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What to do in the Dandenong Ranges [Weekend Break from Melbourne]

Puffing Billy in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria | Best Day Trips from Melbourne

Less than an hour from Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges is a wonderful way to spend a day trip from Melbourne getting out into nature, exploring the quaint villages, or discovering family-friendly adventures,

There are so many things to do in the Dandenong Ranges, better known as the Dandenongs by the locals. You can make a day trip to the Dandenongs from Melbourne, or stay a few days in one of the quaint townships, and pick a few activities to build your own perfect Dandenong Ranges itinerary.

You can explore the Dandenongs as a standalone adventure or, if you are short on time, explore the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges on the same weekend escape. This is perfect for foodies and wine lovers, just remember to bring a responsible driver.

What to do in the Dandenong Ranges

Start your day at 1000 Steps

For the active, start your day early and head to the 1000 Steps to beat the crowds (be sure to check the hours the park is open). This is one of Melbourne’s most popular bushwalks, but also a place for those that love to challenge their fitness – it’s not uncommon to see people running and walking up the steps each weekend. The main stairs will have you walking through the thick jungle, and is a memorial to the Australians that served along the Kokoda Track. There is also one walk designed for runners and another perfect for those who require accessible paths to reach the top.

After you’ve walked, hiked, or jogged, head to the 1000 Steps Cafe for breakfast – I highly recommend their eggs benedict! Another crowd-pleaser spot is Piggery Cafe, a rustic family eatery just 10 minutes from the 1000 Steps.

Explore the quaint towns of the Dandenongs

After brunch, check out the quaint towns of the Dandenong Ranges! Olinda is the highest village in the Dandenong Ranges, and is the perfect place to find yourself some treasure! Whether it’s antiquing or picking up some local spices or pies, Olinda is bound to delight.
As the seasons change, be sure to stop at the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens which is also located in Olinda.

Sassafras is another favourite, particularly for those who enjoy traditional Devonshire teas. Browse the specialist tea shops, enjoy the art, craft and antique shops and be sure to pop into Ms Marple‘s for some well-deserved scones, jam and tea!

Puffing Billy in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria | Best Day Trips from Melbourne

All aboard Puffing Billy

Families won’t want to miss Puffing Billy, a century-old steam train that winds its way through the lush Dandenong Ranges. It’s sure to be a hit with young and old!

Puffing Billy runs on its original mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook with 7 stops. Stay onboard and experience the whole journey, or hop-on and -off to explore the quaint towns along the way.

Discover art hidden amongst nature

For a tranquil retreat, head to William Ricketts Sanctuary. Within the sanctuary grounds, there are over 90 different sculptures depicting the Aboriginal people engaging with the earth. Carved into rocks and tree trunks that dot the paths that flow throughout the property, the themes in his artwork reflect his philosophies of connections with human, nature and the earth.

It is a truly unique experience, and the stories of William Ricketts, a man who spent much of his life living among local Aboriginal tribes, is truly fascinating.

Get SkyHigh

After a day of adventure, or perhaps a special afternoon tea, head to SkyHigh Mount Dandenong. At an elevation of 630m, it’s the highest natural viewing point in the whole of Victoria, and on a clear day offers incredible views of Melbourne’s skyline across to Port Phillip Bay and Beyond. After enjoying a cuppa or meal, take a wander through the bush tracks or explore the hedge maze.

Cascading Beauties

Feel the spray on your face and dip your toes in the shallow pools as you discover the lush parks and rainforests in the Dandenong Ranges.

There are two waterfalls in the Dandenong Ranges well worth a visit:

Located just outside the township, the Olinda Falls is only a 350-metre walk to the viewing platform. You can sit in the water in the lower part of the falls and there are plenty of spots to picnic. (Note: the track to the fall is steep in places but there are no stairs making this an accessible waterfall!)

Sherbrooke Falls are best viewed after the rain when the creek cascades over the rock outcrops. While a slightly longer walk from the carpark than the Olinda Falls, it’s another great place to picnic or relax in nature.

Explore a Floral Wonderland

The fertile soils and cool climates of the Dandenongs make it a great location to grow produce and flowers. Alongside the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens and William Ricketts Sanctuary, consider visiting the Dandenongs throughout the year for a blooming good day out!

You might be mistaken that you have stepped into the Netherlands when you visit the Tesselaar Tulip Festival running each year around late September through to early October (check their site for exact dates).
Get a touch of Dutch culture with food, dance, and of course frolicking through the thousands of blooming tulip fields!
Each weekend is a different theme making it a fantastic family-friendly event by day and come evening there is live music and food to feast on set amongst the garden for the adults.

Discover the Warratina Lavender Farm, a family-owned lavender farm. Visit during November – January when the rows of lavender will bloom fields of purple.

Where is the Dandenong Ranges?

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

Tours to the Dandenong Ranges:

Prefer someone to do all the planning and arranging of tickets? Why not book a tour to the Dandenong Ranges instead!

While I do try to book directly to support local tour operators, I am also a big fan of Viator. Their team have always been super helpful even when tour guides didn’t show up or I had tour cancellations.

Check out these Dandenong Ranges tours:

How to get to the Dandenongs:

The Dandenongs are less than 1-hour drive from Melbourne.

While the Dandenongs are best explored by car, you can also get there by taking the train to PTV trains to Lilydale station or Belgrave station. Be sure to check PTV journey planner to plan your day trip to the Dandenongs.

The Dandenongs are also incredibly popular with cyclists and it’s a great way to see the beauty of this area while challenging yourself with the regions many climbs.

Where to stay in the Dandenongs:

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