Connecting with Nature during COVID19

Keeping ourselves fit and healthy, both physically and mentally, during Covid19 is essential. Everyone knows the benefits of spending time in nature for body and mind, so here’s a few resources to help us as we’re having to change our habits in how we’d do this.

Resource: Listen to my segment on ABC Radio with Simon Marnie and Kristine Arnott from Google, as we chat about some of the online resources to help us find hidden green spaces in our own backyards and take virtual hikes all around the world.

Stay Local

Here in NSW, Australia, we’ve been asked to cancel all non-essential travel, it’s important that we find ways of getting into nature locally. This is a great opportunity to become urban and local explorers and to find some of the hidden secret spots in our own backyards. You might be surprised at what you find!

Google Earth – Zoom in and out from your house to find secret green spaces!
  • Google Earth – jump in here and find your house. See what you look like from a satellite! Then, zoom out and look around your neighbourhood. Take note of where the green and tree’d areas are, often hugging natural creek lines and waterways.
  • Open Street Maps – This is an incredible website (and can be used in conjunction with navigation apps) in finding local tracks. This is user-generated, which means, local people, adding in their local tracks. Zoom in and out, look around and keep an eye on the green spaces… Oooo! Surprises are everywhere!
  • Your local council – Sometimes, we can’t see what’s in our own backyard… something about the wood for the trees, right? Visit your local council’s website and look at their Parks and Reserves page. Whilst it’s important that we avoid using playground equipment (sorry kids… and big kids), why not make a plan to walk to a different park in your suburb each day. Take a look at familiar trees differently, lie down and watch the sky through the branches… and breathe.
  • Wear your backpack – If anyone sees me wandering around the streets of my suburb with my big multi-day pack on, rest assured – I’m not going bush – just keeping my pack fitness up! The pack is loaded with weights (and padding) and I’m loving feeling the old comforting assurance of my pack. Ah, like carrying an old friend with me. If I am walking the footpaths, I’m trying to find local stairs and steep hills to keep working hard.
Open Street Maps – Zoom into all the green spaces around you to find tracks!

Don’t forget to check with your local land managers (ie. National Parks or Local Council) for any track closures, along with the current status on movement in public from your government and health department authority.

Virtual Hikes

There are some amazing resources online where you can walk all around the world without leaving your house. Here are some of my favourites:

NSW National Parks – Google Trekker/Street View

NPWS collaborated with Google to take their popular Street View cameras into some of NSW national parks. From hiking to Mt Kosciusko, to the Coastal Track in the Royal National Park, to the 4-5 day Yuraygir National Park on the north coast and all across the state. You can move the camera and get a full 360 experience of some of our best national parks. Check it out here. Move about on-screen by placing the arrow with your mouse, over an X on the ground. Alternatively, zoom in and out to other areas on that track by using, ‘Peg Man’ (that’s the little yellow guy in the bottom left corner) and click to move him large distances along the track.

NPWS/Google Trekker – Yuraygir Coastal Walk (65 km – Northern NSW)
NPWS/Google Trekker – The Grand High Tops Walk, Warrumbungles National Park

Story Spheres

Another Google resource allows you to walk amongst Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park, whilst listening to interpretation from local Aboriginal Traditional Owners.

Six Foot Track

Although this circa 2013 DIY version of Google’s Street View technology is a bit clunky at times, it still allows you to control the 360 camera and look around the 45 km Six Foot Track. It forms just one part of the extensive Six Foot Track website, which includes videos (you might see a familiar face!), track notes, maps and links.

Video Hikes

If you can’t get out and walk the track, come along with someone who’s walked them before you:

  • LotsaFreshAir YouTube – yep, that’s my channel. A mix of inspiration and ideas of where you can walk/places I’ve been, plus a stack of how-to’s.
  • 4K Virtual Outdoor Hikes – this channel is being updated regularly and features some stunning first-person view hikes in the US and around the world. Some have lovely nature sounds added, some have annoying (cough, relaxation) music… that I mute!
YouTube video
YouTube video

Wildlife Streams

If you’re into wildlife and can’t get out to spot them or visit them in zoos, there are ways of keeping an eye on the habits and lives furry and feathered friends through webcams at zoos and in some national parks.

  • Live Koala cams at the Brisbane Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Scroll down as there’s also live platypus, dingo puppies and reptile cams!
  • Zoos Victoria are giving us a sneak peek inside the zoo. There’s a snow leopard cam, lions (at Werribee Zoo), but my favourite is the zebras!
  • The Nature Conservancy of Australia takes us deep with their live Underwater cam, letting us see what’s happening under Port Phillip Bay.
  • Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef have designed a wonderful resource that allows us to see GPS live tracking of tagged sea animals. You can learn about our marine life and look at their travels around the globe. Fascinating… you can lose hours on this site!
  • Live Sea Eagle cam from Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre. This is a good one for bird-lovers – there’s more action during nesting season – but you never know when Mum’s gonna fly in!


  • Officially set up to monitor air quality, the US National Park Service list of webcams allows us to see what’s happening (in good and bad weather) across the US.
  • The Insitute for Wildlife Studies runs the Channel Island Bald Eagle Webcam, off the coast of California. The camera angle is great, but not for people scared of heights. If there’s a strong wind, you’d better hold on to your chair!
  • Yellowstone NP is home to Old Faithful and other geysers. It includes predictions of when she’s gonna blow! Tune in to see how accurate they are.
  • Hawaiian Volcano webcams is quite a technical looking site, but links all the cameras monitored by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory letting us gaze across (and down into) the hot spots. There’s even fascinating thermal cameras!
  • Tsavo East National Park in Kenya has a webcam that looks over a waterhole that’s popular with wild life. See how many of the big 5 you can spy!

Thanks to Travel Play Live for inspiration for some of these links.

Writer, producer and content creator by trade, search and rescue volunteer by passion, Caro Ryan started to inspire, teach and encourage people to get into hiking and the outdoors safely.

It’s all about connecting people to wild places in meaningful ways, so they can look after themselves, their mates and these precious places we visit.

She teaches wilderness navigation, authored the book, ‘How to Navigate’ and hosts, ‘Rescued - an Outdoor Podcast for Hikers and Adventurers.

In the bottom of her pack you'll find coffee grounds, instant noodles past their used by date and an insatiable curiosity.

Bushwalking & Hiking Tips from an Unexpected Outdoors Chick

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