Perched above the 1,000 Steps walk in Ferntree Gully is the One Tree Hill Picnic Ground. This large picnic area, tucked in the forest of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, 35 kilometres east of Melbourne, is a popular spot for a picnic or barbeque with family or friends.
The name "One Tree Hill" is a bit misleading – there are, in fact, thousands of trees. The name is a legacy of the area's history – the forest was cleared in the 1860's, leaving one solitary tree as a survey marker. The forest has regrown since that time and today there are limited glimpses of the city through the trees.
Located at the end of Lord Somers Road in Ferny Creek, the park is well-equipped with several picnic tables, two sturdy picnic shelters, free electric barbeques, plenty of car parking, toilets and grassy areas for setting up a picnic blanket.
The area within the picnic ground is relatively flat and wheelchair accessible although the toilets don't currently meet the guidelines for disabled visitors.
The park can be accessed by car via Churchill Drive, Tremont or One Tree Hill Road, Ferny Creek, both off Mount Dandenong Tourist Road (Melways Ref: 65 H12).
You can also walk to the picnic ground from the 1000 Steps walk (also called the Kokoda Memorial Walk). At the top of the 1000 Steps continue walking for another fifteen minutes uphill along Tree Fern Gully Track. When you reach the gate with One Tree Hill Road, cross the road and follow the walking track to the picnic ground.
At 502 metres in elevation, One Tree Hill is usually a few degrees cooler than in the centre of Melbourne. There's even the occasional flutter of snow. It can offer cool relief on a hot summer day, but at other times, it's worth packing a jumper. While there's some shade, it's useful to bring a hat and sunscreen, especially for kids.
There's a range of walks in the area. One you might like to try is the 3.7 kilometre walking trail that goes around One Tree Hill, taking around an hour and a half. It's a pleasant route, graded moderate, (although steep at times), that winds through peppermint and stringy bark forest, with flowering pea shrubs and a good range of wildflowers in Spring.
To do this walk, you follow Ramu Avenue until you reach the intersection of five tracks, turn right onto Macedon Track, then weave right onto Tyson Track, which takes you back to the picnic ground. There's a map of the roads and walking tracks here.
The picnic ground is open to vehicles from 8am, closing at 6pm in the warmer months (October to April), 4pm the rest of the year.