The best things to do in the Dandenong Ranges

wooden footbridge across pond in the Dandenongs

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted April 26, 2023


High teas, historic train rides, flower shows and scenic trails. Here’s the best landmarks, activities and dining options to check out on a trip to Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges.

A mountain range found just 35 kilometres east of Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges, also known as ‘The Dandenongs’, is a stunning natural region famous for its lush rainforests, quaint village towns, cosy eateries, and scenic attractions.

As part of the City of Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges can be visited on a day trip or even for a weekend stay, as there is always something new to explore. The region itself is home to a dormant volcano, waterfall trails, mountain views, botanic gardens and natural forests.  

Consisting of many townships including the popular areas of Sassafras, Olinda, Emerald, Belgrave, Silvan, Upper Ferntree Gully and Mount Dandenong, there’s plenty to explore on a trip to the Dandenong Ranges.

 


Top things to do in the Dandenong Ranges

Take a ride on Puffing Billy

Running at full steam since 1900, Puffing Billy is a historic train that carries passengers through the heart of the Dandenong Ranges. Covering lush fern gullies, forest villages and Mountain Ash trees, riders can delight in hanging their legs out the side of the train. Choose from a range of memorable experiences, from Devonshire tea to the Puffing Billy Dog Express.

Explore Sherbrooke Forest

Located within the heart of the Dandenong Ranges, the Sherbrooke Forest consists of walking tracks for beginners to experienced, including the popular Sherbrooke Falls Trail. At 2.4 kilometres round trip, keep an eye out for lyrebirds, possums, wombats, and wallabies as your make your way through the magical rainforest walk.

Visit William Ricketts Sanctuary

Colloquially known as ‘Billy Rickets,’ the William Ricketts Sanctuary is an outdoor clay sculpture garden featuring 92 artworks of Indigenous peoples and animals embedded amongst the rainforests. The pieces were designed to reflect the relationship between humans and nature, and were all designed by William Ricketts himself.

Currently closed and under construction due to storm damage.

 

The Puffing Billy steam train is fun for all ages. Image: Supplied.
The spectacular flowers at KaBloom. Image: Lisa Luscombe.
Pack your walking shoes and water bottle for a trek up the 1000 Steps. Image: Supplied.
Try a paddleboat ride at Emerald Lake. Image: Visit Victoria.
The Dandenongs are filled with rich natural beauty. Image: Visit Victoria.

Head to Tesselaar Tulip farm

With literally hundreds of thousands of tulips on site, a visit to the Tesselaar flower show is definitely one to bring your camera to.

Over autumn, head to the Silvan area in the Dandenong Ranges for ‘KaBloom,’ a flower spectacle of tulips, marigolds, petunias, and flower meadows.

In spring, head along to the annual tulip festival featuring over a million bulbs in every colour you could imagine. Each flower show features food, drinks, attractions, and entertainment for the whole family.

Visit the town of Sassafras

A quaint township within the Dandenong Ranges, a stroll along the 19th century-style streets of Sassafras is a perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon. You can find yourself having a spot of Devonshire tea, browsing antique stores or artisan market stalls, marvelling at the smaller art galleries and enjoying lunch amongst the fern trees.

Admire the art at Burrinja

A cultural hub found at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in Upwey, the Burrinja Culture Centre features local art, events and experiences for all ages.

The centre highlights rotating art exhibitions, cultural workshops, local performances, activities, and events, with food and drink available on-site.

Have a paddle on Emerald Lake

Fancy a lakeside adventure? Grab a friend and head to the town of Emerald, where you can use pedal power on a two-person paddleboat around Lake Treganowan.

The vintage ride empowers you to explore the glistening waters of Emerald Lake as you have fun spotting ducks, kookaburras, wallabies, and rosellas.

Wander through the gardens

From natural botanicas to rhododendrons and ferns, there are many gardens to explore on a trip to the Dandenong Ranges.

Head to Olinda’s Botanic Garden, an attraction that features almost 300,000 flowers including azaleas, camellias, daffodils and rhododendrons, with a free 25-minute Garden Explorer bus tour that can be taken to explore the stunning views.

Other gardens to visit on a scenic flora tour include the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, a wonderful place for a picnic amongst the sculptures, water features and seasonal blooms, and the Cloudehill Gardens, featuring rotating blossoms amongst five acres of volcanic soil.

Climb the treetops

Looking for an adrenaline rush amongst the treetops? Near Puffing Billy station in Belgrave, head on a zipline course with Treetops Adventure amongst eight hectares of rainforest, with sessions designed for kids to advanced tight rope walkers.

Go for a hike

The Dandenong Ranges is home to a variety of walking trails to discover. Popular walks include the 1000 Steps (or Kokoda Track Walk) that begins at the Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground and finishes roughly 1000 steps later along Lyrebird Track; the Olinda Falls Walk, a short 300 metre journey to spectacular waterfall views, and the Cardinia Reservoir Park walk, a three kilometre journey that is both pram and dog friendly.

 

Have a cuppa at Miss Marple's. Image: Visit Victoria.
The splendid rhododendrons of the Dandenong Ranges. Image: Getty.
Take a hike through Sherbrooke Forest. Image: Getty.
SkyHigh is a popular restaurant at the top of Mount Dandenong. Image: Alamy.

Where to eat and drink in the Dandenong Ranges

There are plenty of wonderful eateries, bars, cafes, and restaurants to stop and get a bite in around the Dandenong Ranges.

Meal with a view

At Sky High Mount Dandenong, take in the panoramic views of the mountains and the Melbourne CBD skyline while enjoying delicious pub fare.

Local lunch

The Pig and Whistle Tavern in Olinda is a popular stop for pub meals and garden views, while a trip to The General Store in Emerald features fresh local produce and seasonal dishes.

A spot of high tea

If you’re looking for a quintessential high tea experience, stop at the Olinda Tea House and Restaurant for a spot of croquettes and profiteroles, or head to Miss Marple’s tearooms in Sassafras for a soothing cup of tea with your English scone.

 


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