Responsible Wildlife Watching in the Dandenongs
Puffing Billy has long been one of the premier ways for both visitors and locals to experience the Dandenong Ranges’ natural wonders. Take a trip along Puffing Billy today for one of its memorable rides through its lush forests! You won’t regret it!
Sherbrooke Forest Park provides an ideal retreat just minutes away from Melbourne, boasting rolling hills, weathered gullies and dense rainforests that are home to an impressive amount of wildlife.
Dandenongs National Park offers some of Australia’s most famed birds. From mountain ash forests and eucalyptus gullies, to five distinct natural bushland areas – you may just spot a kookaburra, swamp wallaby or even an audible mimicking call from a lyrebird among their ranks!
At every turn you will encounter lush forests and tranquil lakes – perfect places for enjoying a picnic while listening to the call of native birds! Additionally, guided spotlight forest walks through Yarra Valley National Park or Dandenong Ranges National Park allow visitors to see Australia’s incredible wildlife up close, while Healesville Sanctuary allows guests to get close up with an array of native animals through exhibits or meet-the-keeper sessions.
Dandenong Ranges National Park’s forests provide shelter to many different bird and mammal species, including grey-headed flying-fox and sugar glider. Eucalypts’ dense foliage provides important shelter, while tree hollows offer sanctuary. Keep an eye out for Crested Shrike-tits, Olive-backed Orioles and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos amongst woodlands or near waterways; Australian King Parrots may be seen during winter/early spring while Crested Frogmouths can be heard all year.
Toolangi State Forest provides the perfect place for birding enthusiasts to spot some of the more elusive bushbirds, while Mount Dandenong and Healesville Sanctuary boast great outcrops perfect for listening out for Superb Lyrebird, Pink Robin, Pilotbird and others.
If you’re in search of some extra indulgence, take your pick of Melbourne’s magnificent gardens – from Royal Botanic Garden and Alfred Nicholas and Sherbrooke Gardens, to Cloudehill Gardens with its array of hues – each boasting breathtaking sights to be seen! Or head out on Puffing Billy train which has been operating continuously since 1900 as one of Melbourne’s best day tours.
Many people enjoy photographing wildlife; however, wildlife photography requires not only an excellent camera but also knowledge of animal behavior. Photographing animals often leads to unnatural behaviors which cause stress or even injury to them; especially birds who do not like being photographed may become upset and become territorial, even attacking nonexistent intruders in their territories.
The Dandenong Ranges National Park is an untouched wilderness reserve in Melbourne’s suburbs, where you can take peaceful forest walks, explore fern-filled gullies and ride the historic Puffing Billy railway. Discover mountainous forests and shady valleys, exotic Mountain Ash trees soaring tall, as well as listen out for native kookaburras and lyrebirds singing their heart out!
Take a stroll along Dandenong Creek shared bicycle path or Koomba Park to admire its swamp paperbark scrub and tall riverine eucalypts, home to mistletoebirds, Sacred Kingfishers and titmice that frequent this habitat. In the afternoons it can become very busy with walkers and cyclists!
Winter brings with it an abundance of waterbirds in Dandenong Creek’s wetlands and swamps, including Cattle Egrets and Australasian Bitterns which are protected under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, while Latham’s Snipe are migratory species which are protected under international agreements between Japan and China.
Before European settlement, the banks and wetlands of Dandenong Creek were home to many mammals, reptiles and bird species. Now however, many of those original wetlands have been lost due to residential development, drainage projects, clearing operations or hydrological changes.
Healesville Sanctuary is an educational and wildlife conservation centre where you can meet koalas, kangaroos, platypus and more! Take a ranger-led tour and meet these fascinating creatures as you get up close and personal with them!
The Dandenongs boasts an incredibly diverse landscape. Trade the bush for manicured nature and witness a vibrant display as native and rare blooms herald spring in both public and private gardens throughout the region. Take in breathtaking beauty of Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden; stroll past Sherbrooke National Park’s ornamental lake and gardens; or take a short hike through William Ricketts Sanctuary where kookaburras and parrots soar overhead!
An unforgettable highlight of any visit to the Dandenongs is taking part in the 1000 Steps walk and Puffing Billy train ride, an energetic yet rewarding trek that circumnavigates Mount Dandenong, providing beautiful views of Melbourne from forest canopies and gullies lined with eucalypts. Additionally, visitors may spot wallabies, kangaroos, and lyrebirds while trekking.
Dandenong Creek Park boasts one of Victoria’s highest biological diversity profiles, from Sherbrooke Forest’s towering eucalypts to its signature fern-eucalypt association in its lower valleys – its signature being mountain ash, silver wattle, blackwood and soft tree fern communities along its tracks or mountain roads swooping down its flanks and opening up new lush gullies full of mountain ash, silver wattle, blackwood and soft tree fern enclaves within these parks’ vast environs – its biological diversity makes Dandenong Creek one of Victoria’s premier biologically diverse parks – making this park one of Victoria’s most biologically diverse ecosystems!
Dandenong Creek valleys are covered by Mountain Ash forests, while its drier slopes boast long-leaved box trees and red stringybark. Mountain ash forests provide homes to many species of birds such as mistletoe birds, ravens and yellow-tailed black cockatoos.
Before European settlement, Dandenong Creek and its associated wetlands provided habitat to an impressive diversity of mammals, birds and fish species. Today ringtail and brushtail possums and wallabies are the dominant mammals found here; while growling grass frogs can often be heard calling, although their population has significantly declined over recent decades; listed species under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
From June through December, the National Rhododendron Garden offers an explosion of colour. Boasting white, pink, red, yellow and mauve hued rhododendrons spotted, striped or single-blotched with spots or stripes; as well as azaleas, camellias and magnolias amongst other flowers; this garden is also home to other floral delights including azaleas camellias and magnolias.
Although not Victoria’s premier location for mammal viewing, the Dandenong Ranges still provide ample opportunities to observe local birds and mammals on walks.
Burkes Lookout is a short walk offering stunning views from high in the park and is very popular with photographers and birdwatchers. If you are in the area, it is well worth paying it a visit, although it can become quite crowded on sunny days – for best results, try arriving either early in the day or later on to beat crowds!
Sherbrooke Forest Walk provides another ideal bird watching spot in the Dandenongs. This short circuit takes in Sherbrooke Falls – which although often obscured by tree debris can still be very impressive when flowing freely.
Flora on this trail is extremely diverse and serves as an important food source for various bird species, such as Crimson Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and Australian King Parrots – not to mention Kookaburras who can often be heard laughing away in the trees!
Sherbrooke Forest offers other trails worth checking out such as the Yarra Valley Circuit and Olinda Falls Loop, both offering steep steps with considerable effort but well worth your efforts. They offer opportunities to see native mammals such as Swamp Wallabies.
Steavenson Falls Walk offers another short but satisfying trail in Victoria’s waterfalls system, floodlit at dusk for maximum viewing pleasure. A great place to spot Lyrebirds due to dense foliage which makes hiding harder for them!
This rewarding trek provides a delightful walk with its diverse Dandenong Ranges scenery. To make things easier, public transport from Melbourne can get you right to Upper Ferntree Gully where bus 688 (Upper Ferntree Gully- Croydon via Tremont and Olinda) drops you right off near its start point. While walking this trek solo may be possible, ensure that you bring along maps and plenty of water.