10 Best Outdoor Adventures In Your City - Part 1: Brisbane, Sydney & Melbourne
Finding adventure in the outdoors doesn't always mean having to head to the outback, overseas or deep into backcountry. In fact, for those who call the big city home, there are many quality adventures right on your doorstep. Check out our team's list of the best 'local' activities, sights and escapes.
1. Mt Coot-tha Reserve & Summit Lookout
Located 10 minutes west of the CBD, Mount Coot-tha Reserve contains more than 1,600 hectares of eucalypt forest, rainforest gullies and seasonal creeks. There are over 70 walking tracks, dedicated mountain biking tracks, nine picnic areas, the popular Simpson and JC Slaughter Falls, and approximately 370 wildlife and 450 native plant species for the nature lovers. Make your way to the summit lookout for spectacular panoramic views of the city skyline.
There are plenty of trails on Mt Coot-tha (left), including the Summit Track which leads to an incredible panorama of the Brisbane city skyline (right). (Images courtesy of the Brisbane City Council)
2. Brisbane Riverwalk
The Brisbane Riverwalk is a scenic track - sitting out over the water - for pedestrians and cyclists alike. Perfect for a long walk, run or ride, it snakes around the Brisbane River from New Farm to the historic Howard Smith Wharves. Extend your journey at either end, to New Farm Park for a relaxing picnic or exhibition at the Powerhouse, or the Brisbane CBD to explore the city itself or visit to the beautiful City Botanic Gardens.
3. Kangaroo Point Cliffs
On any given day, you'll find adventurers young and old rock climbing and abseiling the iconic rockface at Kangaroo Point. Whether you're an experienced climber or just want to give it a go, there are plenty of equipment providers and expert guides that can set you up. For the fitness fanatics, a few sets of the cliff stairs are the perfect way to get your blood pumping and the heartrate up.
4. Brisbane Botanic Gardens
Recognised as Brisbane's premier botanic gardens and located just 10 minutes west of the CBD. 56 hectares of subtropical greenery welcomes you for picnics, guided walks, playgrounds and community programs, and don't miss the Tropical Display Dome greenhouse and the incredible Cosmic Skydome (Planetarium).
5. Tangalooma Day Trip
Just a 75-minute catamaran cruise stands between you and an epic day trip out to Tangalooma Island Resort. There are so many adventures available here: snorkelling and kayaking around the Tangalooma Wrecks, quad bike tours, sand toboganning, and hand-feeding dolphins amongst other things. Stay for the day or book a room and relax for a longer stay.
6. North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island, or Minjerribah as its traditionally known, is a sub-tropical island located off the east-coast of Brisbane. Take a short water taxi or vehicle barge trip and before you know it you'll be on island time and enjoying the various beaches and camping spots available. Surf at Point Lookout, hike the North Gorge Walk or ride down to Amity Point. Keep an eye out for the whales passing through in June to October.
7. Lake Somerset
Less than an hour from the CBD, perfectly calm and cool waters await at Lake Somerset for your water adventures. Kayaking, water skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, boating and fishing are all allowed, or you can just have a swim in the designated areas at Kirkleagh and The Spit.
8. Mount Glorious
Situated in lush rainforest in the D'Aguilar Range north-west of the city, Mount Glorious offers lovely forest walks, recreational areas for BBQs and picnics, and plenty of birdwatching.
9. Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek Falls is located in Tamborine National Park on Brisbane's northside about 45 minutes' drive from the city centre. This waterfall and swimming hole is perfect for a picnic and dip, is dog-friendly, has plenty of quiet spots to unwind and will help you beat the Brisbane heat in summer.
Brisbane is widely known as the 'River City' and the Riverlife adventure centre sure takes advantage of the fact. See the city from a kayak or water bike on the water, or stick to the shores with a mountain bike, segway or rollerblades. With individual and group bookings available, this is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening exploring.
