including the Kororoit Creek), the Wurundjeri occupied the Yarra River catchment (including Merri, Moonee Ponds and Gardiners creeks), and the Boon Wurrung people occupied lands draining into Port Phillip and Westernport bays (including the lower Dandenong Creek).

The creek valleys would have provided the best places for Aboriginal settlement because they had all the necessary resources – shelter from the elements, timber for fires and housing, stone for tools, all manner of food sources, and fresh water throughout the year. For the trained eye, there are many artefact scatters, scarred trees, stone quarries, fish traps and earth mounds which indicate continuous occupation and activities over at least 30,000 years.

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