Top things to do and see in the Dandenong Ranges

Written by on August 4, 2016 in Australia Destinations, Australia Road Trips with 6 Comments

The Dandenong Ranges are located in East Melbourne only an hour drive from Melbourne CBD. I started discovering the Dandenong a couple of years ago on a day-trip from Melbourne.

On my last trip in Australia I had the opportunity to explore more of the Dandenongs. On this post I show some of the best places in the Dandenong Ranges, where you can get active in the outdoors and enjoy the landmarks of Melbourne surroundings.

Dandenong Ranges Australia

These places are one hour travel distance from the city, you will need a car to visit the Dandenong on multiple day-trips from Melbourne.

If you instead plan to visit the Dandenongs over a few days along with the Yarra Valley and more attractions, then you are better off to rent a car in Melbourne and check out this list of Dandenong Ranges accommodation.

The Dandenong Ranges Attractions

When I first visited the Dandenong Ranges in 2014 I went to the SkyHigh Mount Dandenong to see Melbourne Skyline from the most popular lookout of the region. The nearby William Ricketts Sanctuary, with the striking sculptures carved into rocks, is another popular attraction for locals and travellers. But what I got to see at that time is only a small fraction of the Dandenongs.

The Dandenongs stretch between Lilydale, located in the upper north, to FernTree Gully in the southern part and from Belgrave outh-east to Gembrook.

It will not be possible to tour the entire Dandenong Ranges on one day, so, if your time frame is limited this list of destinations – I recently checked out on my last trip to Melbourne – will help you pick the places you want to visit on or your itinerary trip.

William Ricketts Sanctuary

The Dandenong Ranges Walks and Outdoor activities

If you ask Melburnians about their picks for visiting the Dandenong Ranges, the first thing that would probably come to their mind is the 1000 Steps Walk and Puffing Billy. But there are more places worth seeing, like the Alfred Nicholas Gardens, Sherbrooke National Park and more.

So now let's dive deeper and take a closer look at each individual spot and outdoor activity.

Take a ride on the Puffing Billy Train from Belgrave to Gembrook

Puffing Billy is the most popular heritage steam train in Australia. This is an old steam train that rides on the original mountain track for 25 km. It takes nearly 4 hours to do the whole circuit, but you can get on and off where you want to. I went on a Puffing Billy ride from Lake Emerald to Gembrook. It takes  a 45 minutes to go one way. Despite the cold winter temps – 6°C – I really enjoyed sitting in the open carriage, dangling my legs over the side of the carriage, leaning out and taking as many photographs as I could of the amazing mountain landscape.

Puffing Billy Train

Gembrook is a lovely small village with a Sunday markets and nice coffee shops. Riding on the Puffing Billy train isn't cheap, a return-ticket from Lake Emerald to Gembrook will cost 49 dollars, prices vary depending on the train route you choose. I really had fun on this train, is not only for family with kids, it's a unique experience and worth your money.

This Puffing Billy route offers more things to do along your way. From Lake Emerald you can go on a paddle boat ride and do some of walking tracks. There is a picnic and BBQ facilities and I found the area very photogenic. I can recommend adding it to your explorations of the Dandenongs. I hope I can go on the Puffing Billy again, in summer it must be really gorgeous, but very busy with tourists though. The train also offers a luxury first class dining and special events, as well as various kind of functions.

Walks the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk – The Dandenongs 1000 Steps

The 1000 steps track is one of the most popular spots of the Dandenongs. Locals simply love it. Among outdoor and fitness lovers is regarded as one of the top landmark in Melbourne's surroundings  for jogging and training. This 3 km track is an old track that was initially created in 1900 by soldiers who died on the real Kokoda Trail in Papua Guinea. Originally made with trunk of tree ferns it was then replaced by concrete and wooden steps. The track is quite steep, but anyone with a reasonable level of fitness can walk up.

1000 Steps Track

Once I reached the top I came back through the Lyrebird Track which goes parallel down to the  1000 steps. The vegetation is amazing, you will find yourself in the fern gully, surrounded by different shapes of tree ferns and also manna gum trees. To walk the 1000 steps track you need 1 hour. I went on a Saturday winter afternoon and it was very busy. In summer it's much worse. So be prepared for it. Parking your car can be a struggle. I have seen a long queue of cars parked alongside the road. So avoid weekends, if you can, and the busiest time of the day, which is in the morning.

