I'm a Melbourne girl, born and bred, and new resident of Geelong. Fantabulous adventures await as I explore my gorgeous new city and the stunning Surf Coast. But don’t worry—I’ll be crossing the bridge regularly to get my Melbourne fix.
Published October 20th 2015
Parkland and playground delight in Doncaster
Melbourne is blessed with some truly beautiful parks and open spaces, and as a born and bred outer-eastern suburbs gal, I've had the pleasure of spending time at many such parks from Croydon to Wantirna and beyond. But I hadn't ever really ventured into the parks of the northern suburbs (except for that trip to Westerfolds Park in Year Nine, when I had a brief flirtation with kayaking…it was over very quickly)—but that changed recently when I discovered Ruffey Lake Park in Doncaster. And really, Doncaster could almost be classified as an 'eastern' suburb—it's not that far from Ringwood and Mitcham. But sometimes one's neighbourhood becomes quite small doesn't it, and it's easy to continue hitting your regular haunts.
So for something new, we headed (slightly) north to Ruffey Lake Park this past Sunday, and what a glorious place it was in which to spend an equally gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon in spring. The main car park is just off Victoria Street, and it kind of hits you all of a sudden as come up over the hill. There's no long driveway to the park, or separate access road so it's easy to quickly pull in and stop and enjoy what the park has to offer even on a whim.
The fun begins as soon as you step out of your car with a super cool adventure playground just a few short frolicking skips away. The sprawling playground lies beneath the gum trees, with shade sails dotted around to protect precious arms and faces from the sun. It's set into the side of a hill, making for multi levels of fun and adventures as little legs run and dash up and down the steps and ramps. But don't worry—there's plenty of tan bark underneath, as well as areas with that squishy looks-like-asphalt stuff but is actually quite soft (I'm sure there is a much more technical name for it) so there shouldn't be too many tears if the occasional tumble is taken.
The playground at Ruffey Lake Park is one big adventure!
There are tubular slides and slides that twist, walkways and climbing things, all connected together with timber and metal and splashes of bright blue. Two sets of swings (or was there three?), a flying fox and a huge sand pit add to the adventures, and given the playground's size, there's plenty of room for all the kids to spread out and share and find their own little piece of fun. And isn't it such a such a delight to see so many children all engrossed in what they're doing, whether it's quietly playing in the sand pit, madly pumping their legs on the swings or swooshing down the slides with squeals of glee as their feet hit the ground?
Ruffey Lake Park is not all just about the playgrounds though—oh no, there's plenty of other outdoor pursuits to satisfy everyone's craving for fresh air and nature. Walking trails take you throughout the whole park, with some quite challenging sections as the paths head up and over the rolling hills. The trails meander around the beautiful Ruffey Lake, centred in the middle of the park, making for some beautiful views and a perfectly pleasant backdrop to your walk or run.
The trails twist and turn all around the park, some perfect for jogging and running, others just for meandering through at a leisurely pace.
There are bridges here and there to take you across the lake, and on a gorgeous sunny Sunday afternoon, it was just so peaceful. You almost feel compelled to pause on the wooden bridges for a moment of quiet reflection, as you stare out over the calm water, watching the ducks paddle and the trees whisper overhead.
If you're not really in the mood to walk or jog or wander around, there's acres of grass to spread out your picnic blanket or simply just to lie in the grass, closing your eyes and taking in the peace. I was struck by how quiet the majority of the park is—perfect if you just need to take some time out, or even to do a bit of studying, writing or reading.
You're sure to find a quiet peaceful spot if you need a bit of 'me' time.
But as appealing as it was to stretch out and read a book on this lovely Sunday afternoon, we had our big bumbling ball of golden fur on four legs with us, who didn't come to this beautiful park just to hang about quietly and watch the world go by. Ruffey Lake Park is very dog friendly, and with various different sections designated as either on-leash or off-leash, there's a place for, well, every man and his dog. The signs and maps at the park entrances detail which areas are which, so check them before you head off onto the trails and rolling hills and let Fido and Fluffy run wild.
Plenty of space for for your four-legged friends to run wild.
The park is fully equipped with all the facilities you need for a great day out, with picnic tables and chairs, barbecues, rubbish bins and public toilets. There is a large undercover area just near the main entrance and playground, and there's also another separate barbecue area at the additional entrance at the end of Church Road, which runs off King Street. There's also another smaller playground in this section (much quieter than the main one) and an abundance of green lawn, ideal for kicking the football or setting up a game of cricket.
There's an undercover pavilion with chairs, tables and barbecues, just a short way from the main playground, car park and toilets.
I completely fell in love with Ruffey Lake Park, and was quite surprised at how big and peaceful it was—and sorry that it had taken me this long to pay it a visit! And for an added bonus—an extra special added bonus—this wonderful park is home to the Little Mouse Teahouse on the weekends. The Little Mouse Teahouse is an absolutely adorable 'travelling tea party', who set up their vintage caravan in the shade of the gum trees at the edge of the adventure playground, complete with white wooden chairs and tables, picnic blankets and comfy cushions, and even some darling miniature chairs for the little people. The lovely ladies in their frilly aprons will graciously serve you up everything you need for a little afternoon pick-me-up or a cool treat after working up a sweat on the slides and swings—cakes and muffins, brownies and ice creams, tea and coffee. And for something completely indulgent, you can even book the Little Mouse Teahouse for a private tea party in the park—and doesn't that sound just so completely divine?
Little Mouse Teahouse set up their vintage caravan and darling little tables and chairs just near the main entrance on weekends...and doesn't it look just completely divine?
I'm not sure when I'll get the opportunity to head back to Ruffey Lake Park. But for those of you who haven't been before, why not plan to explore a different pocket of Melbourne this weekend, and head out for a visit and you'll too see how wonderful it is. And if you're lucky, you might spy a little mouse in her travelling teahouse—sure to sweeten your day even more.