Due to a variety of circumstances, I found myself among the beautiful greenery of the Dandenong Ranges National Park in Victoria, Australia multiple times in the first quarter of the year. Therefore, I felt like it is only fair for me to share my experiences, and perhaps help you form either a single-day or weekend itinerary, should you ever want to visit.
An item that I was able to tick off my bucket list was the Kokoda Memorial Walk, more popularly known as 1000 Steps. There are number of reasons why I have always wanted to complete this walk and fitness was one of them. After completing the walk, and discussing it with my friends, I can conclude that one does have to be moderately fit to be able to complete the climb. The opinions of my friends in regards to the walk have ranged from super easy to extremely difficult, so it does depend on your fitness level. I am not an expert hiker but I walk regularly, so if you are like me, then you should be able to do it. There are plenty of pit stops that people can use to have a break. The last leg is the most challenging, as the steps are quite steep at that point. However, all the hard work and endurance is worth it. You’ll feel invigorated once you reach the top of the steps. Then there’s the scenery. I personally believe the walk itself is prettier than the view at the top. You can totally complete the walk in a leisurely pace, admiring the views either side of you and taking pictures as you go. Just be mindful of the people running up and down the steps!
If you’d rather avoid the steepness of 1000 Steps, perhaps take a stroll through Sherbrooke Forest. My friends and I walked the Sherbrooke Falls Trail, which, as the name suggests, reaches Sherbrooke Falls. It’s much more peaceful, with dense forest surrounding you wherever you go (unless you take a wrong turn and end up at a dead end facing the main road, like what we did! Try and stay on track people).
On two occasions, I explored the big and beautiful National Rhododendron Garden. It was a lot more colourful when I went in early summer, with flowers still blooming. But by the beginning of autumn, leaves and petals had already fallen – which wasn’t so bad, I still love the immense greenery regardless.
Some of the most impressive artwork and carvings I have ever seen can be found at William Ricketts Sanctuary. It’s right on Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd and parking is just across the road from the sanctuary. You can simply follow the circuit while admiring the unique sculptures.
For the first time in my life, I took a ride on the famous Puffing Billy! I would say it is definitely catered to kids and families but if it is on your bucket list, like it was for me; then by all means give it a try. As most Victorians would know, you can sit on the window ledge of the train and stick your legs out while it’s in motion. My friends and I chose the round trip from Belgrave to Lakeside. I had no idea what to expect in Lakeside but it’s quite relaxing and a lovely spot for a picnic.
If you’re planning on staying in the Ranges overnight or for an extended period of time, my friends and I stayed at Devon Guest House one night as part of my best friend’s birthday weekend. I’ve never stayed in a guest house before, only hotels and services apartments but it was a great experience. The house was fully furnished. We were able to buy our groceries from the supermarket around the corner (literally a two minute drive) and prepare a home-cooked style meal in the spacious kitchen. The beds were super comfy and the bathroom was nice and clean, which is always a must for me!
You definitely need a car if you want to explore the whole park, unless you’re super fit and want to challenge yourself by walking or cycling to each attraction, which would be very admirable. Dandenong Ranges is humongous so if you are only there for a short period of time, a car might be the best way to go. I did notice bus stops everywhere so using public transport might be another option, however, I do not know how frequent the buses are.
There is a lot that I still have not seen in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, such as Olinda Falls. I don’t know how I’ve missed visiting Olinda every time I’m in the Ranges but it will happen one day! Sky High Mt Dandenong is popular for dining. I went there many years ago but not recently. In addition to a fine menu, the location offers a stunning view of Melbourne. I’ve made it my mission to return to Sky High when the sun is setting.
Oh yeah… and I ate the best slice of rocky road ever at Sassafras Cafe!
So there you have it. I hope this post offers ideas if you plan on visiting the Dandenong Ranges. I adore that place and I will return multiple times in my life until I am satisfied with my coverage. Have you been to Dandenong Ranges? Feel free to add any other suggestions in the comments field =)