The RJ Hamer Arboretum has gobsmacking views across the Yarra Valley and it's completely free. This is a place I love visiting all year round, to picnic, stroll around the walking tracks among the ornamental deciduous trees or just sit and stare out at the view.
It's on Chalet Road/Woolrich Road, in the Dandenongs, and can be reached from Olinda or Monbulk (Melway ref: 122 B7). There's a picnic shelter, benches, electric barbeques and wheelchair-accessible toilets. Dogs are permitted on a leash within the arboretum (although not in the surrounding national park).
Arboretum,' in case you're wondering, is a Latin word that means a place for trees. The R.J. Hamer bit comes from Victoria's premier at the time the arboretum was established – Sir Rupert Hamer – generally known as Dick Hamer, until he bagged the "Sir". (I guess Sir Rupert sounded more respectable than Sir Dick.) He was premier from 1972 to 1981.
This 126 hectare area of exotic and native trees was planted during 1976 to 1978, created after disastrous fires in 1962 destroyed the softwood plantations in the area. It was built partly as a recreational area and partly as a firebreak for Olinda, the exotic species considered less flammable than native trees.
There's around 200 different species of trees here. As you might imagine, there's a spectacular array of colours in Autumn, when the liquidambers and maples burn rich colours from orange and red to purple. But the trees and views are impressive at any time of year. And if you follow one of the many walking trails, you soon enter thick, shady forest.
The views around this area also inspired the renowned landscape painter Arthur Streeton, who painted "Golden Afternoon in Olinda" and "View from Farmer's, Olinda" in 1924 not far from this spot. In the past, there was a sign with this information at the arboretum, but unfortunately it's no longer there. Both paintings are in private hands.
You don't have to do a whole lot when you get to the arboretum. Park the car, admire the view, have a picnic, stroll, lie back on the grass, if it's sunny, and relax. And if you're hungry on the way home, or didn't get a chance to pack a picnic, there's a whole array of good cafes in Olinda.
Hi Sue, When I arrived in Vic (from Far Nth Qld) in 1980, my surname was "Hamer" and anytime I was asked about the connection, I just said"Oh, you mean Uncle Dick". It got me into so many places. Secondly, after all my forays to the Dandenongs, I had no idea the Arboretum existed and is now on my "Summer To Do List". Thanks for the info and great photos.
By carol298 - reader Thursday, 11th of August @ 02:21 am
I love that you got away with that! Hope you enjoy your trip to your uncle's Arboretum... :)
By Sue Williams - senior reviewer Thursday, 11th of August @ 02:54 am
It is a beautiful part of the world. Love visiting down there.