If you're heading to the Dandenongs, it's well worth stopping at Olinda to check out its enticing array of cafes, galleries, art and craft. I'm lucky enough to live just down the road and visit often. Here's my top five reasons to stop (and get out of) the car:
1. Olinda Sweet Company This shop is heaven for the committed sweet-tooth. The huge range of confectionery includes English boiled sweets, chocolate in most of its guises and Dutch licorice.
2. Quirky Art and Craft If you're in the market for new knick-knacks, antiques, a brass maritime instrument or frankly, almost anything, check out Mangana Art and Craft. There's also Australian art and craft at Touchstone Gallery, with four rooms of jewellery and artworks in hand blown glass, wood, collage, batik, and silk.
And there's also Williams Ricketts Sanctuary. William Ricketts was a sculptor and his works of Aboriginal figures are set among rocks, tree ferns and mountain ash in this tranquil reserve. His inspiration came from his belief that we should all act as custodians of the natural environment in the same way as Aborigines.
Olinda's pie shop Pie in the Sky has won 11 gold medals in the annual Great Aussie Meat Pie Competition (Where is this competition? Please, please, can I become a judge?). They make their entire array of pies on their premises. Get there early if you're not into queuing.
4. Try Spotting a Lyrebird on the Eagle Nest Walk After scoffing down a pie (and maybe a scone or two), you might like to try a walking track among the treeferns around Olinda. Lyrebirds frequent this forest. If you walk quietly (and don't rustle your pie bag) you may hear them calling – they're great mimics of other birds - all sounds, in fact. (David Attenborough's "Life of Birds" shows one that even imitates a chainsaw...amazing in a slightly sad kind of way).
5. Lunch or snack at Ranges
Before heading home, you might have time for a bite at Ranges Restaurant – either on their sunny deck or beside their crackling fire. I recommend ending the day by sampling their impressive cakes...