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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. At Federation Wharf, on the north side of Princes Bridge, you can rent bikes to explore the river banks; on fine weekends, especially, the Yarra comes to life, with people messing about in boats, cycling and strolling. The best way to see the Yarra though is on a cruise.

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