This easy - moderate 12km hike is fantastic in winter and spring, with its wealth of birds, butterflies, wattles and red gums, you wouldn't know you're only minutes from the heart of Melbourne's CBD.
The hike starts at Westgarth tram stop (or train station), 20-30 minutes from the CBD. Grab a coffee at one of the little cafes in the village before you head into the park.
Walk along Westgarth Street for a few hundred meters until you come to Oldis Gardens. Walk through them until you come to Heidelberg Road. Cross CAREFULLY - if you wait there is always a break in the traffic both ways. Or, you can walk a little way up to the lights and back again.
Once you're across the road, you enter Yarra Bend Park; 260ha of native bushland in the heart of Melbourne. Head south and walk up the bluestone steps past the rotunda at Westfield Reserve - the Merri Creek will be on your right.
Turn left to join the Main Yarra Trail and head across the pipe bridge - built in the 1930's after a large flood washed away the original from the 1800's. You'll get a nice view of the Fairfield Boathouse and down the river lined with red gums. Turn right at the end of the bridge and follow the Yarra River to Bellbird Picnic area, where tens of thousands of Grey Headed Flying Foxes roost during the day.
Bellbird Picnic area is a good place for a morning tea break, with tables and toilets available.
Leaving the picnic area, walk up the drive to the Yarra Boulevard where you'll hike along the footpath for a kilometre or so, where you'll get some nice views over the city skyline.
When you see the second gate (the first leads to a track that's blocked off due to erosion), turn through it and follow the path down to the river. This track will take you to Studley Park Boathouse.
Cross the river again at Studley Park via Kanes Bridge and turn left to follow the river with the sports grounds on your right.
Once you reach the point where Merri Creek enters the Yarra River, cross over and turn left to view Dights Falls. These falls were once the sight of an old mill established in the 1830's, and the site is still an important place for the Wurundjeri people, the Traditional Owners of this area.
Just up from the falls is the Abbotsford Convent, which makes a great lunch stop. After lunch, walk through the Collingwood Children's Farm, following the river until you reach Gipps Street Bridge.
Cross the bridge and follow the river to the Burnley Bridge, where the hike ends and you can catch a No. 12 or 109 tram, or walk via Little Saigon back to the city. Or, if you're feeling thirsty, check out Mood Dog Brewery, tucked in behind the old Carlton Brewery.