Thirty five miles east of Melbourne, Victoria lie the Dandenong ranges. At a modest height of a little more than two thousand feet, the Dandenong Ranges, consist of small hills covered with tall mountain ash trees and spectacular fern gullies. Friendly locals, arts and craft shops, lush natural parks that offer some great hiking trails- all these come together to make the Dandenong Ranges an unforgettable travel experience.
Activities and Attractions:
Drive through scenic routes to reach the hilltop villages, some of the most sought-after attractions in the Dandenong Ranges. Several hilltop villages on the Dandenong range are home to various parks, stores and adventure activities. Scattered on the low-lying Dandenong ranges, these villages act as the base from which the mountain and its attractions may be explored. Some of the villages and activities are described below:
- Belgrave: The Belgrave village is the home of the famous Puffing Billy Railway- a favorite of international visitors as well as locals. Right next to the Puffing Billy is the Trees Adventure: an eco-adventure that makes most of the fabulous mountain ash trees. There are numerous craft shops and pubs as well, which complete the experience with shopping and dining.
- Mt Evelyn: At a height of 738 feet, the Mt Evelyn township is the highest point on the now out-of-use railway line that ran from Lilydale to Warburton. Visitors can still visit the station-room, which is now used as a community room, café and a library.
- Olinda: The highest village on the Dandenong ranges, Olinda is also the busiest in terms of restaurants, pubs and craft-shops. Olinda was once home to the famous artist Arthur Streeton; the lush scenery of this picturesque village has inspired many of his works. Keeping up the tradition are several artists today, who have opened little studios here. A visitor may visit these art studios and buy any painting that may have captured his imagination.
- Sassafras: This village, in addition to several cafes and eateries, has a number of scenic walks. The tea-bar, Miss Marples Tea Room, inspired by the famous Agatha Christie character of the same name, is situated in a two-storey Tudor-style English cottage. Visitors will also find several other unique stores selling locally grown wines and preserves. Those who prefer activities to rest and relaxation can try the Sassafras Creek Forest Trail.
- Silvan: Silvan is a short drive from Monbulk where you can try wine-tasting at boutique wineries and pick berries at the berry farm. Lucky spring visitors can enjoy the Tesselaar Tulip Festival that showcases a variety of flowers– tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and fresias. A number of walking trails, the Melba Walk, Olinda Creek Walk, and Mount Evelyn Aqueduct make the Sylvan Reservoir Park ideal for a picnic.
- Upwey: Also known as Mast Gully, since the 1850s the area actually got its name from a homestead set up by a pair of Tullidge sisters. The area is famous for the Burringa Cultural Centre- popularly as the cultural heart of the Dandenong ranges. Burringa has art galleries that showcase some of the best contemporary Australian art, a brand new theater that hosts a variety of shows, and a Burringa café, where you get to see live musical performances.
Within these villages and sometimes just a little way off them, are a number of attractions that deserve special mention.
- Puffing Billy Railway: Puffing Billy railway, which has its home in the Belgrave village, is ‘one of the finest preserved steam engines in the world’. Passengers sit lazily dangling their feet out of the side windows as the train takes them through verdant views. Additionally, the train a first class luxury dining carriage that serves some of the most delectable food for patrons, while the huge glass windows afford some of the greatest views. Entertainment in the form of musical dramas, jazz and rock music, is also made available on select days.
- Warby Trail: The Lilydale to Warburton rail Trail, also called the Warby Trai, is one of the most iconic rail trails of Australia. A walk or a bike ride along the trail rewards the visitor with spectacular views of the Yarra Ranges National Park as one moves through beautiful bushlands, wineries and farmlands. The Warby Trail is accessible from Mt Evelyn village.
- National Rhododendron Gardens: Located a quarter of a mile from Olinda, are the National Rhododendron Gardens. A bird-watcher’s delight, the gardens are home to several thousand rhododendrons, twelve thousand azaleas, a few thousand camellias, and two hundred and fifty thousand daffodils. Besides, the birds the park boasts a great lake, lush gardens, and even rock gardens. An ideal picnic getaway, this place also hosts a fabulous cherry blossom festival during spring.