Cedar Creek Falls is a beautiful oasis for a summer swim (left), while the Brisbane Riverwalk takes visitors on an easy tour of the 'River City' (right). (Images courtesy of Must Do Brisbane)
1. Bondi To Coogee Walk
Amongst a host of great urban trails, the Bondi to Coogee walk is arguably the most popular coastal walk. Enjoy ocean views, sandstone cliffs and secluded beaches as you snake your way along the esplanade-style walkway from the iconic Bondi Beach to Coogee and back again in about 2-3 hours (6km). Look out for the 15 places of interest along the way and if the beautiful beaches don't lure you in, perhaps a quick dip at the halfway point at the Bronte Pool will.
The Bondi to Coogee walk is one of the most popular ways to experience the sun, surf and social scene of Sydney's coast life. (Image courtesy of Sydney Coast Walks)
2. Royal Botanic Garden
For free guided walks and royal harbour views, head to the Royal Botanic Garden. Aside from the plant life and gardens themselves, you'll enjoy the many exhibitions and community programs that run year-round, and if you need a swim, head next door to the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, which sits beside the Woolloomooloo side of the harbour.
3. Snorkelling Gordons Bay
A unique underwater world awaits swimmers, snorkellers and divers alike at Gordons Bay, a protected cove found along the Bondi to Coogee walk. Explore the Underwater Nature Trail where sea life freely gathers, or just relax in the crystal-clear water when things got hot.
4. Watsons Bay For Stand Up Paddleboarding
Watsons Bay is an idyllic location that offers up amazing city skyline views, plenty of outdoor recreation and some incredible dining options when you're finished for the day. Just 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Sydney's CBD, take it all in on a stand-up paddleboard, with crystal-clear and calm waters making for easy-going travels. While you're there, head along the Watsons Bay walk to Gap Bluff and the historic Hornby Lighthouse (one of Australia's first ever lighthouses), before a picnic in the park or a delicious cocktail at the nearby Watsons Bay Hotel.
5. Surf's Up In Manly, Bondi & Cronulla
Sydney has some incredible beaches so if it's a day of surf, sun and fun, you're spoilt for choice. Manly's northern beaches offer great surfing, swimming, snorkelling and diving spots, as well as walking trails and places for a fish and chips picnic. The iconic Bondi Beach is 7km east of the CBD and draws locals and tourists by the masses with the surf and hip cafe choices. Further south you can head to Cronulla - spend some time at the Cronulla Rock Pools, the Cronulla Pavilion or if you're up for it, Shark Island for its epic reef break.
6. Paddle The Sydney Harbour
For a totally different way to see the famed Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, hire a kayak and hit the water. You'll be blown away by the natural landscapes that you encounter - as well as those iconic tourist sites - while you explore coves, beaches and inlets. Bird and marine life feature too, and there are breath-taking views at every turn.
7. The Coast Track (Bundeena to Otford)
For the trail enthusiasts, the Coast Track is a challenging 26km, Grade-5 multi-day hike in the Royal National Park that takes in lush rainforest, secluded waterfalls, cool rockpools and clifftop vistas. Situated south of Sydney and stretching from Bundeena to Otford, many trekkers will spread this adventure over two days with a night at the North Era beachside campsite, but be sure to book in advance to get a spot. The trail is rich with indigenous history and wildlife.
The Coast Track multi-day hike takes you in and around more than 26 kilometres of lush rainforest, secluded waterfalls, cool rockpools and clifftop vistas. (Image courtesy of Natasha Webb, DPIE & National Parks & Wildlife Service NSW)
8. Collins Beach Waterfall
This little gem is hidden at Collins Flat Beach about 30 minutes from Sydney's centre. From the carpark, follow the path until you reach the 4m waterfall at the head of the beach, but be sure to visit after some rain to see it at its best.
9. Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains
Ok so this isn't exactly in Sydney but it's an adventure well worth pursuing. Located approximately 175km west of Sydney in the Blue Mountains, the Jenolan Caves are arguably Australia's most awesome caves. Listed on the Australian National Heritage List, the network of limestone caves stretches more than 40km and has 300 entrances. Tour any of the 11 LED-lit show caves for an underground adventure you'll never forget.
10. Ride Centennial Parklands
Centennial Parklands includes three of Sydney's best urban green spaces - Moore Park, Centennial Park and Queens Park. Activities are numerous with self-guided trails, 120 fields and venues for over 30 sports such as cricket, Aussie Rules and netball, heritage monuments and memorials, lush gardens, and community learning programs. To take it all in, grab two wheels and start exploring.
