Feet First Australia

exploring Australia (and sometimes further afield) on foot

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A boot hits leather, a whistle sounds, flags flutter, voices cheer, hands clap – the soundtrack as I near the gate into the Benalla Showgrounds is a typical Saturday afternoon Australian Rules football match. The Benalla Saints are well into thrashing the Shepparton Swans (by 52 points) when I explain to the bloke sat at a table with a tin for entrance money that I’m not here for the game but to photograph birds on Lake Benalla.

Wishing me a fun afternoon, he waves me through and I swing left around the oval and encircling cars to a chorus of warbling magpies.

Lake Benalla Walking Track makes a lazy 4.25km loop around the tranquil waters at the heart of the northeast Victorian town. It takes in Benalla’s manicured botanic gardens and art gallery precinct, the town foreshore and two islands, and it fords the incoming Broken River and exiting river and Midland Creek. Popular with dog walkers, pram pushers and never-smiling joggers, it meanders through gnarled river red gums and bristling Bunya Bunya pines and crosses bridges and grassy flats.

It takes me as long to walk out onto Little Casey Island and back to the footy – perhaps 2km all up – as it would have to tread the whole loop if the weather wasn’t perfect on this sunny winter’s day and the birds less photogenic!

The stilted Benalla Library sits on the flats beside the lake

Pretty feather patterns are revealed when a little black cormorant dries its wings


It’s impossible not to feel happy walking along this track in winter sunshine.


Rather than gliding overhead or across the water, this pair of pelicans perched high in a dead tree overhanging the lake.

Is this purple moorhen admiring its reflection in the lake?

A magpie-lark keeps an eye on me as I return to the football game.


Stepping Out!

G’day bushwalkers of every level of fitness and experience and welcome to Feet First Australia, a blog about the simple pleasure of getting out and about on foot.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Melanie Ball. I am a long-time travel writer and photographer and author of Top Walks in Victoria and Top Walks in Australia, guidebooks published by Explore Australia; Top Walks in Tasmania is due out October 2018.

My motivation for this blog is the thousands of kilometres I’ve walked over the past few years and a 2015 spent travelling and hiking around the extraordinary country I call home.

And Australia is extraordinary. Where else on Earth can you traverse an outback mountain range worn from Himalayan heights to a gnarly rock spine? Stand at the altar of a moss-cloaked Antarctic beech tree which sprouted when Ancient Rome held sway across Europe? Or venture solo into big-sky country so flat you can see the curvature of the planet?

I hope to entertain you by describing and recommending bushwalks, swapping favourite hikes, answering questions, discussing and reviewing hiking food and equipment and just following wherever the blog takes me. I hope to inspire you to get out and about on foot.

A huge thank you to Simon Box, my husband and mostly-patient photographic model (that’s him in the stripy shirt above and those are his feet on the header photo), another Australian born in England. He wrote the Food For Thought post.

Thanks to all the other friends who join me on walks and everyone who hikes with me through this blog. I hope you have a great time.