Open the door on an icy winter morning and, odds are, your face will feel frost-bitten in an instant. That’s if you live in or are visiting Australia’s cool-climate capitals: Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Canberra this winter.
They are the nation's four coldest capital cities. In mid-winter, they have lower average temperatures and fewer daylight hours than capitals to the north, making people inclined to huddle indoors. For those in the warmer climes, cooler weather might just mean a daily decision about whether or not to wear short sleeves.
Further south, however, darker days can induce a physical and emotional inertia as our circadian rhythms shift into low gear. Lethargy-induced inactivity, overeating, and lower mood are common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the Winter Blues. But these symptoms are also risk factors for heart disease, which means keeping active in winter is all the more important.
Incidental exercise can make all the difference, whether it’s a short stroll or a 30-minute walk. Daylight is an antidote for the Winter Blues so it’s worth getting out even when the sun’s not shining.
Find an incentive to go somewhere, like getting away from your desk or grabbing a soul-warming cuppa after a weekend walk. So why not rug-up, grab a friend or family member and step outside? If you're walking alone, become a virtual walker to get extra motivation and be part of a team every time you step out.
If you’re a visitor, use these free self-guided walking tours instead of paying to be shown around.
There are too many options to choose from, so we’ve picked a few favourites just to whet your appetite for walking. A 30-minute walk is ideal, but some of these walks could take longer. Chop your walk into shorter chunks if you’re time-poor. That way you can enjoy a new walk each day.
Start your walk on Swanston Street, the spine of Melbourne’s grid-shaped centre. Walk over Flinders Street onto St Kilda Road. From here, options abound. You can walk through Federation Square and take the steps and walk along the Yarra River or over it by crossing Princes Bridge.
Continue along St Kilda Road. To your right is Southbank, to your left, the green expanse of Alexandra Gardens. Keep walking past the Arts Centre and the National Gallery of Victoria to the right and Queen Victoria Gardens to the left. From here you can see straight down to the Shrine of Remembrance. Stroll up the avenue past the eternal flame, climb to the roof and take in the view of back towards the city.
For the time-poor, why not dig a little deeper behind the broad main streets of the CBD and find some hidden gems? Melbourne’s back streets are open-air art galleries. Some of the World’s finest street art adorns the walls of the city’s cobbled lanes and alleys, turning bare concrete into colourful canvases. Start with a walk from AC/DC Lane to Hosier Lane, Union Lane and Degraves Street and Croft Alley. You can also head further west towards Gallagher’s Place.
If you need some respite from the cold, you can also walk indoors and discover creativity of another kind. Take a detour through two of the city’s finest heritage-listed spaces: the Royal and Block Arcades. Their high domes, skylights, and mythical statues are a joy to behold.
Discover more of Melbourne's top spots for street art.
Australia’s second-oldest and southern-most capital has a lot to offer the local and tourist alike. Hobart is a city of hills which means you can get a good workout at a slow pace, like the loop that takes in Salamanca, Battery Point and the waterfront.
Start in the cobbled streets of Salamanca. Wander through the market, if you’re there on a Saturday morning, then slip between the Historic sandstone buildings and climb Kelly’s steps. Now you’re in Battery Point. Walk towards Arthur Circus, a historic circlet of cottages unlike anything else in Australia.
Continue up Runnymeade Street to Hampden Road and turn right. There you’ll find historic homes, cosy cafes and a view of a snow-capped Mount Wellington in the background. Experience the story of early colonial life at the Narryna Heritage Museum before looping back down Montpelier Retreat and you’re back in Salamanca Place.
Now head towards the harbour. You’ll know it’s winter here when you feel the chill of a southerly breeze on Hobart’s waterfront, but it still makes for a rewarding stroll.
Walk towards Franklin Wharf and wander down the harbour-front avenue lined with yachts. In the afternoon, you’ll catch the smell of fresh seafood as it drifts across from fishmongers’ barges berthed in Constitution Dock. Sweet crab, squid and freshly caught trevally filter through the salt-scented air.
Cross the drawbridge and you’ll find yourself standing on an invisible Island. To you left is Hunter St, built on an old land bridge once linked Hunter Island to the shores of Sullivan's Cove at low tide. Continue on to the old IXL factory buildings, now home to art galleries, hotels and restaurants.
Join Heart Foundation Walking. You'll make friends, have fun and improve your heart health at the same time.
Smack bang in the heart of Adelaide, the fabulous Central Markets are the perfect spot to wander through. Stroll past food and flower stalls, wending your way along the aisles. You can pick up a heart-healthy lunch or do your grocery pick up grocery shop and plan heart-warming winter dishes with our heart-healthy recipes. When you’re done with food, head for the Antique Market and delve into a host of retro fashion, jewellery, second-hand books and more.
Next, take a stroll through 19th Century Adelaide. The ‘Village in the City’ trail runs from South Terrace to Wakefield Street to the north and between East Terrace and Hutt Street. It lies in the south-eastern corner of the city and was once home people from all walks. Take in mansions and Victorian villas, and snug cottages. This historic self-guided city tour takes slightly more than your average lunch break to traverse, but who says you have to do it all at once?
Canberra is, quite literally, a garden city where visitors and locals alike can take in a host of cultural icons set amongst scenic green spaces, which curve around carefully curated lake. The Parliamentary Triangle is the perfect example.
On either side of Lake Burley Griffin, you’ll find pleasant walking paths along Queen Elizabeth Terrace to the south and Robert Menzies Walk on the north shore. Wander the winding footpaths Commonwealth Park with drooping willows dipping their fronds into the water.
If Canberra’s wind-chill gets too much on the lake front, why not detour inland? Head back towards Old Parliament House and wander through the National Rose Gardens and Parliament House Gardens. You can also take advantage of a cultural stroll indoors with an exhibition at the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery.
From the Australian's of the Year Walk and Patrick White Terrace south of the river, you can stroll over Commonwealth Bridge and take in the spectacular view back towards parliament house. Then head to the National Capital Exhibition, through Commonwealth Park and along the Lake Burley Griffin foreshore to Blundell’s Cottage. You can also push on to the National Carillon on Aspen Island.
Whether you live in these or other Australia's cities, suburbs, towns and rural spaces you can exercise your body and mind together this winter. Step out and get some exercise while learning about the culture, history and politics of this young and vibrant nation.