Walking and bushwalking don't have to be synonymous, and no, Australians shouldn't feel they have to head out into the country to get a good walk in. Stay within city limits, and there are tremendous walking trails snaking around clifftops, taking in sculptures, linking together historic buildings or teetering along boardwalks through mangroves. These are 10 of the best…
Bondi to Coogee, Sydney
The stone-cold classic Australian urban walk snakes along the clifftops for 8 kilometres from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach in Sydney. It's as much about the beaches en route as it is the dramatic views, caves dug into the cliffs and multi-coloured sandstone. Stop for a bodysurf at Tamarama or Bronte, have a snorkel at Clovelly and take in a few wisps of melancholy while heading through the Waverley Cemetery.
Manly to Wynnum, Brisbane
Brisbane's take on the Bondi to Coogee walk doesn't have the imperious clifftop lookouts, but it does pack a lot in along the foreshore between the two beach suburbs. The squirting sea creature installations at Wynnum's water park, the well-signposted boardwalks through the mangroves and horizon of masts at East Coast Marina are amongst the highlights.
Albert Park Circuit, Melbourne
Sure, this isn't the most scenic walking route in Australia, but how often do you get the chance to walk around a Formula One Grand Prix circuit? One lap, circumnavigating the Albert Park Lake takes 5.3 kilometres. But it's not all about pretending to be Lewis Hamilton after losing his driving licence. Part of the joy is in how busy the park is – joggers, yachts and cricket matches all add to a wider scene.
Battery Point Sculpture Trail, Hobart
Historic houses in Battery Point, Hobart. Photo: iStock
The Battery Point Sculpture Trail may only be 2 kilometres long, but it packs in plenty of historic interest. The sculptures along the route are all numbers, presented in strikingly different ways, and all have some connection to Hobart's past. One lights up in the dark, one bobs up and down on the water, another has geographical pictures between two panes of glass. Finding out what all the numbers represent is a huge part of the fun.
The Law Walk, Perth
Kings Park is Australia's finest urban park, and the Law Walk acts as something of a highlights reel. Over a 2.5 kilometre loop, it takes in native bushland, superlative lookouts over the Swan River and Perth skyline, as well as grandstanding set pieces such as the Lotterywest Federation Walkway. This is effectively a big shiny bridge heading through the trees of the Botanic Gardens at canopy height. Look out for cockatoos in the Marri trees and maybe even dolphins in the river below.
The Mount Ainslie Summit Trail, Canberra
Sunset view from Mount Ainslie, Canberra. Photo: iStock
Also known as the Kokoda Memorial Track, this 4.5 kilometre climb heads from Remembrance Park at the back of the Australian War Memorial to the summit of Mt Ainslie. It's relatively easy going for most of the way, and the views back out over the city are tremendous. Mt Ainslie might only be 843 metres above sea level (and thus not actually a mountain at all), but it offers a fine panorama of the actual mountains behind the city, as well as the bulges of Lake Burley-Griffin.
Hermitage Foreshore Track, Sydney
Sydney's Hermitage Foreshore Track is one of the city's great coastal walks. Photo: Annie Dang
The Hermitage Foreshore Track is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park, and while it only lasts for 1.8 kilometres, it can easily form the centrepiece of a longer Rose Bay to Watson's Bay walk. While the route includes Nielsen Park and the well-kept grounds of Strickland House, it is really all about the views of the city, harbour and Shark Island, plus the gorgeously tiny cove beaches that most Sydneysiders don't even know about.
The New Farm Riverwalk offers views of the Story Bridge and Brisbane City. Photo: iStock
Whisper it, but the actual official Riverwalk from New Farm to the Howard Smith Wharves on the cusp of Brisbane's CBD is merely quite nice. It follows the curves of the river along walkways built above the water. But things get much more interesting if you combine the Riverwalk with the City Reach Boardwalk along the eastern edge of the CBD, the Bunya Walk through the Botanic Gardens and the pedestrianised Goodwill Bridge over to the Southbank parklands.
Waterfall Gully to Mt Lofty, Adelaide
Waterfall Gully, Cleland Conservation Park, Adelaide. Photo: iStock
On the suburban fringe of Adelaide, Waterfall Gully is at the bottom end of the Cleland Conservation Park. From there, the hike to Mt Lofty Summit is only 4.5 kilometres, but most of that is uphill. Tackling the hike is something of an Adelaide rite of passage, but the bushland, native birds and views of the city along the way make it worth the effort. The smart move, of course, is to get dropped off at the end and walk back downhill towards the CBD.
The Explore Fremantle Discovery Trail
Bather's Beach is one of the sights along the trail. Photo: iStock
Few Australian cities have as much historic interest crammed into such a small space as Fremantle. The Explore Fremantle Discovery Trail weaves between the key sites for 5.78 kilometres. If you just whizz through, it'll take just under an hour-and-a-half, but the whole point is that you can make a day of it. Important spots en route are colonial buildings like the Roundhouse and Fremantle Prison. The trail also heads past Fremantle Markets, Fishing Boat Harbour and the WA Shipwreck Museum.
David Whitley has travelled as a guest of Tourism Australia and the state tourism boards.