by The Wandering Wagners
Ah what a perfect weekend for us, the Wandering Wagner’s to head out of the city into the Dandenong Ranges for a weekend escape. We were feeling a little peckish so decided to stop at the Mount Dandenong Bakery and Patisserie. This traditional old-fashioned bakery has artisanal bread, sweet treats, scrumptious pies and even made-to-order sandwiches that we are told are hard to come by in this area. Happy customers come from other suburbs for their specialties like their unique almond croissant and vanilla slice. We even overhead a returning customer say “I already had a vanilla slice today and I’m back for another.” They are very local-based and were able to feed the locals well during lockdown. They even have a sister bakery called Yarra Flats Bakery where their signature pies are made and they swap for the bread that is baked at the Mount Dandenong Bakery and Patisserie!
We took our bakery picnic to Alfred Nicholas Gardens and were we ever in for a treat. The calm water by the lake gave the perfect backdrop to enjoy our eats and take in the beautiful scenery. The ducks and birds came to say hello but we told them our food was for humans only! Make sure you get there before they close for the night (check seasonal times). The beautiful ferns, tranquil lake and stunning greenery are great for a spot to lounge, relax and take it all in. We forgot our picnic blanket but there were picnic tables for us to use. Dogs are also allowed, so if you have your pooch with you this is a great spot to explore and well worth the steep-ish hike back up from the lake and it is a lovely walk to explore.
We were delighted with our home for the weekend called the Loft in The Mill Boutique Accommodation. This is a replica of a 19th-century bluestone English flour mill. The decor and the grounds are so stunning that we weren’t ready to leave by the end of the weekend. Our room design was so cute and stocked with everything we needed. They even had an iron and a light breakfast. There are several suites, have double spas, crackling fires and an adorable peaceful garden to sit in with comfy outdoor seating. The Loft in The Mill is located in the heart of Olinda, within walking distance to local shops, the friendly staff can point you in the right direction for things to do and see and eat and more! We had such an amazing time and would love to stay again!
For dinner, we were lucky enough to enjoy a delicious dinner at the Olinda Tea House. This modern Asian fusion had our taste buds jumping for joy. We snagged the swinging chair/table and swung our way through dinner. The San Choi Bao for an entree hit all the spots and our favourite main was the stir-fried eggplant with potato and capsicum their special soy sauce! I wanted to come back there for breakfast I was so taken by the tasty flavours. Their signature Japanese tea and a smooth Pinot noir quenched my thirst. We even got to enjoy the alpacas in the garden (which you can pay $5 to feed them) and the stunning gardens are peaceful and worth a beautiful stroll before or after dinner. The ambience was soothing and we can’t wait to come back! (They even have a separate vegan menu)!
The next morning we awoke energised and ready to get up and enjoy the RJ Hamer Arboretum for sunrise. The stunning view did not disappoint and quite literally took my breath away. It overlooks the Yarra Valley and the Silvan Dam. The morning light gave a beautiful view of the valley blanketed in a fog that lifted as the sun rose. There are trails all around as well and it was so worth the trip being surrounded by such beautiful nature.
We headed to Seasons restaurant for a mouth-watering lunch. They have both indoor seating and an outdoor terrace. Using fresh and tasty local produce this fork to fork (Joe wanted to note pitchfork to dining fork) restaurant overlooks the immaculate gardens of Cloudehill. They have a cocktail menu, scrumptious food choices and delicious desserts. The special salad with grilled peaches, goat cheese, walnut, rocket salad with truffle oil was so yummy as well as the vegetable tart with caramelised figs was had to go give our praise and compliments to the chef himself. Having seen all the deserts on display we shared a lemon tart that had me mmmm-ing non-stop.
We next headed down to the Diggers Club which has all your gardening needs. From here we were lucky enough to have a tour from Jeremy - the head all-star behind these impressive grounds. He did give us a wonderful summary and now we are thinking we need his 90,000-word book to get more information. School groups, garden groups, and other tours are available. They have a stunning circular area for weddings and events. Cloudehill is even hosting a Shakespeare event in the coming weeks. The hundreds and hundreds of trees and plants and flowers thrive on this volcanic soil in these stunning gardens. Having twice the rainfall of Melbourne and the cooler temperatures provides perfect growing conditions for many plants and trees. Varieties of beechwoods and stunning rare Japanese trees have been growing for a hundred years. There are beautiful ceramic sculptures around and overall a stunning place that we soaked in every colour, leaf, flower, shrub and more.
Having dropped into a beautiful state from our lovely tour and visual eye candy we headed to William Ricketts Sanctuary. The cool shaded garden shows where William Ricketts lived and was commissioned for his incredible sculptures throughout the sanctuary. This iconic area has been well preserved for many to enjoy. William’s hope was for the love of plants and animals and the beauty of the mountains and the earth to be felt by all so we are inspired to take care of the precious earth we are so lucky to live on. When relocating to this spot he made sure to disturb as little of nature as possible. This is a free sanctuary and donations can be made for its continued preservation. William Rickett’s shared aboriginal philosophies as he lived in aboriginal communities where he gained lots of knowledge. He wanted to show the importance of preserving the natural landscape and to be a place that we respect the spirituality of the earth and the environment in which we live. We even got to witness the monthly art class that had students there and also a camera propped up for zoom! It was so serene and magical.
For dinner, we headed back in time to the Micawber Tavern. The old English charm of this tavern has live music to enjoy and a beautiful beer garden outside near a peaceful creek. The sounds of the water and room for your children to run and play outside created a lovely outdoor atmosphere for an on-tap beer and a tavern-style meal. They host functions, Trivia Tuesdays and Friday and Saturday nights have live music and Sunday night acoustic sessions as well.
Our last morning we headed to the Sherbrooke Falls walk. This peaceful trail underneath an enormous forest canopy was very enjoyable. Starting from Sherbrooke picnic grounds there are a few trails to enjoy (and easy if you prefer a leisurely walk). The sounds of the falls are soothing and don’t expect a massive waterfall but the tranquillity of the atmosphere is well worth the visit.
Before heading back to the city we knew we couldn't miss the iconic Miss Marple’s Tea Room in Sassafrass. Note there can be a queue before they open at 11 am, especially on the weekends but if you can grab a table it is well worth the wait! We started with the Ploughman’s Lunch to get our greens in before we enjoyed their signature waffles and dessert! Iced coffees, a wide selection of teas, this bustling and quirky Tea Room is often quite full but has some of the tastiest of indulgences like amazing sundaes and treats. We left with bellies full and hearts warm from this lovely weekend away. It has been so nice to support the local businesses after a tough pandemic year that relies heavily on tourism. We found that that Stay Close Go Further has been proven to be an incredible weekend away just on the outskirts of Melbourne. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Dandenong Ranges.