We are walking distance to the iconic 1000 Steps in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. This national park and many parts of the Dandenong Ranges are how to abundant wildlife, particularly the Superb Lyrebird and wallabies. Even just walking around the local streets at night it is usual you will find possums or even a frogmouth or owl in the paperbark and gum trees.
Within a 10 minute radius of us, the Dandenong Ranges are home to Puffing Billy, William Ricketts Sanctuary, the National Rhododendron Gardens, Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, CloudehillRJ Hamer Arboretum, Glen Harrow Park, Sherbrooke Forest, Grant’s Picnic ground in the rainforest of Kallista, Sky High with its panoramic views across the city, the picturesque hills villages of Sassafras, Olinda and the panoramic views at Mt Dandenong and Kalorama.
Within a 20 minute drive of us the choices broaden even further with star gazing atMt Burnett Observatory, paddle boats at Emerald Lake Park, kangaroos atCardinia Reservoir Park and Lysterfield Lake Park. If you fancy a 45 minute drive you can include Healesville Sanctuary on your list of outings.
WHAT TO DO?
Throughout the year, the hills are home to Belgrave’s Lantern Parade and its Buskers Festival, Upwey’s Annual Billy Cart Races, the Kalorama Chestnut Festival, Tesselaar Tulip Festival, Emerald’s PAVE festival, the Ferny Creek Garden Expo, Mountains Of Books Book Fair and there’s not a week goes by up here without vibrant craft and produce markets in one local village or another.
The hills are alive with artists and musicians and host the Open Studios weekend once a year where (cost free) you can take yourself on a magical mystery tour of home based galleries and experience workshops. There are antique shops to browse through in Sassafras, birdwatching to die for, Arboretums for tree lovers, more walks than you can shake a stick at, and bicycle tracks throughout the hills.
If you fancy trying archery there are Have A Go sessions at Sherbrooke Archers in Upwey on weekends, angling at Birdsland Reserve (where dogs on leads are welcome) and fishing at Lysterfield Lake Park, or go climbing and try out the flying fox at Trees Adventure Glen Harrow Park. If its raining you can catch a film at the Cameo Cinema. At night there is always something happening at Burrinja Cultural Centre, some of the quaint village pubs, open mic and open stage nights.
There are a vast range of restaurants with atmosphere and great food from all around the globe, from the classy and romantic Copperfields in Olinda, roasts and pizza at The Ivy Cafe, traditional teas at Miss Marple’s, German at The Cuckoo, Pie In The Sky for pie connoisseurs, Honey Thai, Rogan Josh, Le’s Vietnamese, of the Hahndorf’s Chocolate Cafe, or for organic, gluten free, dairy free pies, pasties and gourmet cakes on the go, drop into Upper Gully Organics.
HOLIDAY WITHOUT A CAR?
If you don’t drive or haven’t got a car you can get here by train which takes you through the villages of the lower hills; Upper Ferntree Gully, Upwey, Tecoma and Belgrave, delivering you right at Puffing Billy. Puffing Billy can then take over an historical trestle bridge, through rainforest and through the quaint hills villages of Selby, Menzies Creek, Gembrook and Emerald. Want to get up on the mountain? No problem, there are daily buses that will take you up to Sassafras, Olinda and Mt Dandenong too.
The hills are full of boutique B&Bs… from the romantic to the eccentric, the affordable to the iconic. Most are off the train line so you’d need a car. For those looking for something on the train line there is the 1000 Steps Cottage (affordable self contained B&B sleeps 2-6) a short walk from Upper Ferntree Gully Station and just a short walk from the 1000 Steps themselves.