Wander in the mountains

Just an hour’s drive from the city, the Dandenong Ranges is a short but spectacular road trip past lush forests and fern-filled gullies. Hidden in the range’s many folds are quaint mountain towns where you can pick up vintage clothes or indulge your sweet tooth, while keen walkers can explore shaded meandering trails past waterfalls. 

1. Ride the Puffing Billy

Climb aboard Australia's oldest steam train, Puffing Billy. The historic train chugs 25 kilometres from Belgrave to Emerald Lake and on to Gembrook. Time your train ride to enjoy morning or afternoon tea, or enjoy a first-class luncheon in the refurbished dining cars as a great way to end a memorable day in the Dandenong Ranges.

2. Discover local makers

Scattered throughout the Dandenong Ranges are creative locals plying their trade. Stop in at Lillypilly Pottery to see Joanne Maggs’ handthrown ceramic pieces, shop organic body products at Soap Opera, or visit Truffaux Hatmakers to browse a dazzling collection of fedoras, caps and Panama hats. Prefer to get hands-on? Join an Aboriginal cultural craft workshop or try your hand at silversmithing with a jewellery making workshop.

3. Browse antiques

Find that unique piece to complete your home, wardrobe or garden at vintage shops in Olinda and Sassafras. Occupying a courtyard down a discreet laneway, Smits & Bits defies categorisation with its ornate crockery, art deco pieces and giant statues. It’s easy to lose track of time at Dr Quirky's Vintage Emporium, which has a bizarre retro arcade hidden at the back. Serious book collectors should peek at the rare books in the cabinet at Through the Looking Glass Bookstore. 

4. Stop for tea and scones

Housed in a Tudor-style cottage, Miss Marple's Tearoom in Sassafras is a local institution thanks to its legendary scones and Devonshire tea, with a menu inspired by Agatha Christie’s characters. Proserpina Bakehouse in Ferny Creek is also a worthy refuelling stop, where you can browse a gorgeous collection of cakes, sponges, tarts and pastries. 

5. Wander in magical gardens

Visit the Dandenong Ranges’ many public gardens according to the season. See the spectacular sight of thousands of rhododendrons in bloom in early spring. The mountain retreat of the George Tindale Gardens is at its best in summer, while the huge old trees of the Alfred Nicholas Gardens look glorious in their autumn colours. Cloudehill Gardens not only has beautiful gardens to admire, but also a nursery and restaurant showcasing seasonal local produce.  

6. Get your heart racing

The Dandenong Ranges’ waterways, caves, and mountain trails are perfect fodder for exploration. Warburton Adventure Company offers a range of thrill-seeking experiences ranging from river tubing to abseiling and mountain biking. For a more low-key adventure, lace up your hiking boots and set off on the Seven Acre Rock Walking Track or Sherbrooke Falls Loop

7. Soak up the views

Located on the upper most reaches of the Dandenong Ranges, SkyHigh offers stellar views of Port Phillip Bay and Melbourne’s urban fringes. Enjoy lunch or dinner with a view at the SkyHigh Bistro, or get lost with the kids in the hedge maze. SkyHigh is also close to nearby walking tracks, like Mathias Walking Track and the Olinda Falls loop. Time your visit at sunset to see the city twinkling in the distance. 

8. Explore the art scene

The Dandenong Ranges’ towering forests are a constant source of inspiration for creative residents. Found in the heart of Sassafras village, UP Gallery is home to exhibits from local creators ranging from ceramics to textiles, jewellery and art prints, with regular workshops on offer. In Belgrave, you can watch resident artists hone their craft at Burrinja Cultural Centre and browse seasonal art exhibitions. 

9. Listen to live music

For hikers completing the Sherbrooke Forest Circuit, the Micawber Tavern in Belgrave is a welcome sight. The pub sits at the end of the trail, near the Puffing Billy Railway Station, and is a popular local watering hole and bistro. There’s food specials and Happy Hours throughout the week, with live music on weekends.  

10. Indulge your sweet tooth

From imported Reese’s Pieces to retro milk bar lollies, find your next sugar rush at The Sassafras Sweet Co., which has a huge selection of sweets at shops in Sassafras and Olinda. At Only Mine in Olinda, you can browse an eye-catching array of hand crafted chocolates, including chocolate koalas and signature bon bons, which are painted with colourful swirls. 



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