The Dandenong Ranges (or just the Dandenongs) are a set of low mountain ranges situated around 35 kilometres east of Melbourne.
The highest point of the ranges is at Mt. Dandenong, which is only 633 metres above sea level.
(Sky high) The Dandenongs are largely rolling hills, weathered valleys, and gullys covered with a thick layer of temperate rainforest, and dense, fern-rich undergrowth.
The area has been a popular day trip destination since the 1870s, with much of the park protected as parklands as early as 1882.
In 1987, all the Dandenong park land was combined to form Dandenong National Park.
Now, over 100,000 people call the Dandenongs home, with thousands more visiting the area each year. Below is your guide to nearly everything the Danenongs have to offer (you could write a book about everything they have to offer), and boy is it a lot!
Dandenong Ranges Towns and Villages
The Dandenongs are dotted with a number of quaint and picturesque villages with something for everyone!
1) Belgrave: Set against a forest backdrop, Belgrave is only 40 kilometres from Melbourne and is accessible by suburban train services.
Belgrave is the home to the historic steam train the Puffing Billy. Belgrave is also home to a number of other natural attractions and activities in the dense forest surrounding it.
2) Cockatoo: This former agricultural boom town was hit hard by the 1983 Ash Wednesday Bushfires.
However, it has bounced back and now offers a number of services. It is within walking distance to the Wright Forest reserve and fauna sactuary.
3) Dandenong Ranges – Emerald:
A beautiful village full of country charm and small town hospitality, Emerald is a fantastic place to take the whole family.
The town boasts the last remenant of the Nobelius Nursery. The Nobelius Heritage Park and Emerald Museum is open Wednesdays and Sundays or by arrangement.
The Puffing Billy stops in the town, and it is also the endpoint of the Emerald to Cockatoo walking trail, which is about a 2.5 hour long walk.
4) Gembrook: Located an hour drive from Melbourne, Gembrook is the final destination of the Puffing Billy.
5) Kallista: Located in the mountain forests of the Dandenongs, Kallista located between Belgrave and Olinda.
Kallista is located right in the middle of the Dandenong Ranges National Park and offers a number of fantastic hiking trails for visitors through the forest. It also offers a number of excellent elevated viewpoints.
6) Kolorama: Kolorama is the site of a general store where travellers can get loads of information on the area.
There is also a fantastic lookout in Kolorama that boasts panoramic views over the area and is a wonderful place for photographers. There is also Kalorama Park, a 22 hectare reserve.
7) Dandenong Ranges – Lilydale:
Lilydayle is the gateway to both the Dandenongs and the Yarra Valley. It is the start of the iconic Lilydale-Warburton trail that meanders through the Yarra Valley.
Lilydale is the home to the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum that is a fascinating place to visit. There are also a number of good urban cafes and restaurants.
8) Dandenong Ranges – Menzies Creek:
Situated in the Menzies Creek Valley, one of the most scenic valleys in all of the Dandenongs, Menzies Creek is a beautiful rural township 5 kilometres east of Belgrave.
9) Monbulk: Monbulk is a scenic suburb of Melbourne, in between the city and the Dandenong Ranges. It is a great place to stop for lunch or a snack.
10) Montrose: Situated at the start of the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road, Montrose is a wonderful shopping area. It also boasts wonderful views of Mt. Dandenong and Mr. Corhanwarrabul in the distance.
There are horse riding trails, parks, reserves, and bicycles trails, making it an excellent suburban escape from Melbourne city life.
11) Dandenong Ranges – Mt. Dandenong:
Mt. Dandenong, in addition to being the tallest mountain in the range, is also a small village that is very popular amongst day-trippers.
The village boasts a number of cosy cafes, as well as a number of excellent hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Sky High Mt. Dandenong provides stunning views over the ranges, greater Melbourne, and the bays. There are English gardens, the Willam Ricketts Sanctuary, which is home to 92 sculpture depicting the Aboriginal dreamtime.
