Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations
list an event      1 million Australian readers every month      facebook

Spring Daytrip: Olinda and the National Rhododendron Gardens

Home > Melbourne > Cheap | Day Trips | Escape the City | Outdoor | Walks
by Monique Thorpe (subscribe)
Globe-trotting nomad life since April 2015.
Published October 13th 2014
Daytrips for under $20

Olinda is a popular mountain destination for couples and outdoors-people whom enjoy disconnecting from the city and reconnecting with nature. With a distinct rainforest feel, Olinda and the Mount Dandenong National park is just over an hour from Melbourne however feels like a world away. Enjoy strolling through the impossibly tall trees and enjoying some good old-fashioned hospitality in the local shops and cafes. Great for a daytrip, Olinda is home to the National Rhododendron Gardens, which are not to be missed.

How to get there
Take the Lilydale line train from Flinders Street or any City Loop station, and alight at Croydon. Change to the 688 bus towards Upper Ferntree Gully, and alight at Ridge Rd/Mt. Dandenong Tourist Rd, Olinda. All up this will take approx. 1.5 hours including change and wait times from the train to the bus. You will be dropped at in the main street of Olinda.

About Olinda

Olinda is the tourism hub of the Dandenong Ranges. Impossible to find a carpark in peak season, this township is so popular due to its charm, proximity to Melbourne and the fact that there is something here for everyone. You can shop all day, eat fine foods, go on long bushwalks, visit stunning gardens and artists studios, be pampered at one of the many day spas. The smell of wood-fires hang in the air as locals try to keep their houses warm in the cooler months and in spring and autumn the roadsides and parks come alive with blooms of colour. In the peak of summer, be bushfire smart when heading to Olinda, and take note of local advice as to which tracks are safe and which are not on hot and windy days.

Must sees of Olinda
The shopping circuit of Olinda is very nice, even for just window shoppers. In between the 'ye olde' lolly shops are bric-a-brac and vintage furniture, local jewelry and my personal favorite, the lavish Soap Opera. Their 100% natural body scrubs are one of the few indulgent rituals I try to maintain. The entire shopping village of Olinda has a genuine country community feel to it, very high tea with scones and cream. There is however, no supermarket in Olinda and nothing that maybe described as a cheap bakery or similar for lunch. To find these you can walk (or continue on the bus) to the nearby township of Mt Dandenong. It is a pleasant but steep walk between the two towns. I enjoy this walk; at about 3.5km it's enough to make me feel like I have earned my lunch, but not so far that I'm worn out afterwards. Be warned though, there is a steep hill to climb as you come back to Olinda from Mt Dandenong but nothing the average able-bodied person cannot conquer.

Whilst Mt Dandenong is more practical with a supermarket, delicious bakery and fruit shops, Olinda has more charm, full of quirky shops and geared for the meandering tourist. Well worth a wander around before you set off to the National Rhododendron Gardens.

Getting to the National Rhododendron Gardens
From the township of Olinda, the gardens are an easy 1.5km stroll. Simply head south down Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, turn left onto Onlinda-Monbulk Road and you will see the signs directing you to the entry to the gardens.


About the National Rhododendron Gardens
The Gardens have no entry fee, which is amazing considering how well kept they are and the scale of them. There are many gardens and teahouses in Olinda, most of which have an entry fee, however not only are the National Rhododendron Gardens free, but in my opinion, they are also the most diverse, most tranquil and most interesting also. Home to colourful displays of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and daffodils, the most impressive part for me of the gardens is the size and landscaping. The gardens are home to large ponds full of ducks and quiet rotundas for peaceful reflection and useful for artists to set up in as they sketch or paint the scenery. The cherry blossom garden is just lovely and the mixture of mountain scenery with views across the Yarra Valley combined with groomed botanics takes my breath away, every time.

National Rhododendron Gardens Olinda, Mt Dandenong
National Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda


National Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda
National Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda


The gardens really do speak for themselves, with a mixture of structured, paved and wilder and graveled paths winding in and out of the large area. There are spots to lay down your picnic blanket and a café for the basics. I would recommend allowing at least two hours for a walk around these gardens. I can personally get lost in them all day, however if you're on a daytrip two hours will suffice. Don't rush it, just take your time and let the relaxation wash over you.

National Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda, View over Yarra Valley
View over the Yarra Valley from the National Rhododendron Gardens


National Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda
Tall trees at the National Rhododendron Gardens


Still have time before you have to head home? Here are my pick of ways to enjoy your afternoon in Olinda.

Walk the trail to Silvan lookout at Kalorama
The trail is a distinct path that follows Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd from Olinda to Kalorama. The walk between the towns is 5.3km but is quite an easy walk for the most part. The walk is a great way to feel really connected with this magical part of the world, you pass by some of the large gums, watch the birds dance though the air and smell that clean crisp mount air. I love this walk and it's the freedom that the meandering path allows me to feel.
The township of Kalorama itself is very small, however the view from the lookout is quite lovely. If you opt for this walk, I would recommend this being the last part of your day, and taking the bus from Kalorama to Croydon Station to get home instead of waling back to Olinda to catch the bus.

RJ Hamer Arboretum
Not as botanically impressive as the Rhododendron Gardens, however just as tranquil is the RJ Hamer Arboretum. The Arboretum, meaning place for trees, is a 2.2km walk from the Olinda township. Whilst it is closer than the Silvan lookout at Kalorama, the walk is much steeper and less relaxing. There is no separate walking trail so you follow the dirt road that the cars do once you leave the main road.
I would recommend this for anyone who is after an afternoon walk but does not want to commit to the 5.3kms to Kalorama. However that being said, you do need to walk the return loop to Olinda to take the bus back to the train line, so that makes this walk 4.4km.


Olinda Falls
I have walked the Olinda Falls trail four times now and either I cannot find the waterfalls, or they are the least impressive falls in Victoria. My partner and I are fairly sure we found them once, however it was just a trickle of water over the rocks. The walk to and from the main road is also very steep, so the small or non-existent falls make it hardly work the trouble. However, if you're after a physical challenge and a walk in the 'bush', then this is a good option.



Olinda Falls
Possibly Olinda Falls

Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  184
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? Because escaping the city does not need to cost you a week's wage
Where: Olinda and Mt Dandenong National Park
Cost: Under $20
Your Comment
Beautiful area.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12490) 1878 days ago
Hello Monique, there's nothing better than a beautiful display of rhododendrons. I tried to grow one when we lived in NZ years ago but, as like all my attempts at creating a garden, it was still in struggle street when we left. That would be a beautiful spot and well worth the visit. Thanks for the article, regards, Tony
by Tony Dyer (score: 2|485) 1877 days ago
Wow! Great article! Need to head over for a meander real soon!
by rpmas (score: 0|2) 1512 days ago
More Melbourne articles
Articles from other cities
Featured
Foodi Photoh Classie
Top Events
Popular Articles
Categories
Lists
Questions