Avid trail runner, freelance writer and a mother of four with a healthy obsession for the great outdoors. Join me in my discoveries along the Mornington Peninsula and further afield by subscribing to my articles.
Published November 4th 2014
Don't spend another day bored at home
Kids love watching Puffing Billy go over the bridge just out of the Belgrave station
Whilst Puffing Billy is synonymous with the Dandenong Ranges it's not the only thing to do and better still here are 10 free things to do in the Dandenong Ranges.
In no particular order this is my top 10.
1. Take a walk and have a BBQ at the R.J Hamer Arboretum. When the weather is fine and the wind is calm you will be able to enjoy the impressive view across the trees towards the Yarra Ranges. The arboretum has over 150 species of trees and quite often we have been lucky enough to get up close to lyrebirds.The Arboretum is located on Chalet Rd, Olinda and facilities include BBQ's, a large rotunda, car parking, picnic tables and a magnificent view. To read more click here.
RJ Hamer Arboretum
2. Challenge yourself on the ever popular 1,000 step Kokoda Memorial walk at Ferntree Gully. Here you will find everyone from professional athletes, people training for trekking expeditions, very young children, to those just enjoying the picnic grounds and the onsite coffee shop and playground. Facilities include large BBQ shelters with picnic tables as well as BBQ's and picnic tables in the open, exercise stations, significant information boards regarding Kokoda, a playground, large car park, 2 toilet blocks and more. For more information click here.
3. At Emerald you will find the 'train playground' in the main street located opposite the Puffing Billy station. Our kids love this playground because they can get something from the bakery, watch Puffing Billy and play on the playground. Emerald Lake Park is also a great spot to picnic, play and watch Puffing Billy but parking fees apply.
4. Take a look at the Olinda Falls with a short 1 km return walk through towering trees down into the fern gully where you will come to the creek and falls. The walk starts from the Olinda Falls picnic area located on Falls Road, Olinda. To read my full review click here.
5. Have a look at aboriginal inspired sculptures at William Ricketts Sanctuary. This is a place of calm and quiet with sculptures dotted amongst the fern trees and the towering Mountain ash with the tranquil sounds of water. Facilities include a gift shop, car park and toilet facilities. For more information click here.
William Ricketts Sanctuary
6. Have a picnic in the magnificent Rhododendron gardens that's meticulously maintained by Parks Victoria. These gardens are one of the largest in the Dandenong Ranges with over 5km of walking paths to explore. Facilities include a kiosk, visitor center/gift shop, rotunda's, picnic tables, toilets and car parking. For more information click here
7. Explore the George Tindale Gardens, Pirianda Garden and the Alfred Nichols gardens. My favourite is the George Tindale Gardens for the stunning year round blooms but it's difficult to beat the ornamental lake in autumn at the Alfred Nichols gardens whilst the Pirianda gardens has an understated beauty.
George Tindale Gardens
8. Silvan reservoir is popular with day trippers having BBQ's and picnics on the sweeping lawns within the landscaped gardens. A short walk from the car park will bring you to a viewing platform overlooking the Silvan Reservoir but unfortunately you can't access the water. Facilities include a large car park, several picnic tables and BBQ's, a good playground, toilet facilities and walking trails. For more info click here.
9. Montrose Playground is one of our top 3 playgrounds to visit. It's a playground that the community built and they have done a fantastic job. We only wished that our community could get together a build a playground like this. It has enough to keep toddlers through to teens occupied along with picnic and BBQ areas. To read my full review click here.
With some loose change in your pocket you can feed the birds at Grants Picnic Ground.Buy a chocolate or two from Handorf's Fine Chocolate shop near the Montrose playground, perhaps something from the Emerald bakery or entry to Mount Dandenong Sky High ( $5) to look at the vista .
I hope this list gives you some ideas of Free things to do in the Dandenong Ranges. If you would like to share your favourite thing in the Dandenong Ranges then please leave a message below.