Despite its nondescript appearance, the muddy Yarra River was – and still is – an important part of the Melbourne scene. Tidal movements of up to 2m meant frequent flooding, a problem only partly solved by artificially straightening the river and building up its banks. This also had the incidental benefit of reserving tracts of low-lying land as recreational space, now pleasingly crisscrossed by paths and cycle tracks. The best way to see the Yarra is on a cruise, and you can rent bikes to explore the riverbanks; on fine weekends, especially, the Yarra comes to life, with people messing about in boats, cycling and strolling.

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