I can’t decide if I am a city girl or not. There are moments where I love every second of being in a city. Bustling through crowds, whizzing past skyscrapers on public transport, hearing every sound and smelling every smell imaginable (some good, some… really bad). There are other moments where I never want to see another human again and instead would rather be lost in nature, disconnected from the stress of everyday life.
I don’t see why I should have to pick. I don’t sit on either side of the fence. I’d rather take it down and walk where I please. My preferences change based on how I am feeling and what else is going on in my life. So far, it’s been a good thing that has led me to a wide range of experiences.
I think sometimes people worry too much about defining themselves as one extreme or another, an obsession with the dualities of life that society has created, instead of listening to themselves and how they feel in the ups and downs of daily life. Even if you are a “city person” that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from connecting with nature. And vice-versa.
Ok, enough existential ranting.
Recently, to escape the city buzz of Melbourne, a friend and I went on a day trip to the Dandenong Ranges. It’s a beautiful National Park area just an hour outside of the city. It features a group of small mountains with hiking trails, waterfalls, lots of trees, and other interesting sights. We hopped on the train and rode from the concrete jungle into a space that looked like Jurassic Park.
How to get there from Melbourne
It’s a bit confusing, but be aware that the Dandenong Ranges are different from Dandenong, which is a suburb of Melbourne. To get to the ranges, from Flinder’s Station take the Belgrave Train and get off at Upper Fern Gully. From here, you’re in the ranges and can walk right into the park. There are bathrooms and places to refill your water bottle. Definitely bring snacks and plenty of water, as it is a lot of walking, and if you get lost like we did, you could be wandering for a while before you find your way.
It’s advisable to check out a map (or take one with you) and create a quick plan before you start walking because getting lost can set you back a few hours.
This is probably the busiest part of the park. Many people go here to exercise, so be aware and stay out of their way if they are looking to pass you. Climb up 1000 steps and then choose different walking trails to carry on if you want to keep walking.
From here we continued on walking, got a bit lost, but it was an enjoyable experience, not one of panic. There are lots of trails and a fair amount of other people exploring the park so you won’t be completely alone. The trees are really impressive, towering over the trails and providing shade. We didn’t see very much wildlife apart from birds and some bugs, which was fine by me. I wasn’t planning on getting eaten by some Australian creature in the forest.
Eventually, we found our way back to a train station take us back to Melbourne. We walked over 12 miles according to my iPhone Health app, so it was a great way to get some cardio as well as some fresh air.
I think for anyone living in a city, taking time to get away for awhile is important for both your mental and physical health. A break from the constant noise and crowds is rejuvenating for the soul and can help you to reset if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or anxious. If you don’t live in the city, it’s still a good idea to try to spend extra time outdoors, going for walks and connecting with your natural surroundings.
What other day trips from Melbourne should I take? Where is your favorite place to go hiking? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!