Experience the Dandenongs

Mount Dandenong & Surrounds


Scenic Drives and Lookouts for Families in the Dandenongs

The Dandenongs are an inspiring mountainous region comprised of lush temperate rainforest, cascading waterfalls, and scenic picnic spots – an excellent day or weekend trip destination perfect for driving, walking and cycling trips.

One of our favourite hikes is the easy-moderate Eastern Sherbrooke Forest Walk, an enjoyable trail characterized by Tree Ferns, Mountain Ash and Messmate Stringybark forests – as well as being home to Lyrebirds!

1. SkyHigh Mount Dandenong

Dandenong Ranges National Park is one of Melbourne’s premier mountain getaways, boasting serene forest walks, charming hilltop villages and friendly wildlife. Home to world-famous spots like 1000 Steps and Olinda Falls as well as Sky High Mount Dandenong lookout and William Ricketts Sanctuary; families will find plenty of activities here that are sure to keep everyone busy for days on end!

Sky High Mount Dandenong stands out among Melbourne’s lookouts on Mount Dandenong Tourist Road with its breathtaking 360-degree vista, located on its summit and privately leased from Parks Victoria. Attractively landscaped English Gardens, Australiana Tree, Percy Possum’s House, hedged maze and picnic areas complete this lookout experience, perfect for all age groups; kids love Percy Possum’s House while adults relish in an amazing panoramic vista.

Arthur Streaton Monument is another popular spot in the Dandenongs for scenic vantages of valley and Silvan Reservoir views, making it an excellent picnic or lakefront stroll spot. Shady lawns feature native plants and wildflowers while giant eucalypts provide a striking background.

Olinda lies further downhill, boasting boutique stores and cafes dotted amongst picturesque cottages and heritage houses. An ideal place for spending some time, Olinda also serves as the starting point for walking trails around two lakes that flank this scenic mountain village.

Olinda Tea House offers Chinese cuisine and plenty of seating on its spacious verandah for an enjoyable dining experience after exploring Dandenongs Mountains, Forests & Gardens. This family-friendly dining option makes an excellent end-of-day stopover.

Avis, Budget, Hertz or Thrifty offer vehicle rentals that allow visitors to explore as much or as little of the Dandenongs as they please, giving you freedom and allowing access to various towns and villages such as Sherbrooke Falls, Kallista Sassafras Olinda Ferntree Gully.

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2. William Ricketts Sanctuary

William Ricketts Sanctuary is one of Melbourne’s hidden treasures – an open-air art gallery housing 92 sculptures set among forest settings of fern gullies and Mountain Ash trees. These captivating pieces show Rickett’s vision of Aboriginal culture combining with nature through sculpture.

The artist intended for visitors to his property to experience a spiritual journey, rejuvenated by Australia’s stunning natural landscape. The sculptures also comment on Aboriginal beliefs that all people must adopt their philosophy for good stewardship of the earth and respect its spirit and treat it accordingly. Ricketts placed these kiln-fired clay pieces discreetly among moss, rocks, ferns, Mountain Ash trees on his property where many figures depict Central Australian Aborigines with whom he worked directly.

William Ricketts Sanctuary offers an unforgettable, peaceful experience for families. Here you’ll discover Australia’s Aboriginal heritage, learn about an exceptional artist – as well as promote the value of Aboriginal culture among young children.

But Ricketts’ work is far from without controversy, with some academics alleging that it represents “not simply maudlin and romantic imagery but instead exploitative fetishism”, with figures created within a context of colonialism, Utopian idealism and neoliberalism.

After visiting William Ricketts Sanctuary, it’s easy to head up the road and grab a coffee at Brunch Cafe. This adorable cafe offers indoor and outdoor seating with drinks, snacks and meals designed to cater to everyone’s taste – plus they are licensed with gluten free options available as well!

From Melbourne, take the regional train to Croydon Station or Upper Ferntree Gully and board bus 688 that stops at Mt Dandenong Tourist Road; this trip should take 90-120 minutes.

