Too much of a good thing can be wonderful. So if you're in need of a little pampering and are looking for a destination that balances natural wonderment with a healthy dose of indulgence, look no further than the Dandenong Ranges. Whether you have an appetite for good food (and plenty of it) or just want to soak up the country air, here are five spots in the Dandenong Ranges that can cater to your every whim and desire.
Affectionately named Pina’s by those in the know, the perennially popular Proserpina Bakehouse in the quaint town of Sassafras will start your day of decadence off right with its vast selection of rich, luxurious and downright dangerous cakes and pastries. As soon as you walk through the big yellow doors, you’ll be greeted by rustic interiors, vaulted ceilings, and the nostalgic, slightly sweet, yeasty aroma of freshly baked bread. Their sourdough is made from freshly milled Victorian biodynamic flour, so grab a few ready-made baguettes to enjoy later in the day.
Once you've had your fill at Proserpina Bakehouse, make your way up to Geppetto's Workshop and indulge your inner child in the magical wonderland of wooden puppetry and toys with yesteryear charm. Many of the toys at Gepetto's are imported from the best toymakers and passionate toy designers from around the world, including traditional Russian Dolls, rare collectables like the UK Charlie Bears and puppets from America. Potter down the colourful rows of toys and trinkets and marvel at the vast collection of European marionettes, train sets, magician sets, books, costumes and more.
The next stop is an oasis of calm and tranquillity to visit the most pampered plants on the planet and learn the mysterious and timeless art of Bonsai. Chojo Feature Trees in Sassafras offers a hands-on tutorial to share the art form of Bonsai. Bonsai literally translates to ‘tree and pot’, which is why the pot is as much a part of the art as the tree itself. The practice of designing your own Bonsai is cathartic, bringing you closer to the natural world and requires the kind of focus that forces all other thoughts from your mind. The Bonsai artists at Chojo Feature Trees will guide you through sculpting your own Bonsai and the art of balancing positive and negative space. And you’ll get your very own Bonsai to take home!
After eating, playing and meditating, you’ll be hankering for a change of scenery. The R.J. Hammer Arboretum at Woolrich Lookout provides stunning views across the Yarra Valley, Silvan Dam and the majestic Warburton Ranges. Several walking tracks and roads lead to the Arboretum, so you can pick and choose depending on how vigorous a walk you’re up for. The gardens around the Arboretum boast over 150 varieties of native and exotic trees and wildflowers which are stunning in every season. Make sure you bring the goodies you scooped up from Proserpina Bakehouse to nibble on once you hit the summit. If you’re not in the mood for a walk, you can drive and simply soak up the views on arrival.
After a luxuriously relaxing and soul-cleansing day in the Dandenong Ranges, a refreshing drink to wash it down will be the decadent icing on your cake. GinFinity in Belgrave is an open source gin project where you can build your own unique gin blend. Once you've settled into a cosy corner, grab a share-board to start experimenting with your own personal brand of gin by dropping single botanical extracts of orange or fennel or lemon zest into your pure juniper base gin. The blending options are limitless, so unleash your inner distiller and create the gin you've always dreamed of. If you're in the mood to sit in and stay a little longer, check out their huge range of cocktails and delectable menu.