I'm a Melbourne girl, born and bred, and new resident of Geelong. Fantabulous adventures await as I explore my gorgeous new city and the stunning Surf Coast. But don’t worry—I’ll be crossing the bridge regularly to get my Melbourne fix.
Published August 10th 2015
Wonderful wetlands just off the unbeaten path
The Dandenong Valley Wetland area was officially opened in July 2010, and covers over 48 hectares of land between Wheelers Hill and Scoresby. A small section of the wetland has more recently been made accessible from the seemingly never-ending EastLink Trail, which follows the EastLink tollway from Ringwood to Dandenong and beyond.
The shared cyclist and pedestrian trail covers over 35 kilometres of smooth, concrete paths, and connects a network of other trails and paths that criss-cross their way through the suburbs of Melbourne, and eventually, into the city centre itself.
The EastLink tollway was officially completed in June 2008 (and I now suffer from that completely baffling phenomenon whereby I can't for the life of me remember what on earth was actually there before the long stretch of black ribbon-like freeway made its way from Mitcham to Frankston—old farming land? Huge expanses of dirt? A black hole?) and since then, the EastLink trail has been steadily growing and expanding, creating a wonderful way to get around and see parts of Melbourne you may not have even known were there.
The Dandenong Valley Wetland is easily accessible for walkers and joggers and cyclists, and is an interesting place to explore if you're out and about on your bike or your feet. The EastLink tollway is far enough away so that the sounds of traffic are barely audible, and instead, it's just you, the birds, the gentle splash of water in the catchments, and the occasional other visitor enjoying the peace.
The trail through the wetland area is very accessible
The wetland itself is situated in the patch of land (and water—obviously) in between Wellington and Ferntree Gully Roads in Wheelers Hill, with Mulgrave Reserve to the west, and, well, you guessed it, EastLink to the east (just behind the north-bound BP Service Centre). The EastLink Trail runs right through the wetland, and connects up again with the section of trail that goes to Jells Park to the north, and towards Police Road to the south, then through to Dandenong, then on to Carrum.
You can also bypass the EastLink Trail for a bit here, and detour off to the Dandenong Creek trail, which takes you through more parks and wetlands, and eventually connects up to the EastLink trail again in Dandenong (the network of trails is just staggering—you only need to check out Google Maps to see how far they actually go).
A brand new bridge, wide enough for bikes and pedestrians, takes you from the main EastLink Trail through to the wetland, with the path then continuing as a loop back around to Wellington Road. The wetland catchments are either side of the path as you cycle or walk along, with plenty of green grass, plants and natural bird habitats, making for a very pleasant journey (just ignore the enormous power lines overhead and focus on the serenity in front of you instead).
The path is easy-going in most parts, with some mild twists and turns, and some steady undulations as you head up closer towards EastLink (nothing too strenuous though). It can get very wet underfoot (or under-tyre for those cycling), and I'm not sure if this is a result of flawed design, or the fact that, well, it is in the middle of a wetland. Even after little rain, puddles form all over the path, and heavier rain creates quite expansive amounts of water settling over the path.
There is one section in particular where you'll be pretty much guaranteed to get some wet feet—which is fine for me, but for little people on little bikes with little legs it might be a little more tricky to get them through the water! But a little water never hurt anyone, and give it a month or two and some sunshine, and wet feet will be a distant memory.
The huge BP Service Centre, situated on EastLink just near Ferntree Gully Road, whilst not looking terribly conducive to the peaceful wetland environment just a hundred metres or so away, can be almost a bit of a blessing. The path connects right up to the rear of the service centre, meaning if you're in dire need of a drink or a pit stop, you can cycle up to the back entrance without even having to traverse the car park and dodge a big B-Double flying in off the freeway.
There are plenty of nice-looking timber tables and bench seats outside (again, away from the car park and fuel pumps and trucks and cars), where you can stretch out for a little breather before hitting the trails again (just try and avoid undoing all your good outdoorsy exercise with a so-so burger and fries from the Golden Arches). Once you're done, heading back on the trail away from the service centre rewards you with views of the wetland and you forget once again that there is a major freeway just behind you.
The trail takes you right up to the rear entrance of the service centre...
The Dandenong Valley Wetland is just one small adventure of many that await you on the fabulous EastLink trail, whether it's a brief visit as you take a leisurely stroll from the surrounding neighbourhood streets, or a part of a long bike ride from the maze of paths and trails that connect Melbourne's cycling community better than ever.
I could ride for hours and hours on these trails, and it's places like these wetlands that make you appreciate how lucky we are in Melbourne to have such a range of diverse and accessible open spaces, that are open for everyone to enjoy. It really is marvellous Melbourne, isn't it?