Kallista, an hour east of Melbourne, is bursting at the seams with attractive gardens and the Alfred Nicholas Gardens pretty much tops the list. Hidden away in the Dandenong Ranges, this spot is ideal at any time of year for a ramble, a picnic, wedding photos or just lazing around by the beautiful lake. It's free to enter and open daily from 10am to 5pm, except Christmas Day.
There are many interlinking paths (map here) that wander among tall mountain ash, exotic trees, shrubs, multitudes of flowers and interesting sculptures, finally arriving at the ornamental lake. If you're interested in having a picnic, there's a picnic shelter, several benches and green lawns with plenty of space for a picnic blanket. There are lovely views around the lake.
You can reach the gardens by car from Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, turning right onto Sherbrooke Road at Ferny Creek. Alternatively, you can follow Monbulk Road, turning left onto Sherbrooke Road at Kallista.
The gardens owe their existence to a small, white tablet - the Aspro painkiller. Alfred and George Nicholas developed the Aspro formula after World War 1. With his pain-relieving fortune, Alfred bought twenty acres at Kallista in 1929 and proceeded to build his home, Burnham Beeches and gardens. The impressive gardens were created by his English head gardener and 80 assistants and were donated to Parks Victoria in the 1960's.
The house, Burnham Beeches, is privately owned and is currently under renovation. While you can't go inside, this interesting Art Deco building can be easily seen from the top end of the gardens.
Many of the sealed or gravel paths are suitable for a wheelchair, except perhaps the steepest sections. There's a toilet for the disabled near the garden entrance. At 440 metres in elevation, this spot is often a couple of degrees lower than Melbourne so it's worth bringing a jumper on cooler days.
Dogs are permitted on a leash, but you need to bring your own plastic bags. Note there are no bins and you're required to take out all your rubbish.
A real highlight of the gardens is the ornamental lake, boathouse and Japanese-style bridges. The lake is a great spot for wedding photos, which are permitted on application. For information, click here.