12) Mt. Evelyn: Located in the heart of the Yarra Valley, Mt. Evelyn offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The area is home to more than 60 varieties of bird as well as wallabies, echidnas, platypus, and turtles.
The Warburton trails runs through the centre of the village. There are a number of other trails as well to suit all fitness levels and abilities.
There are also fine eateries, including an award winning bakery, and local wineries. Mt. Evelyn is home to a number of boutique shops and an excellent bed and breakfasts.
13) Olinda: Filled with fantastic store and boutiques Olinda is a boutique shopper’s paradise. The town centre also has a number of excellent eateries.
The village is home to the National Rhododendron Gardens, which have over 270,000 blooms.
There are a number of other excellent gardens in the area. Olinda is home to over 100 bed and breakfasts.
14) Sassafras: A tea drinker’s paradise. Sassafras is home to a number of tea rooms serving traditional Devonshire teas.
There are also a number of boutique shops. The area’s restaurants are known for incorporating fresh, local produce.
15) Selby: Located at the foot of Black Hill, Selby is a scenic village set among lush, native vegetation. The Black Hill Reserve is home to a variety of native wildlife.
16) Silvan: Home to some of Australia’s finest fruit as well as the Tesselaar Tulip Festival. Silvan has a number of U-pick fruit farms that make it a very popular summer destination. The Silvan Resevoir is also a beautiful spot perfect for a day retreat.
17) Tecoma: The railway station in Tecoma is on the metro link between Melbourne and Belgrave. There is a wonderful bike trail that goes from Belgrave Station through Tecoma along the Dandenong Creek Trail.
18) The Basin: Located 31 kilometres east of the Melbournce CBD, The Basin is a small village that is a beautiful tourist spot.
19) Upper Ferntree Gully: Home of the Ferntree Park, which is a popular destination for fitness seekers and tourists.
The park is hometo the 1,000 step walk, which is a trail that includes over 1,000 stone steps leading up to One Tree Hill.
The railway station offers direct connection to Melbourne. The village is home to a number of overnight boarding houses and cottages.
20) Upwey: A thriving community of over 6,800 residents. The Main Street offers a number of different shopping options.
Surely, one of these villages has something for anybody.
Now that you know where to go, here is a quick rundown on things you can do during your stay in the Dandenongs (with the exception of hikes as we will talk more about those later!).
1) Dandenong Ranges – Visit the Burrinja Cultural Centre:
The centre features contemporary and indigenous art galleries, resident artists’ studios, performing arts theatre, gallery shop, art workshops, a fully licensed café with regular live music, and a whole slew of other attractions. If you are a lover of the arts, this is a must.
2) Visit one of, or more than one of, the many gardens in the Dandenongs. The Dandenongs is filled with a number of gardens of all different sorts. Each one is beautiful and fascinating in its own way and makes for a wonderful visit.
3) Dandenong Ranges – The Puffing Billy Railway:
The Puffing Billy Railway is one of the best preserved steam railways in the world.
The one hundred year old train still runs on its original 25 kilometre mountain track and it provides one of the best ways to see the sights of the Dandenongs.
The Puffing Billy boasts both open cars where you can enjoy the fresh air as you take in the view, or more luxurious first class cars.
The Puffing Billy offers a number of different “event rides” including the “Dinner and Dance Train,” the, “Murder on the Puffing Billy Express,” the, “Jazz on the Puffing Billy Railway, the, “Great Train Race,” and a wide variety of others.
The Puffing Billy is truly and enjoyable and charming way to take in the Dandenongs that will take you back in time.
4) Dandenong Ranges – SkyHigh Mt. Dandenong:
Less than one hour from the Melbourne CBD, SkyHigh is one of the most popular attractions of the Dandenongs.
At the uppermost reaches of the Dandenongs, SkyHigh provides stunning panoramic views over the Mornington Peninsula across Port Philip Bay, to the You Yangs on the southern horizon.
After sunset, the southern horizon is a spectacular carpet of city lights. SkyHigh has more than just a view though.
