Known for towering trees, crisp mountain air and stunning natural scenery, Melbournians decamp to the beautiful Dandenong Ranges to escape the hustle and bustle and just breathe. Covered in a verdant cloak of forests and ferns, the Dandenongs is located just 50km east of Melbourne and around an hour's drive away.
The highest point of the ranges is Mt Dandenong at 633m, which affords fabulous views of Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula. The majority of the area is taken up by the Dandenongs National Park with rolling mountain ranges, steep gullies and deciduous forest to explore and enjoy. The villages of Ferntree Gully and Olinda are the best bases to discover the sights of this picturesque area. Olinda is known for its spectacular gardens, crafts, local produce and the Olinda Falls picnic site, while Ferntree Gully is part of the national park and boasts several bushwalking trails.
With a deliciously cooler climate, the Dandenongs is the place to escape the heat of the Melbourne summer or experience the seasonal changes all year round. Activities in the area include picking your own fresh berries, horse or mountain bike riding, being pampered in a day spa, browsing the quaint boutiques and local art galleries, and hiking the 2.4km Sherbrooke Falls Walk and wandering around the 75-hectare Birdsland Reserve to spot the native wildlife. A must-do is a ride on the Puffing Billy steam railway – a 25km historic train journey through the forests and fern gullies of the Dandenong Ranges. A thrill for young and old, Puffing Billy operates several times daily from Belgrave to Gembrook and other locations from AU$39 for adults and AU$19 for children aged four to 16. Tots under four years ride for free on an adult's lap.
To visit the Dandenong Ranges from Melbourne, take the Eastern Freeway (M3) to the Canterbury Road exit. Continue on Canterbury Road to Montrose and turn right on to Mt Dandenong Tourist Road. Alternatively, trains to the Dandenongs operate between Flinders Street Station and Upper Ferntree Gully Station and Belgrave Station.