There are 1001 different ways to love it up in the Dandenong Ranges. As romantic getaways go, the misty mountain ranges, cosy cottages, gardens, and quaint towns offer many opportunities to spoil your loved one, propose or celebrate a special anniversary.
Start the weekend right with an indulgent brunch at Maria Cafe in Upwey, which is our top pick for a savoury nosh up with its Spanish-Mex inspired menu. However, if you and your sweetheart are a couple with a sweet tooth, Mary Eats Cake in Montrose makes a bottomless brunch and gin high tea that oozes with cake, class and sophistication.
Next, head up to SkyHigh Mount Dandenong and Scenic Lookout, where the panoramic views of Melbourne's skyline will take your breath away. On a clear day, you can see from the Mornington Peninsula across to Port Phillip Bay and the You Yangs on the southern horizon. Enjoy a drink at the SkyHigh Bistro, soak up the sensational views, stroll through the landscaped gardens and walking trails, or lose yourselves in the SkyHigh Maze.
The nearby township of Olinda is the place to stock up on cornerstone items for any romantic weekend - Yes, we’re talking about flowers, chocolate and jewellery. Choosing from a huge selection of fresh and dried flowers at Rubies and Rust, you can design an arrangement that reflects your individuality. Then drop into Only Mine Gourmet Chocolates, and create your own box of ooey, gooey, chewy handcrafted choccies. They also have a range of vegan and gluten-free options to satisfy your sweet cravings.
Jewellery has always been used to express love and romance. Of course, you don’t need an occasion to spoil your loved ones, but nothing says I love you more than a bespoke memento to remember your romantic weekend away. For beautifully designed and locally made jewellery and handcrafts, head to Tall Trees Studio. The nearby Where The Wilde Things Are specialises in beautiful bridal and bespoke headpieces, among other things. Drop in to browse the one-of-a-kind pieces in store or chat with the artists about customising something just for you.
To get the most out of the Dandenong Ranges, we recommend staying overnight in one of the many delightful accommodation options. Take your pick of cute cottages like Juniper & Rye, off-the-grid escapes like Larnook at Sherbrooke or elegant Tudor style mansions like Marybrooke Manor. Whatever takes your fancy, make sure you book your accommodation well in advance to secure your top pick.
If your accommodation has a fully equipped kitchen, take advantage of the local produce and stock up for a romantic night in. Alternatively, there are plenty of options to indulge in cuisines from around the world. Cognoscenti Food & Wine is a cosy neighbourhood restaurant in Belgrave, featuring modern Australian cuisine with a European twist and boldly celebrates fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. With an impressive wine and cocktail list, and a starlit courtyard, it's the perfect backdrop to your intimate evening.
For something a little less formal, Babaji's Kitchen in Belgrave serves up Southern Indian Street Food, Keralan village-style curries, dosa, craft beer, fresh coconuts and traditional chai. They can also deliver to your local BnB if you're feeling particularly relaxed after your busy day exploring the Dandenong Ranges.
Dinner and a movie is still a classic date night idea, so top off your night by dropping into the historic Cameo Cinemas, which boasts an Outdoor Cinema in summer. Sink into a comfortable deck chair or flop into a couple of bean bags and chill.
For the ultimate, unique romantic experience in the Dandenong Ranges, jump on board the first-class carriage of Puffing Billy Railway and enjoy the nostalgia of bygone days. If a proposal is on the cards, this would be a memorable way to do it. Leaving Belgrave Puffing Billy Station, the train will chug its way through the scenic vista of the Dandenong Ranges for three hours (giving you plenty of time to find the perfect moment to propose). The first-class dining experience serves up a three-course meal and drinks to ‘wet the whistle’ as your travel.