We are huge fans of pulling our boots on and getting out into nature. Whether you call it walking, hiking or tramping we love it! And the gorgeous Dandenong Ranges, just 35kms from the heart of Melbourne, are a walker’s dream.
After all those steep gardens I thought we deserved an easy mark to start. So we pack a picnic and head for Sherbrooke Falls, which promises a “low difficulty” walk. Falls is a bit of a misnomer, more like an enthusiastic creek! But saying that the path in is worth it. We hear rowdy cockatoos overhead and have to strain our necks to spot them as they flit between the branches of the gigantic Mountain Ash trees. Beneath the canopy nature has skilfully planted a wonderland of fern trees, home to many smaller birds.
Back at the picnic grounds we hadn’t even opened our picnic before univited lunch guests arrive. The numerous notices made it quite plain, that birds are not to be fed. “Keep the wildlife wild” it stated, but no one had told the King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas this! And no, for the record we do not weaken, we had learnt our lesson about not feeding wildlife at O’Reilly’s!
The next day we are back on form and embark on the “more challenging” Channel 10 Track/Camelia Loop circuit. This walk goes from the Doongalla Homestead Picnic Area. And yes, the track goes straight up from the get-go and there are some red-face exertion moments, but again the scenery is more than compensation.
My favourite part of this walk is the history angle. There is no longer a Doongalla Homestead only a site where the magnificent 32 room manor house once stood. What captures my fascination is although the house was built by a member of Parliament in 1892 and named Invermay. It was sold in 1908 to a Miss Helen Simson who renamed it Doongalla, which means “place of peace”. Miss Simson made extensive improvements to the 279 hectare property and planted a beautiful garden, much of which is still evident today. Fortunately she sold the property in 1922, ten years before it was destroyed by a bushfire.
As I sit on a well placed bench above the terraced lawn I wonder about Miss Simson. And imagine her sitting in this same spot and surveying the timeless bush scene the way I am now. What a gusty lady she must have been to take on a vast property like this on her own in those days. The Dandenongs had cast their spell over her the same way they had me.
Tips for Walking in the Dandenongs
We found great information on walks and maps on the parks Victoria website. Many of the tracks are one way, but it is easy to combine a few to make an interesting walk. Another excellent site is explorethedandenongs.com.au
I can’t recommend the Doongalla Homestead Picnic site enough, it is truly beautiful. We went during the week and we were the only people there, take a picnic and enjoy the peace, even if you don’t walk. The road in is dirt, but the Victorians do excellent dirt roads, our 4WD didn’t know herself this one was so smooth!