Humans evolved to run, the story goes, because it allowed us to chase big game to exhaustion on the African Savannah. It’s the simplest of sports, and despite all the technological advances in exercise science, many of us still like nothing more than lacing up our sneakers and heading out for a jog.
One of the best aspects of running is how easy it is to take it on the road with you. If you’re travelling for business or pleasure, it doesn’t take much to pack your running gear. A run is a perfect way to greet the dawn, take a midday break, or shake off the stress at the end of the day.
As a member of parliament, my job regularly takes me to different parts of Australia. Over the years, I’ve explored plenty of paths and trails. There’s lots of running routes I’m yet to try, but I’ve got my favourites for every city. My ideal route avoids traffic lights, and stays by the water.
So if you find yourself in a new city, here’s a run to get you started.
From the CBD, head to the harbour. Gates to the Botanic Gardens don’t open until 7am, and Circular Quay gets crowded, so I prefer turning left and running through Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, and then out to the Sydney Fish Markets. To add more length to your run, you can go around each of the wharves. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, cross over Anzac Bridge, and run the loop around Rozelle Bay and Johnston’s Bay.
For a regular run, nothing beats ‘The Tan’, a 3.8 kilometre trail around the Royal Botanic Gardens. Originally created for horse riders, the trail got its name because it was covered with tan bark. The men’s record is 10:08 (Craig Mottram) and the women’s record is 11:35 (Linden Hall). If you’re running for anything less than an hour, the Tan is hard to beat. For a longer run, follow the path alongside the Yarra River. The furthest I’ve gone is to Yarra Bend Park in Kew, but that’s only half the distance of the whole Yarra Trail, which stretches all the way to Eltham.
The Riverside Expressway is a beautiful name for one of ugliest roads in Australia: a motorway that runs along the western side of the Brisbane River as it passes through the Brisbane CBD. Yet despite this eyesore, Brisbane’s riverside paths are perfect for a long or short run. Both sides of the river have well-kept paths, and there are multiple pedestrian bridges if you want to make a loop of it. Brisbane is a gloriously outdoorsy city. You might pass the artificial beach and swimming pool at Southbank, or watch the rock climbers taking on the cliffs at Kangaroo Point. If you’re in Brisbane in summer, consider running early. Lacking daylight savings, it’s not uncommon for Queensland runners to head out at 5am to beat the heat.
The Torrens River has a gentle, winding manner that seems appropriate for this genteel city. Alongside it, the Torrens Trail is well marked and well used. When I’m in training for a marathon, my weekly long run is around 30 kilometres. As it happens, that’s almost exactly the return distance from Adelaide city to Henley Beach. The Torrens Trail is well shaded, and wends through parkland, under bridges, beside a cemetery, and past the SA Brewing company’s quirky garden display.
If you’re staying in the city, the Swan River beckons, and the riverside trails are in excellent condition. But there aren’t many bridges over the Swan, so one thing you might wonder is whether you can make a loop of it. The simplest loop is to cross at the Narrows Bridge (the Mitchell Freeway), and then at the Causeway Bridge. That’ll give a run of just under 10 kilometres. But a word of warning to the jetlagged traveller: the Causeway Bridge first goes onto Heirisson Island. So if you get off the bridge as soon as it makes landfall, you’ll be confusedly circling an island in the middle of the river. Alternatively, you can ignore the Causeway Bridge and run up past Optus Stadium. Cross at the Graham Farmer Freeway, and you’ve got a 15 kilometre loop.
Sandy Bay Road and the Hobart waterfront have their attractions, but the simplest Hobart run is the Innercity Cycleway, which follows the River Derwent. The only tricky bit is finding the starting point, which involves running through the rose gardens, past the pool, and up to the Hobart Cenotaph on Queens Domain. Once you’re on the Innercity Cycleway, the concrete path meanders northwest, with only occasional road crossings. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can head all the way to David Walsh’s MONA gallery, just over 15 kilometres from the Cenotaph.
Bicentennial Park is the go-to path for most runners. There’s harbour glimpses, water stations, and even exercise equipment if you’re up for a bit of cross-fit. The trail isn’t very long (think parkrun, not marathon), but you can extend it by looping around the waterfront precinct and out to the end of Stokes Hill Wharf.
Since it was filled with water in 1963, Lake Burley Griffin has been a beloved attraction among athletic visitors to the bush capital. The central basin loop (crossing Kings Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue bridges) is 5 kilometres, while the east basin loop (past the Kingston foreshore) is 10 kilometres. If you’re an ‘all of the above’ person, the whole lake circuit is 28 kilometres. Expect to spot rowers, birds and the occasional kangaroo.
I’ve focused here on the best run to do if you’re staying in the centre of one of Australia’s capitals. But that does miss out on a few of my favourite trails. In Sydney, consider booking accommodation along the Bondi to Coogee cliff-top path, and getting up early to enjoy breathtaking views along this 6 kilometre path. In Townsville, a run up the pink granite monolith known as Castle Hill gives you views across the entire city. In Launceston, a run through Cataract Gorge takes in a suspension bridge, peacocks, and some gorge-ous views. In Newcastle, the Bathers Way follows the coast for 6 kilometres from Nobbys Head down south to Merewether Ocean Baths. And in Canberra, the trails around Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie are my second home.
See you on the trails.