Last Saturday there was SUNSHINE IN MELBOURNE. I shouted that simply because when I visit it’s a rare and very welcome occurrence, it’s usually wet & windy – which is exactly what happened two days later. But, yes, the weather was glorious on the weekend and I made the most of it by spending the day with my daughter and granddaughter in the Dandenong Ranges, about an hour’s drive east of the city of Melbourne.
We headed off just after 9.00am and, after negotiating the Saturday morning shopping mob on the roads, we were soon wending our way up through the foothills and the scenery was changing, from the drab grey of the suburbs to the lush green of the Dandenong National Park.
There is absolutely no way you can do more than scratch the surface of this beautiful area in just one day, the ideal would be to spend a few nights in one of the B&Bs, guesthouses or luxury resorts that are scattered throughout the ranges, set amongst this fairytale like forest.
But we only had a few hours to enjoy the landscape that was lit up by this sunshine. First stop needed to be morning tea in one of the hundreds of cafes that cater to the squillions of tourists that navigate up the scenic twisting road every day.
We turned up past the entrance to the Dandenong National Park near Belgrave and wound our way up the twisting and turning road that took us through the middle of the forest, with the trees that seemed to reach up into the stratosphere providing a canopy for the ferns that waved to us in the very light morning breeze.
We drove through Sassafras (we stopped here on the way back down) and stopped at the Olinda Café for our morning caffeine shot – and a sugar hit to keep us going. It was a lovely friendly café with one particular waitress going out of her way to find a map for us when we asked for help in finding Olinda Falls.
Olinda is the highest village in the Dandenong Ranges and has lots of fascinating shops to explore. and some very enticing restaurants & pubs. We were only passing through and after a short browse we carried on to our next stop but there’s lot’s that we didn’t see. There are several gardens that I’d love to visit next time – the National Rhododendron Gardens, Cloudhill Nursery & Gardens and Pirianda Garden – and there is also a thriving arts community with several studios open to the public – maybe next time.
From Olinda we continued on through the Mount Dandenong Village, past many more attractions, including the William Rickett’s Sanctuary that I last visited over forty years ago, and on to the Olinda Falls. This is one place that I’d researched before my trip to Melbourne and really wanted to see – and I wasn’t disappointed.
Taking a signposted small road right off the main road it was only a few hundred metres to a car park and picnic area. From the picnic area it’s a short 300 metre downhill stroll to the viewing platforms. It’s a an easy route to the first viewing spot and then a slightly more difficult track down to the lower platform.
Needless to say I headed down to both of the viewing spots.
That walk, through the stunning scenery with the sound of the falls hidden behind the undergrowth, reminded me why I love to do this. It was quiet, it was peaceful and it was energising (oh, and it probably helped to remove some of those calories provided by the Oreo cheesecake and muffin we shared at the Olinda Café).
On a world wide scale the falls are not huge but they’re in such a peaceful and calm location. As I got to the end of the track and came in sight of them it was obvious that they were a bit of a romantic hang out – three couples sat perched in various spots around the area. I took my photos, enjoyed the view of the cascading water for a few minutes and then left them in peace
It would have been lovely to spend the day there with a picnic but we had more to do and see so it was back in the car to continue along the Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd through to Montrose. Along the way we pulled into the car park by the Sky High café to get some shots of the amazing view.
After all the exercise and sightseeing we needed lunch. I’d spotted an intriguing café as we came up from the falls so we headed back there. The Brunch café is just outside the Mt Dandenong village and is one of those places that I’d love to live near.
Okay – do you get it? Café & bookshop rolled into one – and it’s licensed and it’s quirky and the staff are brilliant. We were greeted by the owner (very remiss of me not to get his name), he was friendly & chatty, as were all of the staff, and very proud of what he’d created up here in the mountains. There are several small rooms inside but we chose to sit in one of the couch areas on the verandah.
There are also tables scattered throughout the garden so you can get right out there among the shrubs and the chickens and the birds. There are white cockatoos that fly around freely and are fed by the staff, I also saw some beautiful red birds but as I’m not into ornithology I couldn’t tell you what they were.
The tasting plate we shared and the wine (not to mention the Belgian chocolate waffles), the friendly staff, the peaceful ambience and the quirky character of this place are a winning combination. I’d highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.
We could have stayed there all afternoon but we needed to move on, so it was back down the mountain to Sassafras.
One of the most popular villages, Sassafras is a haven for those who love their Devonshire Teas. There are lots of tea rooms and cafes in the village and one of the most popular, Miss Marple’s Tea Room, generally has a waiting list – you very often need to book your time in order to get a table.
There are also lots of antique, arts, crafts & speciality shops here where you’ll find something that little bit different. If I didn’t have a weight restriction going back on the plane I’d have considered doing some Christmas shopping here.
We had a great day up in the Dandenongs but it wasn’t long enough – next time I’ll have to plan for a longer stay.
Photos 1,5,& 8 courtesy of Beth Pamela-Rose