The best views of Melbourne you can get for free

The reason Melbourne appears so otherworldly is that the area around it is so blandly uniform. Contours barely ripple the horizon and, from here, two-thirds of the way up the slopes of the You Yang’s highest point, Flinders Peak, the reasons why John Batman earmarked that particular spot for a settlement nearly 200 years ago appear to have been random.

Admittedly, we can’t see the Yarra River from our lofty vantage point. But we can see Port Phillip Bay, as well as plenty in between. Avalon Airfield is recognizable in the foreground. Neat pools of water indicate the coastal wetlands between Werribee and Geelong. Geelong’s urban sprawl creeps around Corio Bay. And below us, surrounded by woodlands, is Bunjil Geoglyph, a massive stone sculpture in the shape of a wedge-tailed eagle.

I’ve come to the You Yangs to trek along the East-West Walk with a group of friends, after which we’ll hike to the top of Flinders Peak – the mountain on whose slopes we’re walking, roughly two-thirds of the way up. After minor ups and downs, and multiple stops to take in the views, the trail’s northernmost point intersects with the Saddleback and Northern Range walking tracks. From here, we’ll loop back towards the summit trail before returning to the car park. All up, the circuitous hike measures roughly 10km.

A viewing platform sits atop a granite boulder on the West Walk trail, overlooking the vast basalt plains and the Brisbane Ranges. The slopes are heavily timbered, no doubt aiding convict escapee, William Buckley, when he hid out in this region for 32 years with Wathaurong Aborigines. Koalas are known to inhabit these trees now.

The You Yangs’ peculiar name comes from an Aboriginal word that translates as “big mountain in the middle of a plain”. They were created by a volcanic upheaval 350 million years ago after which erosion caused by wind and rain exposed the ranges’ distinctive granite outcrops.

Hikers take in views from the You Yangs Regional Park
Hikers take in views from the You Yangs Regional Park

Over the years, the park has been used to grow timber or to quarry sand for building roads. Today, mountain biking, horse riding, and hiking trails crisscross it. The most popular walk is the hike to Flinders Peak – named after the British explorer, Matthew Flinders, who climbed the summit in 1802. When Flinders conquered the peak, he wouldn’t have had the luxury of a modern stairway guiding him to the top. Purpose-built viewing platforms wouldn’t have been cut into the hillside part way up or erected on top of the mountain. Nor would park benches have allowed him to catch his breath before his final summit push like they do now.

We’re fortunate it’s so easy to hike here these days. And lucky it’s so close to Melbourne.


  • The You Yangs are 60km from Melbourne and 20km from Geelong.
  • Entry to the park is free.
  • Camping is prohibited.
  • The mountain bike trails are split into two distinct areas – Stockyards and Kurrajong – on opposite sides of the park.

This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of

About the author


Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.


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