CAPITAL CITY TRAIL Pt 1
START: CBD, Yarra River rowing sheds
FINISH: The Abbotsford Convent
LENGTH: 12 kms
FIELD NOTES: A flat, river-hugging route that is virtually free of actual roads let alone heavy traffic. This is one of the simplest and most scenic bike rides you can do in the city.
Starting alongside the rowing houses just below the Princes Bridge, the river virtually guides your path for the entirety of the trail. The first kilometre or two takes you past the MCG, Rod Laver Arena and the striking bubble-like orb of our newest sporting stadium, AAMI Park. The next few kilometres gently curve through South Yarra, and if stamina levels are low, Kanteen (154 Alexandra Avenue, South Yarra. Tel: 9827 0488) is perched conveniently on the riverbank–one literally can’t miss it, nor ask for a better spot for a coffee or a plate.
Crossing the river at MacRobertson Bridge at Grange Road, the path quickly becomes a quiet, leafy riverside trail that slowly meanders north through Richmond, past the big backyards and riverside tennis courts of Kew, past the Carlton Brewery site and into Abbottsford. There are a couple of spots where you’ll need to stand up and pump the legs a little, and there are also a couple of annoying sets of stairs to walk up, but these are the only interruptions in what is a cruisy and carefree ride through scenes so quiet it feels like you’ve actually escaped to the countryside. Not a car in sight, except for the roaring overpass of an occasionally freeway…
With a handful of galleries, eateries perched on expansive riverside parkland, the Abbotsford Convent is a spot worthy of calling a destination, not a detour. One of Melbourne’s favourite areas, the Convent is certainly no secret, and on weekends the place is full of activity and has a happy buzz. If you can time it, on the fourth Saturday morning of every month, a farmers and slow-food market takes over most of the grounds. It is a lovely¾yet busy¾time to visit. Similarly, on the second Saturday of each month the same takes place at the Collingwood Children’s Farm, which is more or less next¾door.
After all that riding (and perhaps crowd-navigating and produce-buying), you’ll definitely need to stop for a beer at Handsome Steve’s House of Refreshment (Tel: 9419 5255). It’s sort of hard to find if you haven’t found it before, but either ask for directions, or look for a serene courtyard and balcony full of people having drinks in the sun. It’s one of the city’s oddest bars, but it works like no other.
If you’re lucky enough to be riding on a weekday, consider the Convent yours. The bakery is still open, as is Handsome Steve’s, so lunch and a beer are still to be enjoyed, as is true peace and quiet and that ‘away from it all’ feeling.
While every local should do this ride at least once, the river ride is a perfect route to have up one’s sleeve for a good day out for an active mum, dad, aunt or uncle from out of town.