Dandenong Ranges 1000 Steps Track

The Sherbrooke Falls Walk

The Sherbrooke Falls Walk is another great and easy walk, that you can do in one hour, not far from the 1000 steps track. Start your walk from the Sherbrooke Picnic Ground and walk through the beautiful forest to marvel at the tallest flowering Eucalyptus in the world, the Mountain Ash. I happened to be there just after rain, and the smell of the wet hardwood was so fresh and intense. In the Mountain ash forest you can spot swamp wallabies, wombats, brush-tailed possums being the perfect habitat for lyre birds, there are good chances to see and hear these amazing birds mimicking other birds' singing.

Sherbrooke Falls Walk

Visit the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens

When you drive back from Sherbrooke National Park make sure you don't miss the parking on the left-hand side and the free entrance to these beautiful and picturesque gardens with – I dare say – the most beautiful ornamental lake I have seen in Australia. The Alfred Nicholas gardens are spread on two levels with a nice walk through native and exotic flowering shrubs and trees. The most iconic place is the ornamental lake with the Boathouse, a very tranquil and romantic  place, ideal for taking photographs and enjoy a kaleidoscope of colours. Furthermore this is a great spot for seeing birds like Rosella, King Parrots and hearing the laughing Kookaburra in the treetops. There are many gardens in the Dandenongs, but I think this place is special and really worth checking out.

Alfred Nicholas Gardens Boathouse

How to go to the Dandenongs

These are my top picks for visiting the Dandenong Ranges. While you can combine a trip to these destinations with a visit to the nearby Yarra Valley, or Healeasville Sanctuary, north East of Melbourne, you can visit all these top destinations on easy and relaxed day-trips from Melbourne too.

The Dandenongs is a very beautiful region of Melbourne, I highly recommend checking out, it makes it to a great destinations for both, as a solo traveller and/or with a companion. They are all easy road-trips that you can do from Melbourne CBD.

How to organize these day trips from Melbourne

The best way to organize your day trips from Melbourne is to hire a car. I do prefer self-driving than guided day trips. But if you are alone, on a tight schedule, or just want to sit back and relax then maybe a  guided-tour is the best option for you.  Here below some of the tools I use:

For self-driving tours you can book a rental car from this comparison website

For guided-tours you can check out these day-tour options from Melbourne

Find these tips useful for your travels in Australia? Plase spread the love! Share these photos below on your Pinterest Boards! Thanks!

Dandenong Ranges Things to do Dandenong Ranges Must-see sights

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About the Author

About the Author: Michela is a passionate traveller and outdoor enthusiast, who has been travelling solo around Australia for +13 years, sharing her adventures to help fellow travellers. She is the founder and publisher of Rocky Travel, the smart travel planning guide for the solo traveller. .


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6 Reader Comments

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  1. Richard says:

    Another place that is very popular to visit and must do is a visit to Grants Picnic Ground, in which for a small fee you can feed sulphar crested cockatoos by hand the birds will land on your shoulders and head to. Get to the seed, the birds are quite heavy when you get a couple of them on the dish, just remember they are wild birds but they do love a free feed. Grants Picnic ground also offers a number number of forest walks. You can incorporate this adventure with a number of other sites including , puffing billy, Alfred Nichols gardens, Sherbrooke forest, or one of the many tea rooms scattered throughout the hills

  2. rockytravel says:

    Thanks for adding the Grants Picnic Ground. I will add this place to the list. Now I remember having been there too, last year. It slipped my mind, haha. It was fun feeding the birds, and yes, couldn’t believe how big and heavy these birds are. When they land on your shoulder to grab the food, you will know! 😀

  3. Justin says:

    Wow that looks like a gorgeous area! I’d kill to be able to take a trip out there (I’m in the states) to do some photography.

    • rockytravel says:

      The Dandenong Ranges are so photogenic. The ferntree forest is amazing! And the landscape so picturesque.There are indeed many beautiful places to do some great photography in the Dandenongs!:-)

  4. Jane says:

    Hi Michela, I’ve been enjoying reading a bunch of your posts and learnt a few things too! Next time you come to the Dandenongs (we live in Olinda) you may like to explore some more walks. I created a website with 32 walks details in the Dandenongs – Let me know when you are here again and drop by for a cuppa!

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