Ancient Bushland on Melbourne’s Doorstep








Twelve months ago my partner Lynda and I embarked on a dog-sitting role in Melbourne. With Lynda retired after thirty two years of teaching and myself semi-retired we have found dog-sitting fits our lifestyle quite well.


It serves a few purposes. Firstly it enables us to stay in houses we could never afford ourselves, secondly we get to look after dogs which we have never had the opportunity to have in our rental and thirdly we use a website so we can build as many five star reviews for when we head overseas again in full retirement.


In a couple of weeks we will be revisiting Yarra Bend to look after Bobby the wonder dog and can’t wait. One of the beauties of dog sitting is discovering parts of the city and their communities that we have driven past a thousand times. This was no exception and these are the reflections from last year’s stay.


Most great cities around the world have some form of open parkland available for their citizens and visitors.


Melbourne has always had the beautiful Domain with The Shrine of Remembrance, The Botanical Gardens and the very popular 3.8km Tan Track built into the perimeter.


I’m ashamed to say that after thirty years of living in Melbourne I was unaware of the existence of an area slightly north-east of the city’s fringe known as Yarra Bend.


I’ve always just thought of Yarra Bend as the home of the public golf course and the Fairfield Boathouse and Amphitheatre where I saw a fantastic concert in the early 90s with Tiddas and Neil Murray.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.


For the benefit of this blog I’m just going to focus on the area between the Chandler Highway  in the east through to the city fringe at Collingwood. We went further each way and we discovered there was even more wide open space with very little human activity.


We have been doing a house-sit for the past four weeks, walked 2-3 hours each day with our dog Bobby and still haven’t touched the sides of the myriad of tracks emanating from this amazing Australian native bushland.


What struck me the most was the size and age of the river gums. They are truly graceful and provided much needed shade from the blistering heat we have experienced.


Our ‘upside down’ river, The Yarra looked quite inviting for a swim and there are a few spots where humans braved it. Not for me I’m afraid. Having grown up on WA beaches I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to water quality. Won’t even go in Port Phillip Bay, but good on anyone who does.


So without further ado, I’ve prepared a map I’ve included in the header with some directions that demonstrate our favourite walk with Bobby. Even if you don’t have a dog, it’s still picturesque


Start at  (1), The Fairfield Boathouse. There is plenty of parking, in fact all over Yarra Bend Park there is tons of parking. Important to ‘carbo load’, so take advantage the Devonshire Tea here and the gigantic scones with jam and cream.


Follow the red line which is a bush track along the Yarra then inclines and goes alongside the Eastern Freeway. The elevations coming off the Yarra can vary between 50m to 200m and provide solid cardio and fat burning.


You’ll run into a strange fly fishing practice pool and two cricket ovals at (2). Walk through the ovals that are adjacent to the Fairlea Prison until you get to Yarra Bend Rd.


Turn left and cross the bridge at (4), then cross the two cricket ovals and head to Galatea Point at (5) and Deep Rock where dogs leap off the edge to chase balls and there is stunning Northern Territory-like scenery.


From there follow the track to Dights Falls at (6).  It’s no Niagara but it’s “better that nuthin’” as my late mum would say. Then head to the spiritual home of Collingwood FC, Victoria Park (7). If you have a dog this is heaven as every mutt imaginable runs amok. If you’re lucky, you might see a hipster get bowled over by an over-zealous canine, sending his double shot soy latte flying.


From Victoria Park it’s time to head to Studley Park so follow the blue line on the map back the same way until you reach Kanes Bridge at (8), a beautiful old suspension bridge for walkers and bikes. Just over the bridge to your right is the gorgeous Studley Park Boathouse. Here treat yourself to the perfect iced coffee or milkshake.


Time to head back to Fairfield Boathouse so follow the pink line on the map. All up this walk will take between 2-3 hours depending on how many scones and milkshakes you have!


Just a few things:


One, if you haven’t tried trail running before I highly recommend it and Yarra Bend has so much variety. Unfortunately a dodgy knee has ended that joy for me, but I always found it to be so exhilarating compared to pounding the streets or an oval. With Yarra Bend Park you can have the best of both as there are a plethora of manicured ovals within a short reach of each other.


Two, please just be mindful of snakes this time of year and have your dog on a short leash whilst on any narrow tracks.


For dog lovers there are more off-leash areas than on-leash. Everything is sign posted and there are plenty of water stations.


Finally a big thankyou to the Wurundjeri People for preserving this magnificent piece of land for generations to come. There’s something about the authentic native bushland of Australia that always feels like home to me, so to have this just a few km from Melbourne’s CBD is something I’ll never again take for granted.


Here are some photos from one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets:








































Read more from Ian Wilson HERE


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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.


  1. A gorgeous part of our city surrounds, Ian. Nice to see another who has experienced these charms in green and brown under a blue sky; if you make the same walk between ‘4’ and ‘5’ on the map just after 6:00pm tonight (or Thursday), you’ll see all seven Fitzroy FC team squads doing preseason training on the ovals too!

  2. Really enjoyed that, Ian! Having really enjoyed cycling around here on several footy-watching trips to Melbourne, it almost makes me homesick — or whatever the tourist equivalent might be!

  3. Thanks heaps Jarrod and Peter much appreciated

  4. So many memories here Ian. We lived on Merri Creek and would walk/ride along the Merri trails (excellent) which would get us to other parks including Yarra Bend. Other times we’d drive to Yarra Bend to play on the swings on a Sunday arvo. The kids loved Vic Park too – running up and down the stairs of the grandstands. If only they knew the history. I hope they will one day. From Vic Park we’d jump on the train back to Clifton Hill, Rushall and get off at Merri. Great days. Thanks for another tremendous piece.

    PS The Vic Park history walk includes quotes from numerous Almanac writers.

  5. thanks John appreciate it cheers

  6. My stomping ground Ian. Walk around these parts nearly every weekend. Wonderful area right on the city’s doorstep.

  7. Beautiful pics, Ian.

  8. Thanks Smokie and Dips cheers

  9. Beaut account of one of my fav parts of Melbourene, Ian. A true treasure. I was very fortunate to spend part of my bush regeneration ‘apprenticeship’ there in the early 1990s before the place was Jeffed and given over to Parks Vic. Lost much of its culture but at least the bush continued on its beautiful form.

  10. Thanks heaps Adam. Yes its still beautiful although the recent floods have wrecked some parts alongside the Yarra which has forced some tree removal as they’ve been rendered unstable. Cheers

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