The scene is set as soon as we walk in the gate. Sitting unceremoniously in plastic buckets are glossy red Waratah blooms for sale. Nothing special to Dandenong locals but to a Queenslander, it was enough to send me fumbling for my camera!
A mere 35kms from Melbourne the Dandenong Ranges are a low mountain range of rolling hills, deep fern filled gullies and towering Australian Mountain Ash trees. It is hardly surprising that this beautiful area is chock full of boutiques, quaint little tea shops and exquisite (and expensive) B&Bs aimed squarely at the Melbourne weekend market. But that is not us, we are here for the gardens!
The National Rhododendron Garden in the village of Olinda is an utter banquet for the senses. We had just missed the best of the Azalea colour but the rhododendrons are still in fine petal, and there is so much more to explore!
After the splendour of this garden we go for a change of pace and head for the William Ricketts Sanctuary. This is a garden for quiet reflection, a sculpture garden designed by a man with a passion for nature. He admired the connection our indigenous people, the aboriginals, have with the land.
Several of the gardens we visit had belonged to wealthy landowners who left their properties to the people of Victoria. One such property is the glorious Alfred Nicholas Gardens. I might just mention here that to explore these gardens you need walking shoes and a fondness for hills! This beautiful lake is down the bottom of the garden and it is a good walk uphill back to the car park!
The final garden we take on is Pirianda Gardens, and I say take on because it is very steep! And of course all the good stuff is at the bottom, so another lung bursting walk, but so worth it! This garden feels very much like an arboretum to me as it has a wonderful collection of trees.
Tips for visiting the gardens of the Dandenong Ranges
All these wonderful gardens have FREE entry. And many are dog friendly!
Wear comfy shoes and be prepared for hilly terrain, what goes down…..
We fell in love with the Bakery at Olinda. It is not in the main area of town, thus on busy days you can always get a parking spot. And it has the best Almond Croissants I have tasted in Victoria (so far!)
We were house sitting in Montrose (just down the hill) so were able to pace ourselves, rather than cram it all into one day. If you can, give yourselves a few days to explore the gardens and do some walks.