12 Things To Do in The Dandenong Ranges
The Dandenong Ranges are less than an hour's drive from Melbourne's CBD, but will feel like a world away if you're looking for a break from city life. And with our list of eateries, experiences and exercise spots, there's no shortage of things to do while you're there.
1. Get your heart rate up at the 1000 Steps
Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground, Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, Upper Ferntree Gully
It's one of the most popular fitness spots in Melbourne, and the 1000 Steps is not for the faint-hearted. But it attracts people of all fitness abilities, whether they're training seriously or just looking to get a nature hit. Run or walk, take in the natural scenery of the tree ferns and manna gums on the way up. Take the Lyrebird Track back down, or continue on to One Tree Hill. You can also get your pre or post-walk feed at the 1000 Steps Cafe, which serves meals using local produce, and fair-trade coffee.
2. Warm up at Earthly Pleasures Cafe
1627 Burwood Highway, Belgrave
You'll want to try Earthly Pleasures Cafe not just for its food, but for its picturesque setting. The stone building was built in 1913 and inside it's warm and inviting. The cafe is a mainstay of the area - it's been open since 2003 - and offers small-batch coffee and ethically sourced food. It's also on Belgrave's main strip, so it's a good spot to visit while wandering the town.
3. Indulge at The Piggery Cafe
1 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke
Celebrity chef Shannon Bennett's sustainable food venture the Piggery Cafe at the historic Burnham Beeches property is one place not to miss, even if it's to get a takeaway Five Senses coffee and a pastry. The Burnham Bakery provides food for other big-name restaurants as well as fueling the cafe with everything from bread loaves to scones, and the massive vegetable gardens provide organic produce to Vue Group restaurants. There's also lawn bowls, croquet and bocce.
4. Grab a picnic from The Deli Platter
1514 Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, Olinda
There is no shortage of picnic spots in the Dandenong Ranges, and The Deli Platter can provide the food side of the deal. Order ahead and loan a hamper loaded with half-baguettes, cheese, crackers, dips, antipasti, scones and accompaniments, and mineral water. Or take your own basket and fill it with goodies from their range. They even have a list of picnic spots on their website for your convenience!
5. Check out the views of Melbourne at Sky High
26 Observatory Rd, Mt Dandenong
Some of the best views of Melbourne can be found at Sky High Mt Dandenong. On a clear day, you can see the city skyline and out to Port Phillip Bay. Take a picnic or grab a bite to eat at the kiosk or restaurant. There's also a hedge maze, an English garden and plenty of walking tracks.
6. Get Your Nature Fix
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, 1A Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke
National Rhododendron Gardens, The Georgian Rd, Olinda
There's so many gardens in the Dandenong Ranges, but among the most picturesque are the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens and the National Rhododendron Gardens. At the Alfred Nicholas gardens, walk the paths under the massive mountain ash trees, and check out the lake and boathouse at the bottom. You can also have a picnic there! The rhododendron gardens offer different blooms depending on season, and there's a cafe that is open on weekends.
7. Take time out at Linden Gardens Rainforest Retreat
1383 Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, Mt Dandenong
There's plenty of accommodation in the Dandenong Ranges, but you can't go past Linden Gardens Rainforest Retreat for an indulgent stay. There's four separate retreats, the top one being the Sanctuary Tower over two storeys with a king-size bed, infrared sauna, two-person spa bath, and lots of other inclusions. Plus you get in-room cooked breakfast, and you can order cheese and dips platters, and in-room massage and spa treatments. Amazing!
8. Reconnect with your inner child on the Puffing Billy
1 Old Monbulk Rd, Belgrave
The iconic Puffing Billy steam train is a great way to see the Dandenong Ranges, starting at Belgrave and taking in the Sherbrooke Forest, Selby, Menzies Creek, Emerald and Gembrook. Not just for kids, there are also themed services and plenty of activities at the different train stops.
9. Get a bird's-eye view at Trees Adventure
Glen Harrow Gardens, Old Monbulk Rd, Belgrave
For some fun of a different kind, soar through hectares of forest at Trees Adventure, with flying foxes, cargo nets and rope bridges providing physical challenges. All the gear and training is provided, but book ahead to avoid disappointment.
10. Take a tea break at Tea Leaves
380, Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, Sassafras
One for the tea (and coffee) lovers. Tea Leaves operates out of a quaint little shop and has pretty much every flavour of tea you could think of, and probably some you wouldn't - sticky toffee pudding, and whisky, are among the flavours you can buy. You can also buy speciality coffee, and if you're in the market for a teapot or mug, they can help you out there, too. From traditional to novelty, there are shelves and shelves to look through.
11. Satiate your sweet tooth at Miss Marple's Tearoom
382 Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, Sassafras
Next door to Tea Leaves, Miss Marple's Tearoom is a Dandenong Ranges institution, set in a Tudor-style building with lots of charm. It's famous for its scones with homemade raspberry jam and cream, but also serves "famous fingers" open toasted sandwiches, plus Ploughman's lunches and desserts. Get in early for this place, as it is always busy!
12. Stock up on your health food favourites at Wholefood Merchants
3/794 Burwood Highway, Ferntree Gully
While not quite in the Dandenongs, Wholefood Merchants is close enough, and is the largest health food retailer in Melbourne. Think everything from bulk foods to organic fruit and veg, skin care and even crystals! And there is a cafe serving vegetarian and vegan meals, plus raw treats and other goodies to take away. It's a health food nerd's heaven!
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