Less than an hour east of Melbourne’s city centre lie lush mountain ranges known locally as the Dandenongs. Popular with day-trippers since the 1870s, these gently rolling hills and prettily named villages still have a touch of the Victorian about them, and are bursting with quaint cafes, tearooms, sweet shops and cozy pubs.
With plenty to distract you on your drive through the hills, first time visitors should head straight for SkyHigh Mount Dandenong on the ranges highest point. Here you can take in views of the city and surrounds before heading back down the mountains through the dense fern gullies and towering mountain ash.
Take your pick from a number of attractions; the National Rhododendron Gardens, the forest trails of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, a trip on restored steam engine ‘Puffing Billy’ or a visit to the serene and whimsical art & sculpture reserve, William Ricketts Sanctuary.
Wandering the shops, galleries and tearooms of the charming villages of Olinda and Sassafras are another relaxing way to spend your time here. Enjoy a Devonshire tea (scones, jam & cream) with a refreshing cup of tea or coffee, browse the antique shops and second-hand book and record stores, shop for local jewelry, furniture or glasswork and enjoy the villages’ creative, laidback atmosphere.
Visit on the weekends on you’ll find the Dandenongs buzzing with excited Melburnians looking to walk, shop, eat, drink and relax. Even then respite can still be found on many of the meandering forest trails. On weekdays, however, the ranges return to their normal, slow and peaceful existence, when a life of work, commitments and to-do lists seems another world away.