The Dandenong Ranges are a natural wonderland with over 200 kilometres of walking trails for you to explore. Less than 1-hour drive from Melbourne, the eastern ranges climb up and out of the city-haze, forming a spectacular paradise for wildlife and wilderness. Charming villages dot the range-side and are a delightful pit stop for coffee, snacks and supplies. Lorna Cafe in Ferntree Gully is one of our favourite spots to caffeinate and carb-load before a long walk. Sink your teeth into their southern fried chicken served on savoury waffles with pickled celery and jalapeno - it’s a real kick start!
HINT: Some of the tracks were damaged by the 2021 storms and may be closed until mid-2022. Check the Parks website before planning your day.
The Kokoda Track Memorial Walk and 1000 Steps is a heart-pumping climb winding steeply uphill and through spectacular rainforest. This track can get quite busy on the weekend so it's best to start early. The nearby Lyrebird Track is a less intense 6 kilometre loop through lush native bushland. As the name would suggest, the track is home to the elusive singing Lyrebirds. Tread carefully, and you might be lucky enough to spot them.
If a meandering stroll is more your style or you are walking with children, the Living Bush Nature Walk will have you ducking and weaving your way under ferns and past tall Eucalypt trees towards the Acacia Picnic Ground, which is a great spot to glimpse native birdlife. This track has a tendency to get a little damp at times, so wear shoes with good grip - a waterproof jacket wouldn’t go astray either.
The Mathias Track is a well trodden path and it’s dog-friendly. You’ll also spot horse riders, mountain bike riders, walking groups and runners on this track, so it can get quite busy - especially on the weekend. The roundtrip from Falls Road to Silvan Road is just over 7 kilometres, so pack some water for yourself and your furry friend. Your pooch will need to be kept on a leash at all times, but there is an off-lead dog park near the old Olinda Golf Course from which you can join the Mathias Track. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for kookaburras, cockatoos and parrots.
For something a little less busy, the Sherbrooke Falls Walk gives you a few options depending on the amount of time you have available. Heading out from the Sherbrooke Picnic Ground, the track is a leisurely walk for beginners and is suitable for parents with children. The path winds along the western side of the forest to Sherbrooke Falls and back which is around 4 kilometres. You can continue past the falls to complete the entire 8-kilometre return track. There is a reasonably steep climb to challenge you once you get past the falls, but we know you can do it! Alternatively, you can head to Grant’s of Sherbrooke on the eastern side, pick up a coffee and a local souvenir, and head for the nearby Lyrebird Walk.
The R.J. Hammer Arboretum is another beautiful short walk with a sweeping track that meanders through rows of native and exotic trees. Walk amongst Birches, Maples, Oaks and Sequoia trees and marvel at the variety. This walk is particularly stunning to visit in the Autumn when the deciduous leaves change to warm, crackly colours of russet, sepia and amber. It's also an excellent place for a picnic with views across the Yarra Valley, Silvan Dam and the Warburton Ranges. Once you're finished, head down to the Kallista township to check out the mix of art, antique and craft shops. Epoche is an enchanting Steiner-inspired store worth exploring during your visit. With a beautiful collection of ethically made artisan gifts, books and heirloom toys for both the young and old to ignite the imagination.
While you can break the Olinda Creek Walking Track into smaller chunks, the entire 10-kilometre hike is worth doing if you’ve got the time, taking you past dense forests, towering trees and lush gullies. Some parts of the track tend to get a little muddy, but it’s otherwise a leisurely walk on a wide path. Keep an eye out for Mountain Grey Gumtrees that still bear scars from the Black Friday Bushfires that ripped through the area in 1939. If you’re quiet, you may be lucky enough to spot native critters like black wallabies, echidna and Lyrebirds.
As well as being great for walking trails and hikes, the Dandenong Ranges are commonly referred to as ‘Victoria’s food bowl’ for a reason. There are plenty of cafes and shops in the villages to pick up picnic supplies and restaurants to restore your energy for the drive home after your hike. Watch out for farm-fresh roadside produce and artisan food stalls sprinkled throughout the hills as well. Pulling over at farm gates to buy local produce directly from the grower is a real treat.