We are so lucky to have these beautiful river trails right on our doorstep! I'd highly recommend putting a day aside to explore the middle Yarra and take a side trip on the Plenty River Trail.
You can start from a range of locations, depending upon how long you walk the hike to be. Darebin Train Station is a good place to kick off for a nice 16-17km hike. Leave the station, crossing the line and head towards Wilson's Reserve along The Boulevard. There's quite a steep descent into the carpark - watch out for traffic heading up the hill!
From the carpark head into the reserve, where you'll spend the forst half hour of your hike exploring the billabongs along this windy stretch of the Yarra. There are a few paths crossing each other - just keep the river on your right and you'll be heading in the right (hehe) direction.
The bush here is lovely, with shading trees and a wide array of bush and water birds. You'll pass by the golf course, and if you're already thirsty for a drink, you can nip in grab one at the golf shop straight off the trail.
On leaving the cool forest and billabongs, the rest of the hike is largely unshaded, so pick a cooler day and wear sun protection.
Yarra Flats is a lovely spot, with open woodland and grassland to walk through on a gravel trail - very flat with an almost rural feeling - just watch out for cyclists, especially on the weekends.
You'll pass through some of the first European properties on the Yarra, with the old farm houses up on the rise to your left - there must have been spectacular views out across the river and the eastern ranges! There are some interpretive signs along the trail - a bit worn out but you get the gist if you make time to read them.
Cross under Manningham Road, and you'll be close to Heidelberg (an alternative starting point, but you'll miss the lovely billabongs). There's a public toilet (the only one I could find so use it!) just across Beverley Road, opposite the children's playground. You'll probably have been walking around 1.5 hours by now, so this is a good spot for a quick break and some refreshment.
On leaving the playground, pick up the Yarra Trail again and you'll have a bit of shade as you make your way towards the Banyule Cattleyard. From here turn right and keep the river on your right - there are a few small trails that lead up into the suburbs to the north, but you can't get seriously lost.
When you see the signpost for the Plenty River Trail off to your left, take it. It's a steep climb - but you'll be rewarded with some lovely views over the leafy suburbs. This trail takes you through farmland and you feel miles away from the city as you pass by the horse pens (note: please don't feed them), huge gum trees and old farm equipment.
Follow the Plenty River Trail for about 45-60 minutes and you'll end up at popping out at the Lower Plenty Hotel, right near the Heidelberg Golf Club. This is a great place to retire for a pub lunch and a few well-earned drinks. You can catch the bus to Rosanna Station to close the loop and get you home again.
This is a longer walk with loads of options to shorten or even extend further. It's so beautiful - I encourage you to get out there and explore! and remember, hike safe!