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If you want something back-to-nature and calming for your weekend getaway near Melbourne, head to Dandenong Ranges National Park. This rainforest is among Australia’s best national parks, perfect for escaping the summer heat or daily bustling city life. Dandenong Ranges offer a unique and unforgettable experience of admiring and exploring the woodlands.
A National Park in Melbourne
Dandenong Ranges is located in the urban area of Greater Melbourne, Victoria state, Australia. This national park covers a 3,540-hectare land stretching from the foothills of Ferntree Gully in the southwest to Mount Evelyn and Monbulk in the north and Gembrook in the southeast.
Interestingly, people have variously dubbed Dandenong Ranges the “Melbourne playground,” the “Hills” of volcanic origin, the “Blue Dandenongs” referring to its appearance from the distant city, and the “lungs of Melbourne.”
Early Forest Reserves and Development
Dandenong Ranges have been a significant source of timber, farming or agricultural products, leisure, and tourism since nearly the earliest European settlement. This park is part of the Aboriginal cultural landscape originally inhabited by the clans of the Wurundjeri People.
As tourism flourished in the 1870s, the Ferntree Gully was first reserved as a park in 1882, followed by other areas like Sherbrooke Forest and Doongalla Estate. The present-day national park was proclaimed in 1987. Other formally added areas in 1997 were the Olinda State Forest, Mount Evelyn, and Montrose Reserve.
A Retreat to the Woods
Dandenong Ranges National Park accordingly features five sections.
The first is Doongalla Forest consists of Mount Dandenong itself with its picnic ground, several walking tracks, and the SkyHigh lookout offering a panoramic view over the east of Melbourne. The second is Ferntree Gully, the southwestern section, offering the famous Ferntree Gully Picnic Area, 1000 Steps of the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk, and more.
The third section is Mount Evelyn Forest in the most northerly of the park. The fourth is Olinda Forest at the eastern slopes of Mount Dandenong, and the last is Sherbrooke Forest. Each has forest walk trails and also waterfalls.
Things to do
Looking at the above popular places, you can try numerous things during your visit to Dandenong Ranges. Some picnic areas are kid-friendly and perfect for family moments. Try peaceful forest walks and tracks with your significant other or group. You can challenge yourself to conquer the 1000 Steps and learn about their history.
Or else, you can take a more energetic walk and find the waterfalls, such as Olinda Falls and Sherbrooke Falls. You can witness the lush green vegetation along your trails, one of which is the tallest majestic flowering tree in the world, the Mountain Ash. This rainforest is also home to native animals such as lyrebirds, wallabies, wombats, and the Powerful Owl.
Apart from walking and picnicking, there are also chances for bike riding, horse riding, bird watching, and more.
Recent Tourism & Entry
A Tourist Guide published in 1868 reported that all other areas of the Dandenong Ranges consisted of thick forest vegetation of volcanic origin. This park has been a favorite retreat from the city since the late 19th century, with many mountainous parts popular as tourist attractions for day-trippers and weekend visitors. They mostly use the park for fitness-related walks. It is also a popular destination for picnics.
Dandenong Ranges is open daily, including weekends and public holidays. The opening times follow the vehicle traffic of the picnic grounds, but usually from 6 am to 9 pm or 9 am to 6 pm.
Popular among weekend visitors, booking your visit ahead of time is recommended to secure your place. You can enjoy various ways or tours while visiting the national park. Also, some surrounding towns and villages offer great accommodations, shopping experiences, restaurants, coffee and cakes, and more.
Dandenong Ranges is one of the best options if you are a nature lover and enthusiast walker or hiker. It is such a haven close to the metropolitan area of Melbourne, a perfect escape from the summer heat and daily frantic lives. You can simply relax, picnic with your family, and enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna.
If you love Dandenong Ranges National Park, you would be eager to know similar worth-visiting destinations in Australia, such as Kakadu National Park, Blue Mountains National Park, and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.