Grants Picnic Ground, nestled in Sherbrooke Forest, Kallista, 40 kilometres east of Melbourne, is a top spot to take visitors, especially where kids are involved. Not only is it a great place for a picnic or barbecue, it's the only place in the Dandenong National Park where you're allowed the feed the birds. And don't those birds know it. A whole assortment flit in daily to nibble at the birdseed in your hand. It's a really easy way to get close to birds colourful in both feather and personality, including crimson rosellas, sulphur crested cockatoos and pink galahs.
Located on Monbulk Road in Kallista, this large park is also well-equipped with numerous picnic tables, a large picnic shelter, free electric barbecues, plenty of car parking and toilets including facilities for the disabled. There are also grassy areas for setting up a picnic blanket. The area within the picnic ground is relatively flat and wheelchair accessible.
If you didn't manage to pack a picnic, don't worry, there's a cafe and attached souvenir shop.
The downside of Grants is that it gets very busy. This is a place that's definitely on the tourist route, with large tour buses pulling in throughout the day. The bird feeding setup is a little on the regimented side as well – you have to get a token from the cafe, buy their special birdseed and you can only feed the birds in the dedicated bird-feeding area. Not exactly wildnerness. But if you're looking for a peaceful picnic experience, it's not hard to find some quiet – just walk 100 metres away from the cafe and bird feeding area.
The park can be accessed by car via Monbulk Road from Kallista or Tecoma. If you're using public transport, take the train to Belgrave and then catch bus 663 to Kallista.
A few degrees cooler than the city, Grants Picnic Ground offers cool relief on a hot summer day, but at other times, it's worth packing a jumper. While there's shade, it's useful to bring a hat and sunscreen, especially for kids.
There are several walking tracks leading from the picnic ground into Sherbrooke Forest, where you'll see tall mountain ash, green tree ferns, lots of moss and, on most days, hear lyrebirds calling. The walks range from the 300 metre Margaret Lester Forest Walk, designed for those with limited mobility, to the 7km Eastern Sherbrooke Forest Walk. For more details on the walks and a map, see here.