- Cloudehill Nursery and Gardens: This stunning garden with twenty rooms, each housing different garden sculptures, all set in a luxurious setting of magnolia, European beech, Himalaya tree rhododendrons, and maples. Entry rates are $7.50 per adult while children are allowed entry at $4.
- Sherbrooke Forest and Dandenong Ranges National Park: Near the Sassafras village, the Dandenong Ranges National Park and the Sherbrooke Forest, is the best choice for someone wishing to lose himself into wilderness. The beautiful mountain ash trees are home to some of Australia’s native birds– the superb lyrebird, ring-tailed and brush-tailed possums and tree-creepers.
- Besides the ones mentioned above Dandenong ranges, offers a range of activities and attractions. Few among them are the Alfred Nicholas Gardens, Birdsland Reserve, several cherry and strawberry farms, peach orchards, the Emerald Lake Park, George Tindale Memorial Gardens, the Kurth Kiln Regional park that offers horse and mountain-bike riding, Lysterfield Park, Mount Dandenong Arboretum, Piranda Gardens, lavender farms, the William Ricketts Sanctuary and the Wilson Botanic Garden.
- Australian Rainbow Trout Farm: The Australian Rainbow Trout Farm, with an entry fee of only $7 for adults, is an ideal place for catching some nice salmons and trouts. The farm has several trout ponds, and a fishing lake. Helpers around the farm guide visitors with their fishing expeditions. Once you, enter, fishing rod and all the necessary paraphernalia are available for free. The fresh fish caught can be bought from the park authorities and taken home.
The accommodations available here are as varied and as many in number as the attractions. Options for stay are B & Bs, guesthouses, caravan parks, camping grounds, chalets, villas or cottages, farm-stays, hotels and resorts, houses, studios and apartments. Visitors can even choose the setting of their lodging– for example, gardens, vineyards bushes, mountains, or simply choose to stay in one of the several villages or a nearby town.
A choice of accommodations are found in the Dandenong ranges and surrounding area, and in a few more areas like Healesville, Lilydale, Seville, Marysville, Warburton, Yarra Glen, and also Melbourne.
Facts about Dandenong Ranges
- The closest town to Dandenong Ranges is the Ferntree Gully.
- As per the 2011 census, the population of the Dandenong Ranges is around 110,000.
- The Ranges are located in the Eastern Daylight Time (EST) Zone. Daylight saving adds +1 hours to the Eastern Daylight Time.
Where is Dandenong Ranges?
The ranges are about 35 kilometers to the east of Melbourne.
Reach by Air: The closest international airport is at Melbourne. From there it is a distance of 37 miles to the Dandenong ranges, along the M1 and M2 highways. A car can easily cover the distance in around fifty minutes to an hour.
Reach By Train:
A visitor can take the Belgrave line metro trains from Melbourne and reach the ranges in a little more than an hour. If a direct train is not available, one may even board a train to Lilydale, and then change trains at the Ringwood stop.
Best time to visit Dandenong Ranges
Owing to its proximity to the Port Philip bay and Bass Strait, Dandenong experiences a cool climate throughout the year. In fact, it is always relatively cooler here than in Melbourne. Rainfall is highest during June to October, while the area experiences snowfall in the months of June through October.
Dandenong Ranges Hours
The villages in the ranges are free to visit anytime. However, the parks and other attractions have their own timings.
Dandenong Ranges Tickets
There are several attractions in the ranges— from national parks, to eco-adventures, from art galleries to a famous steam train, and from fresh farm markets to quality restaurants. Prices for every attraction varies, and a visitor needs to call up the concerned party before paying a visit.
More on Dandenong Ranges
Tips for anyone visiting Dandenong Ranges:
1. Try to self-drive on the beautiful winding roads that lead to the Ranges.
2. The Puffing Billy is a not to be missed attraction.
3. Since the hills are low-lying, the trip is good even for those who do not prefer heights.
4. Keep your ears open to catch the chirping noises made by the kookaburras and other birds.
Image credits : Peter CampbellPublished On: Monday, February 9th, 2015