Best day trips from Melbourne: Six top national and state parks to visit

In what seems a lifetime ago, the worlds of Victorians became smaller thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home decree. International and intra-state travel is on hold for now and Stage 3 restrictions in Victoria suggest that if you can stay at home, you should. However, people can exercise and participate in some recreational activities adhering to the rules, according to the Parks Victoria website. For the day-tripper, here's six of the best outings from Melbourne for a healthy dose of nature and exercise. But keep your distance from each other, 1.5 metres, in a maximum group size of 10 people and don't forget your hand sanitiser. We're not out of the woods yet.

CAPE SCHANCK LIGHTHOUSE RESERVE, MORNINGTON PENINSULA NATIONAL PARK

Peter Tarasiuk - February 2017 CapeSchanck

Photo: Visit Victoria

Distance from Melbourne: 100 kilometres on the Mornington Peninsula Freeway

Since 1859 the Cape Schanck Lighthouse, built from limestone and sandstone, has guided ships from the shore. You can take a guided tour of the historic lighthouse, walk to to the tip of Cape Schanck to see Pulpit Rock and the view beyond to Bass Strait and enjoy lunch at The Pines picnic area.

See https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/cape-schanck-lighthouse-reserve

KINGLAKE NATIONAL PARK

Distance from Melbourne: 65 kilometres on the M80

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The largest national park close to Melbourne, Kinglake in the state's north-east has 23,210 hectares of tall forests, fern gullies and walking tracks including Wombelano Falls, a 1.5 kilometre circuit winding through old growth trees and finishing at the falls viewing platform. Ideal for this time of social distancing, Masons Falls has a large open picnic area, shelter and toilets. See https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/kinglake-national-park

ORGAN PIPES NATIONAL PARK

Featuring unique rock formations on cliff faces, the Organ Pipes National Park is a tourism destination close to Melbourne. OrganPipesNationalPark

Photo: Getty Images

Distance from Melbourne: 20 kilometres on the M2 and Calder Highway

The distinctive Organ Pipes, a set of basalt columns, some up to 20 metres high, were formed by the cooling and cracking of molten lava over a million years ago. This ancient wonder, as well as Rosette Rock, basalt columns resembling the spokes of a giant wheel, and the Tessellated Pavement can be found on the Left River Trail. See https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/organ-pipes-national-park

LERDERDERG STATE PARK

Distance from Melbourne: 93 kilometres on the M8

Dry open forest and in spring, wildflowers, make the park an ideal spot for four-wheel driving, hiking and picnicking. Mackenzies Flat to Grahams Dam is an easy 3 kilometre trail while the O'Briens Crossing to Byers Back Track to The Tunnel, also 3 kilometres, is a more challenging walk following the steep Lerderderg Valley around the river which has cut a 300 metre gorge.

DANDENONG RANGES NATIONAL PARK

DandenongRanges

Photo: Getty Images

Distance from Melbourne: 40 kilometres on the M1 and State Route 22

Be among nature close to home in the cool temperate rainforest that offers views across Melbourne. From the Ferntree Gully picnic area, the 1000 steps walk is a favourite for people preparing to walk the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. Plaques along the way commemorate the lives of soldiers who fought and died on the Kokoda Track in World War II. From the Sherbrooke and O'Donohue Picnic Grounds, a number of trails in Sherbrooke Forest take you among stands of mountain ash, stringybark, waterfalls and tree ferns. See https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/dandenong-ranges-national-park

CATHEDRAL RANGE STATE PARK

Distance from Melbourne: 115 kilometres on the Maroondah Highway

Take your pick of hikes from gentle to challenging in a park renowned for its distinctive jagged edges. The Grade 5 Razorback Trail is two-hours one way and recommended for experienced bushwalkers only, while the Friends Nature Trail is a two kilometre, one-hour circuit crossing footbridges, passing an old mill and Manna Gum forest. https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/cathedral-range-state-park

SOURCE: PARKS VICTORIA https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/

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