Did you know that research all over the world shows that nature is part of the answer to myriad health challenges we are facing?
As we age it’s important that we look after ourselves both physically and mentally, and spending time outdoors is an easy and enjoyable way to do this. Simply spending time in safe, thriving parks can help us become more active, recover faster from illness or injury, reduce our stress levels and boost our immune system, and foster social connections that contribute to our wellbeing.
You don’t need to be super fit or have special clothing or equipment. And entry into Victoria’s parks is free. You might even just start with a stroll or picnic in your local park.
Tips for getting out into parks
- Start by heading to local parks near you to get a taste for nature.
- If you need some inspiration, or don’t feel confident getting outdoors and want some support to get started, you can join a free Welcome Walk in a park with a volunteer guide. These walks are flat, gentle and a safe way to get started. Go to https://www.eventbrite.com.au/o/parks-victoria-walks-for-health-17110837258 to find out where Welcome Walks are happening.
- Check the Parks Victoria website at www.parks.vic.gov.au before you visit a park to find out more about the park you plan to visit, any accessibility details and what activities you can do there.
- Consider your fitness levels and interests then choose a park that is a good match for you.
- Always consider visiting a park with others. It’s more enjoyable to spend time in nature with friends or family.
- Check the weather and make sure you wear suitable clothing – you don’t always need special gear, just sensible shoes and comfortable clothes, hat and sunscreen, and warm clothes if it’s cold.
- Carry a map and plenty of water if you are going for a walk.
Great parks to visit
As well as urban parks right across Melbourne, there are some fantastic and easily accessible places to discover a bit further out.
Point Nepean National Park – if you like stunning coastal scenery with a dose of interesting history thrown in, then Point Nepean National Park, one hour and 30 minutes’ drive or public bus ride from the Melbourne CBD, is a must. As well as boasting panoramic coastal views and looking across the heads of Port Phillip Bay, the Quarantine Station and intact forts from WW1 are great to explore.
You don’t need to be fit to enjoy all the sights as there is a shuttle bus you can hop on and off at each area of interest. Or if you’re looking for more of a challenge you can walk along the bush trails, or the paved road, or even hire a bike (or an e-bike!) to explore the area.
Yarra Ranges National Park – just an hour drive from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs lies Yarra Ranges National Park. Here you’ll feel a million miles away from everything as you enjoy short walks through fern gullies to waterfalls. Regardless of how active you are, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Drive through the spectacular Black Spur, picnic amongst towering tree ferns, walk among the treetops or take in the spectacular mountain views.
Maldon Historic Area – surrounding the historic township of Maldon, one hour and 30 minutes’ drive from Melbourne, is Maldon Historic Area. Drive or wander around the outskirts of town to take a trip back in time to the 1850s gold rush. There are so many remnants of the mining life here that it doesn’t take much to imagine what life was like back then!
To find out more about these and plenty of other parks across Melbourne and Victoria, go to www.parks.vic.gov.au and search by park name or the activity you are interested in.