There are a number of activities that make it an excellent place for the whole family to spend a day.
Thereis the SkyHigh Maze, “Percy, the Possum’s House,” and the Giant’s Chair, which are all fantastic attractions for younger children.
You can also enjoy a traditionally prepared Devonshire tea, a meal in the Lower Level Restaurant, and a walk through the Secret Garden.
History enthusiasts, or the more nostalgic visitors, can visit the site of the 1938 Kyeema Airline tradgedy. SkyHigh is open seven days a week, including all public holidays.
5) The Tesselaar Tulip Festival: Running from sometime in September for a month into October, the Tessalaar Tulip festival has become a world renown celebration where visitors can take in fields and fields of beautiful tulips, enjoy tractor rides, a pick your own tulips patch, and a sculpture exhibit. The festival is now one of Victoria’s most iconic tourist attractions.
6) Take a trip to Trees Adventure: Trees Adventure is an eco-adventure park situated in Belgrave, near the Puffing Billy train station.
The park boasts a number of beautiful, rare, and just plain large trees for guests to walk in and amongst.
It also is home to a fantastic zip line that allows visitors the opportunity to go flying through the trees taking on a number of obstacles. There are lines for people of all different abilities and thrill-seeking levels.
Dandenong Ranges Hikking & Walk
7) Take a trip along the U-Pick Trail: Take a trip to some of the many orchards in the Dandenongs and Yarra Valley and stock up on fresh, U-Pick fruits.
The orchards also all sell homemade ice cream, cakes, or other tasty treats that are the perfect snack after a long day of fruit picking.
The area is packed with fantastic orchards and farms that make for a fun and delicious day out.
The farms include: Blue Hills Berries and Cherries, Chappies, Cherryhill Orchards, Chesterfield Farm, Hanccok’s Daffodils, Jay’s Berries, Kookaberry Strawberry Farm, the Tesselaar Tulip Nursery and Farm Shop, The Cherry Boys, and the Warratina Lavender Farm.
8) Visit the William Ricketts Sanctuary: The sanctuary is internationally renowned and makes for one of the most inspiring and tranquil experiences in the Dandenongs.
The sanctuary is a fantastic space for guests to learn about the native aboriginal culture while also taking in some fantastic art.
9) Spend some time shopping: The villages that dot the Dandenongs are filled with wonderful boutique shopping where you will surely find what you are looking for, even if you aren’t looking for anything at all!
10) Try the local eateries: Many of the villages also have wonderful cafes, restaurants, bakeries, etc. that rely heavily on locally produced produce to make their goods.
No matter where you go in the Dandenongs, there is something for you. The region is packed with activities of all different sorts that will surely keep you entertained.
One activity that was not mentioned in the list above is hiking.
The Dandenongs are well known for their hiking tracks and for this reason, the popular trails were deserving of their own section. Below is a rundown of the different hikes on offer in the Dandenongs.
1) The Eastern Sherbrooke Forest Walk:
This walk is about 6.6 kilometres there and back and will take about 2.5 hours to complete. The grade is easy to moderate with some steep sections.
The trail is largely on management vehicle tracks and it starts and finishes at the Grants Picnic Ground near Kallista and Sassafras.
This walk allows hikers to take in the changing vegetation as they pass through areas cleared of bush due to wildfires as well as areas of dense Mountain Ash and Messmate Stringybark Trees, wide ferns, and other wet and damp forest vegetation.
The area has a high density of lyrebird, wombats, samp wallaby, echidna, possums, and owls.
2) Grey Gum Track Walk: This is an easy hike of only 2.2 kilometres that will likely only take you 30-45 minutes to complete.
The trail is a dirt bush track that begins and ends at the Silvan Reservoir Park overflow carpark. It is near Silvan, Mt. Evelyn, Monbulk, and the Olinda Creek Walking Track.
Walkers will see plenty of bird life including Crimson Rosellas, Kind Parrots, and Kookaburras. There are also plenty of U-Pick farmgates along the way.
3) Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (1,000 Step Walk): This is a 3 kilometre walk that is quite steep and requires a decent level of fitness. It should take about 1.5 hours to complete.
The track is either gravel, dirt, or stone steps that starts and finishes a the Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground. It is nearby Upper Ferntree Gully, Upwey, and Sassafras.
This walk is an institution for fitness enthusiasts all across Melbourne, making the walk a popular destination within the Dandenongs.
There are plaques along the way that memorialize soldiers who fought and died during World War II on the real Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.
The 1,000 steps follow a crekk up a gully that is coated in ferns. At the top, you can decide to either take the Lyrebird Trck, which makes for a great return circuit, or continue on up for around 800 metres to One Tree Hill.
4) Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail:
This is arguable the most iconic walk in the area. Spanning for 40 kilometres between the Dandenongs and the Great Dividing Ranges, the Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail follos the path of a historical railway line that was established in the 1900s to service the area’s budding agricultural industry.
The Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail will take hikers through beautiful bushland, provide them with stunning views over the Yarra Ranges National Park, past wineries, and through farmland.
Hikers can expect to see kangaroos, various birds, spring wildflowers (assuming you are making the hike in the spring), butterflies, and tree ferns.
The trail wanders through a number of small towns and villages with excellent bed and breakfasts, perfect for those who want to tackle the trail at a more leisurely pace. The old railway station at Yarra Junction is now a pioneer museum.
The total length of the hike is 38 kilometres one way, which should take you about four hours. The grade varies from easy to moderate, with excellent trails surfaces. It starts at Queen Road in Lilydale and finishes in Warburton.
5) Living Bush Nature Walk:
This is a 2.5 kilometre walk that should take you around 45-60 minutes to complete.
There is a medium grade on a gravel path that has some unevenness. It starts and finishes at the footbridge behind the playground at the Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground.
This walk is near both Upper Ferntree Gully and Upwey.
This walk is perfect for families. The walk exposes hikers to all the natural bushland of the area, including spectacular fern gullies, tall Eucalypt trees, and Messmate forest.
The highlight of the walk is the Musk Avenue section. The area is a haven for native birds as well, including kookaburras, rosellas, and cockatoos.
6) Dandenong Ranges – Olinda Creek Walking Track:
This 5.6 kilometre walk starts in the Mt. Evelyn Recreation Reserve and finishes in the Silvan Reservoir Park.
The gravel and dirt trail has a medium grade that should take you about 2 hours to complete.
Along the way, you will pass through a variety of vegetation types, including the large fern gullies so common in the Dandenongs, and dry, open forest.
The area is home to short-beaked echidna, superb lyrebird, and black wallaby. The trail also passes by the Silvan Reservoir Park and the old aqueduct in some places.
7) Dandenong Ranges – Sherbrooke Falls Walk:
This short walk is only 2.5 kilometres (return) and only takes about 45 minutes. The grade is vary easy and the trail is an established gravel pathway with some unevenness.
It starts and finishes at either the Sherbrooke Picnic Ground or the O’Donohue Picnic Ground.
This track wanders through towering Mountain Ash and a variety of different fern species.
The highlight of this walk is the Sherbrooke Falls, which are especially impressive after a period of rain.
Walkers can also look out for wombats, swamp wallabys, and rong-tailed and brush-tailed possums. There are also tree creepers and blue-winged parrots in the Sherbrooke Forest.
Dandenong Ranges the weekend away in Victoria
Whether you want a nice, relaxing weekend away, an adventure packed trip, hiking in the mountains, or to just enjoy a quaint village with excellent shopping, restaurants, and amenities, the Dandenongs have something to offer you.
Their proximity to Melbourne makes accessing them, and everything they have to offer, incredibly easy.
The park is littered with a multitude of bed and breakfasts, hotels, motels, inns, and other holiday rentals, perfect for those who want to spend more than just the day in the Dandenongs.
If you are visiting Melbourne should certainly plan to spend at least a day out in the Dandenongs.