Parks & gardens touring route
Leg 1: Melbourne to Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges
56 km / 35 miles, about 1 hr
One of Victoria's great drives is through the Dandenong Ranges, where huge mountain ash trees tower over lush fern-filled gullies. Walk along quiet forest tracks and you may see the elusive lyrebird, famous for its mimicry and the male's courting performance which includes spreading his tail like a dancer's fan.
In spring, the National Rhododendron Gardens are filled with the colour of 27,000 rhododendrons and azaleas. Enjoy a picnic by the lake with a backdrop of distant mountains that form part of the Alpine National Park.
Once a private estate, the Alfred Nicholas Gardens boast a mix of native and exotic trees, including maples, rhododendrons, liquid ambers and mountain ash. Watch out for king parrots and red rosellas, listen for the call of the kookaburra and wander down to the lake.
Wander through the tranquil William Ricketts Sanctuary to see 100 mystical sculptures of people and wildlife hidden amongst ferns and trees.
Book a suite in the green and peace of Amarant Retreat, an accredited eco lodge surrounded by forests filled with abundant wildlife.