A stay at home Mum who doesn't stay at home much; too many exciting things to be discovering in this city...
Published June 7th 2012
When city life gets too much and you need to slow down to walking pace, The Dandenong Ranges are the place to go. Only 35km east of Central Melbourne, The Dandenongs boast rolling hills of thick, temperate rainforest and a huge variety of experiences to sink your teeth into. From a sedate walk through the forests, to a tree-top flying fox, there is something for everyone. Below are eight of the best attractions The Dandenongs have to offer. Which ones will float your boat?
1. William Ricketts Sanctuary The William Ricketts Sanctuary is like The Land that Time Forgot. Secreted away among ferny glades, stand mysterious clay sculptures of people and animals. Created by William Ricketts, who was still producing the sculptures up until he died in 1993, these effigies reflect his profound interest in Aboriginal spirituality. Open daily from 10am - 4.30pm and free to enter, the sanctuary is a unique and peaceful space full of twists and turns and surprises around every corner.
2. Puffing Billy The aptly named Puffing Billy is a historic steam train which puffs its way from Belgrave to Gembrook whilst passengers sit on ledges and dangle their legs outside the carriage as the rainforest passes by. Strange? Maybe a little, but it's a lot of fun. You can hop off at several different stops including Emerald Lake where there is plenty of fun to be had on and around the lake. There are also lots of events and 'special trains', so be sure to take a look at the timetable on the Puffing Billy website.
3. Tesselaar Tulip Festival Every year a working farm throws open it doors to the public for a month long extravaganza of tulips. The fields are literally a sea of flowers in every shade of the rainbow. It is quite a sight to behold. The Tesselaar Tulip Festival will open this year (2012) from Sept 13th - Oct 9th, daily from 10am - 5pm and showcase over half a million tulips of more than a hundred varieties. Besides the tulips are live entertainment, market stalls and theme days, so check thewebsite to choose which days suit you best. Adults pay $18 for entry but kids under 16 are free.
4. Trees Adventure Trees Adventure is, as you might imagine, an adventure in the trees. There are 5 different courses to suit all ages, situated between 2 and 12 meters off the ground. Master the tree-top obstacles and hurl yourself along the flying foxes at speed. Of course you're fully harnessed and unlikely to do any real damage to yourself but that doesn't make it any less exciting and exhilarating. The trees in question are in the beautiful Glen Harrow Heritage Gardens. This is definitely one not to be missed. For the different options and prices go to the Tree Adventure website.
5. Walk to Sherbrooke Falls If you really want to get back to nature, there are some beautiful walks in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. I prized my husband off the couch and my toddler off his car table on Boxing Day this year to do the walk to Sherbrooke Falls. This is a nice, easy one hour walk, with a wide gravel track and plenty of things to look at on the way to the Falls. At 2.4km it starts and ends at Sherbrooke Picnic Ground and is well signposted so it would be pretty hard to get lost. The huge trees and lush greenery lend a certain mystery to the occasion and we were lucky enough to see the Falls in full flow. Well worth getting off the couch for.
Escape the stresses of the city and make your way to Sky High on the uppermost reaches of the Dandenongs. The viewing platforms look out over Greater Melbourne and are particularly spectacular at sunset. There is a gate fee of $5 per car, with the gates opening from 9am - 10pm weekdays and 8am - 10pm at weekends. Besides the amazing views there is a great little garden maze for the kids, a quaint English garden complete with miniature bridges and little streams and various other point of interest. Wile away a lazy Sunday with the family, but watch out for Igor the Giant. Click here to check out the Bistro opening hours and other details.
7. Olinda and Sassafras
There are many charming villages in the Dandenongs but these two must be the jewels in the crown. Whether you're looking for cafes, restaurants, boutique accommodation or retail therapy, you will be sure to find all of the above and more at these picturesque villages. One stand-out is Geppettos Workshop in Sassafras and it's little brother, Baby Geppettos in Olinda. These beautiful toy shops are full of yesteryear charm with their traditional wooden playthings. If you manage to leave with your credit card still intact, you are doing very well.
8. Rosellas at Grants On Sherbrooke
If you fancy getting a peck on the ear for your pains, head to Grants On Sherbrooke on Monbulk Road in Kallista. Not only can you see scores of rosellas and cockatoos but you can also hand feed them. Buy a token from the cafe (and some great tasting Aussie tucker while you're at it) and make your way to the bird feeding area where you can mingle with hoardes of our feathered friends. This is a great one for the kids but take heed - they might bite! And so might the birds.