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The Best Family Activities in the Dandenong Ranges

The Dandenong Ranges are close, approximately one hour, from central Melbourne and have a wide range of iconic, nature, adventure, cultural and recreation family activities. There are attractions in all seasons of the year to merit a family visit. Some of the top attractions are:

Get an unrivalled view of Melbourne’s skyline from Sky High Mt Dandenong Observatory and Maze in Mount Dandenong. Successfully pass through the maze and become a SkyHigh maze master, find the Australiana Tree and Percy Possum’s House before sitting on the Giants Chair.

Puffing BillyThe iconic steam train Puffing Billy is one of the best preserved steam railways in the world and travels between Belgrave and Gembrook with intermediate stops at Menzies Creek, Emerald Station and Lakeside Station at Emerald Lake Park.

Take the challenge of the 1000 steps Kokoda Track Memorial Walk in Upper Ferntree Gully and get a glimpse of the physical effort taken by the Australian soldiers during 1942 on the real Kokoda Trail.

William Ricketts Sanctuary in Mount Dandenong covers four acres of beautiful fern gully land with 92 ceramic sculptures of Aboriginal figures set among rocks, fern trees and Mountain Ash.

Trees Adventure, BelgraveTrees Adventure brings the excitement factor to the Dandenongs with tree-top obstacle and flying fox courses that weave through the canopy of trees in Belgrave.

Catch your own fresh fish at Australian Rainbow Trout Farm in Macclesfield. There is also an 18 hole minigolf course.

Dandenong Ranges National Park in Sherbrooke has scenic drives, lovely walks and picnic areas.

Emerald LakeEmerald Lake in Emerald has beautiful lakes, walking tracks, a model railway, paddleboats, playground and fishing opportunities.

There are many beautiful gardens to visit and most have free admission. They include:
  • The 126 hectare RJ Hamer Arboretum in Olinda has a lovely range of trees from around the world interspersed with walking tracks and picnic facilities.
  • National Rhododendron Gardens in Olinda has brilliantly coloured blooms of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, cherries and daffodils with seasonal changes which ensure the gardens are delightful all year around.
  • Pirianda Garden in Olinda is a beautiful 11 hectare hillside woodland garden containing a unique collection of plants. It has magnificent views and a house built by the Ansell’s in 1962.
  • Alfred Nicholas Gardens in Sherbrooke has extensive water features including ponds, waterfalls and an ornamental lake complete with boathouse.
  • The 3 hectare George Tindale Memorial Garden in Sherbrooke has an extensive collection of magnolias, rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, fuchsias and hydrangeas.
  • Karwarra Australian Garden in Kalorama is a 2 hectare cool temperate Australian garden which displays a diverse range of Australian native plants.
  • Mount Dandenong Arboretum extends over 16 hectares and features conifers and deciduous trees from around the world.
  • Warratina Lavender Farm in Wandin North has fields of lavender and display gardens to wander around.
Cloudehill Nursery and Garden, Olinda
Waterfalls to visit in the area include:
  • Olinda Falls in Olinda has two viewing platforms and is only 500m from the car park.
  • Sherbrooke Falls in Sherbrooke is a 2.4 km return walk through tall Mountain Ash and tree ferns from a picnic ground and car park.

A number of water reservoir parks offer a variety of recreational opportunities including

A range of nature areas with native flora and fauna and walks include:
  • Butterfield Conservation Reserve in Emerald is a large area of protected forest with a 3 km trail which starts at the Emerald Diggings Picnic Ground.
  • Gembrook Park Flora and Fauna Reserve in Gembrook is only a five minute walk from the Gembrook Town Centre and Puffing Billy railway station in an area with a forest cover of tall mountain ash. Explore the 28-hectare reserve with 1.5 km Fern Gully Walk or 1.2 km Hillside Walk.
  • Wright Forest Bushland Reserve in Cockatoo offers fantastic vantage points to watch Puffing Billy and has a network of walking tracks throughout the forest from a short nature walk to extended half day walks.
  • The Emerald-Cockatoo Multi-Use Trail is a 14 km return trip which starts in Emerald, takse in views of the Puffing Billy track, passes through Nobelius Heritage Park, Emerald Lake Park and through Wrights forest to Cockatoo.
  • Kalorama Park in Kalorama boasts spectacular views over Silvan Reservoir and the south-eastern face of the Dandenong Ranges. There are some lovely short walks which passes through a Mountain ash forest and cool, shaded fern gullies.
  • Lysterfield Lake Park in Narre Warren North where you can have a picnic, take a walk or cycle, have a swim or paddle a canoe.
  • The 75 hectare Birdsland Reserve in Belgrave Heights is home to many native animals and birds including platypus.
Grants Picnic Ground and Tearoom, Kallista
  • Grants Picnic Ground and Tearoom in Kallista has a café and area where lots of local birds such as sulphur crested cockatoos, crimson rosellas, eastern rosellas and kookaburras come to be fed. Visitors can purchase a token from the café to access the bird feeding. There are also a number of walks starting from the picnic grounds through the forests of Sherbrooke.
  • Bunyip State Park in Tonimbuk (3 km Buttongrass Nature Walk is recommended)

During the season U-pick fruit locations are a tasty place to visit. Some places in the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley include:

Visit one of the local markets in the region including Monbulk Produce Market (held on the second Saturday of the month), Kallista Community Market (held on the first Saturday of the month), Gembrook Market (held on the fourth Sunday of the month), Cockatoo Country Market (held on the first Saturday of the month), Emerald Market (held on the third Sunday of the month) and Grow It Bake It Make It Community Market in Emerald (held on the first Sunday of the month).

Apart from the beautiful natural resources, the region has some historical attractions such as

Culture vultures will enjoy a visit to Burrinja Cultural Centre in Upwey which exhibits a range of high quality art.

The region has a number of lovely playgrounds. The best playgrounds are:
  • Borthwick Park has a large playground in Belgrave ringed by giant California Redwood trees which provide some natural shade. There is a big climbing structure, large pyramid rope climbing frame and large birds nest swing. It is located next to the Belgrave Outdoor Swimming Pool. There aren't any toilets at the playground.
  • Elizabeth Bridge Reserve playground in Kilsyth is well-equipped with double-sided climbing walls, wobbly bridge, huge pyramid rope climbing frame and birds nest swing. The park has a lake with ducks, BBQs, picnic tables, shelters and toilets.
  • Montrose Community Playground in Montrose is a community-built all abilities playground which has a circular path which leads past a series of cute shop fronts, two large pyramid rope climbing frames, birds nest swing, sensory garden and animal sculptures. There are picnic tables, BBQs and toilets.
  • Morrison Reserve playground in Mount Evelyn has a "Cattle Yard" theme complete with a real windmill, cattleman's hut with tables and seats, full size red tractor pulling a wagon with seats and wooden sculptures of a cattleman's dog and calf.
Wally Tew Reserve playground, Ferntree Gully
  • Wally Tew Reserve in Ferntree Gully has a wonderful fully-fenced play space with natural elements which has a theme of "Forest Floor". The centrepiece of the playground are two striking bug sculptures. There is also a large sandpit, huge birds nest swing and other fun equipment.
  • The Tim Neville Arboretum playground in Ferntree Gully is a fully fenced adventure playground with lots of interesting elements including flying foxes, large rope pyramid climbing frame, birds nest swing and big sandpit area.

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