I'm a freelance writer and primary school teacher living in SE Melbourne. I love finding adventures for myself, my husband and our four kids to enjoy. Come along! Heart my articles, subscribe to the fun, follow along on www.facebook.com/WNMelbourne
If the iconic image of children's limbs happily dangling from passenger cars is all that comes to mind when you think of Puffing Billy, read on for a new image.
The Steam and Cuisine on Puffing Billy is a charming and unique experience for all ages. For the epitome of romance, celebration of a milestone birthday, or even just an awe-filled autumn outing, you'll enjoy friendly service and fancy dining at its finest.
Stand a little prouder as you are invited to board the first class cars, set with linens and silverware and your pre-ordered entree.
Cosy quarters, in true heritage style, you won't feel awkwardly close to the tables beside you for long; the boilers start bubbling and the pistons start pumping and soon the ambient noise of Australia's favourite steam train makes you feel like you're in your own private space.
I get the sense that it could get quite warm in the dining cars in the height of summer, but the windows do open and there is extra air venting along the upper ledges of the carriages as well. The autumn chill was in the air on the day that I went with my husband, and I found myself thankful for the comfort of the padded seats and the warmth of the carpeted aisles (carriages are enclosed and heated in the winter).
We were offered drinks (a range of beverages, including local wines, are available for purchase) and finished our delightful entrees (with some of the best gluten free bread that I have ever tasted!) just as the train pulled away from the station. Mains were served with perfect timing; both portions of vegetables served together in a separate bowl, I assume to keep them warm for longer. When you book your reservations, you are given three course menu selections between 2 entrees, 4 mains, and 2 desserts, with vegetarian and gluten free options available.
I was duly impressed with my pollo verde, a flavourful stuffed chicken breast with tangy sauce, a side of delightful veggies including impressively hot and flavourful potatoes. My husband was satisfied with the baked fish with garlic cream sauce.
You know it's an amazing view when you can't decide which side of the train has the advantage. The Dandenong Ranges offer a breathtaking backdrop. If boarding a first class heritage train carriage to a reserved table doesn't make you feel a bit like you're in a movie, the vistas and views of the rolling ranges surely will.
Emerald Lake Park was the end of the line for our journey, where we disembarked for a 40 minute break. A bridge over the lake made for a perfect walking loop, with a few stops for bird watching and a sticky beak peek at a wedding in the park.
Dessert was ready at our tables as we boarded for the decidedly faster journey back to Belgrave. Hot coffee complemented my rich, generous serving of gluten-free jaffa cake perfectly. Hubby chose the refreshing lemon curd shortcake with lemon coulis and cream.
I highly recommend that you get this journey onto your "bucket list", and execute promptly! Charming and unique!