3. Olinda & Sassafras

No matter if you prefer driving or walking, the Dandenong Ranges make for scenic day trips in and around Melbourne. Offering towering forests, lush fern gullies, picturesque picnic spots and cascading waterfalls just after rainfall – visit after rainfall to witness this mountainous region of cool temperate rainforest at its most lush. Also popular destinations for weekend escapes are Olinda, Sassafras and Sherbrooke hills villages offering antique stores, art galleries as well as cafes serving up pub fare through to Parisian cuisine!

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Dandenong Ranges are best-known for the 1000 Steps. However, other walks provide equally breathtaking scenic vistas – among them are many less known routes like Sherbrooke Forest Walk starting from Olinda Picnic Ground to Olinda Creek with tree canopy and fern views along its course and Sherbrooke Valley views below. While not an overly difficult trek during summer months it can get hot.

Dandenong Ranges offer some breathtaking scenic lookouts, such as Woolrich Lookout in RJ Hamer Forest Arboretum which provides incredible panoramic views across Victoria from Yarra Valley to Great Dividing Range. Another fantastic lookout can be found along Olinda-Monbulk Road at Mount Dandenong Tourist Road where one can see Olinda Playscape, Cloudehill Gardens and Diggers Nursery – offering truly magnificent sights!

Sassafras is an endearing little township nestled into lush Australian bush. Named for the Sassafras (Frangipani) tree, this charming community features old world antiques and Devonshire tea shops; rare plant nurseries; cafes abound.

Local buses connect all the townships in the Dandenong Ranges. From Croydon Train Station, take Bus No 688 to Kalorama, Mount Dandenong, Olinda and Sherbrooke; while from Belgrave Train Station take Bus No 694 via Mountain Highway, Monbulk Road and Sherbrooke Road for Sherbrooke, Kalorama, Olinda and Mount Dandenong. Many Melbourne tour companies also provide organised day tours of these magnificent mountains.

4. Sherbrooke Falls

Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges provide the ideal destination for family day trips and weekend excursions. A drive through its picturesque valleys will bring you past farmland, vineyards, forests and gardens dotted throughout the region – their beauty often peaking during spring and autumn seasons when blooming flowers make an appearance!

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Stroll through the vibrant flowers of Alfred Nicholas Gardens, take in the fragrant rhododendrons and azaleas at Mount Dandenong Arboretum or take in an amazing sea of vibrant tulips at Tesselaar Tulip Farm – there’s sure to be something stunning around every turn! For something active to do nearby, the Yarra River and Dandenong Ranges boast picturesque trails, bike paths and playgrounds perfect for kids of all ages to explore!

Starting at either Sherbrooke Forest in Dandenong Ranges National Park, this short trail provides the ideal introduction for beginning hikers to this part of Australia. Once starting from either Sherbrooke or O’Donohue Picnic Grounds, the gravel path takes you along a picturesque creek before ending up at an appealing waterfall that cascades into an inviting gully. Tree ferns and mountain ash line the track along which Swamp Wallabies, Echidnas and even Lyrebirds might make appearances during their travels!

Yarra Valley and Dandenongs offer nature lovers an unforgettable experience, featuring attractions like Healesville Sanctuary, William Ricketts Sanctuary and Puffing Billy that have kept children amused for decades. But it is the forests and gardens that will truly capture your attention, especially when their blooming beauty at its finest moment is revealed. Start off on an unforgettable Yarra Ranges Discovery Tour for an idyllic drive through breathtaking gardens and lookouts of some of Victoria’s most stunning valleys, or visit Sherbrooke Forest with its iconic walking tracks amidst towering mountain ash trees and fern gullies. Make your trip truly unforgettable by playing golf at Emerald Lake or fishing the serene lakes of Macclesfield and Silvan. For something more thrilling, Trees Adventure in Belgrave provides tree-top obstacle and flying fox courses – sure to make any visit to Yarra Valley and Dandenongs truly enjoyable.