1. Capital City Trail
Offering a variety of landscapes and river vistas, and looping for nearly 30km, the Capital City Trail is an urban pathway primarily used for walking, hiking, running and cycling. It's well signed, moderately trafficked and provides an easy-going but excellent tour of the city. See Federation Square, the famous MCG, the Melbourne Zoo and Docklands along the way.
2. Lysterfield Park
Located just 40 minutes away from Melbourne, Lysterfield Park is a haven for outdoor adventure. Home to dense forests, walking trails and a plethora of natural wildlife, you can explore the Lake Circuit Trail, go canoeing or kayaking on the Lysterfield Lake, or set up for a picnic at one of the two designated lakeside areas. It also has over 20km of purpose-built mountain biking trails, including the 2006 Commonwealth Games cross-country course, so for those seeking two-wheel thrills, there is plenty on offer.
3. Bushrangers Bay Walking Trail & Cape Schanck
About 1.5 hours south of the city centre you'll find Bushrangers Bay Trail, a 6km hike that takes in the Cape Schanck Lighthouse, winds its away around rugged coastline and gives you a scenic feel for the Mornington Peninsula.
4. You Yangs Regional Park
Another one for those into mountain biking, You Yangs Regional Park is home to a 50km+ network of purpose-built cross country and downhill tracks of varying lengths and difficulties, so every thrill-seeker from the novice to the daredevil expert is catered for. While you're there climb Flinders Peak for the views to Melbourne and Geelong.
5. Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Garden is a lush oasis of inner-city greenspace, being home to more than 8,500 plant species. Lakes, trees and gardens are spread throughout the locale, with collections and exhibitions in every direction. Make sure you explore Guilfoyle's Volcano, visit the Tropical Glasshouse, and tour the Melbourne Observatory when you're there.
Guilfoyle's Volcano in Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens (left) and the Capital City Trail (right). (Images courtesy of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria & Visit Victoria)
6. Werribee Gorge
About an hour out of Melbourne to the north-west lies Werribee Gorge State Park, which offers some of Melbourne's best hiking spots. The 8.5km Circuit Walk takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete but gives you a fabulous experience of rugged landscapes and breath-taking views.
7. Trees Adventure, Glen Harrow Park
45 minutes' drive east of Melbourne's CBD is Glen Harrow Park, home to Trees Adventure. One of the country's leading tree ropes and ziplining experiences, you can enjoy the native bushland and forest while balancing between two and 25 metres in the air. The 2.5-hour session is popular with families all year round.
8. MacKenzie Falls
One of the largest waterfalls in Victoria, MacKenzie Falls is a spectacular place to visit for a day of natural exploration. It flows year-round and cascades over huge cliffs into a pool, making for amazing viewing. Located in the Heritage-listed Grampians National Park west of Melbourne, you can make it a real day of adventure with a trip here, plus the many walking trails (maybe a summit effort to the top of Mount William or hit the Pinnacle for the epic views).
9. Mount Arapiles
A bit of a drive (about 4 hours west of Melbourne) but worth the effort. Mount Arapiles is renowned as one of Australia's best rock climbing and abseiling regions, with more than 2,000 designated climbing routes that range from easy ascents to grade 30 for the experts. The rock formations and rugged terrain give explorers, photographers and of course the climbers plenty to work with.
Mount Arapiles is recognised as one of Australia's best climbing regions and for good reason with its unique rock formations and rugged terrain. (Image courtesy of Parks Victoria)
10. Hanging Rock Trail
Made famous by the classic Australian novel, Hanging Rock is a rugged location made up of caves, tunnels, granite tors and overhanging boulders perfect for exploring. The 100m+ summit offers sweeping views over the flat plains that surround, as well as to the nearby Macedon and Cobaw Ranges. Only an hour drive north-west of the CBD, this is a nice little outing for the day.
Images courtesy of:
Brisbane City Council
- Website https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/
Must Do Brisbane
- Website https://www.mustdobrisbane.com/
Sydney Coast Walks
National Parks & Wildlife Service NSW & Natasha Webb, DPIE
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
- Website https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/
- Website https://www.visitvictoria.com/
- Website https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/