Dandenong Ranges National Park
The towering forests of mountain ash and cool, sun-ﬁltered fern glades, now protected within Dandenong Ranges National Park, have been a favourite retreat for more than a century. On the edges of the park are a string of mountain townships, with shops specialising in arts and crafts, antiques and bric-a-brac, and Devonshire teas and more substantial fare.
The national park is an amalgamation of several parks, creating a remarkably dense and picturesque forested haven on the edge of suburbia. Adjacent to the park are several interesting exotic gardens and reserves, including the world-renowned National Rhododendron Gardens, the grand Alfred Nicholas Gardens and William Ricketts Sanctuary, with its unusual sculptural forms.
From Melbourne via Burwood Hwy to Upper Ferntree Gully Rd then Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd; or via Canterbury Rd to Montrose then Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd
Spring to late autumn
35 km east of Melbourne
PV 13 1963
Dandenong (03) 9758 7522
Featured Activities in the National Park
Take in the sensational views from the SkyHigh Mount Dandenong Observatory
Picnic in the ﬁltered light of one of the park’s many ferny glades
Listen for the echoing call of the whipbird
Walk to the site of the lovely Sherbrooke Falls
- Dandenong Ranges National Park, Eco-friendly activity
- Dandenong Ranges National Park, Hiking and walking, Hiking and walking
- Dandenong Ranges National Park, Recreational Wildlife-watching, Recreational Wildlife-watching
A look at the past
The area was traditionally used by the Boonwurrung and Woiworung people. After the arrival of Europeans in the 1800s, trees were felled for timber and land cleared for farming, roads and railways. As early as the 1870s day-trippers were heading to the Dandenongs to savour the cool, clear mountain air and the peaceful forests and valleys, and in 1882 an area was reserved as parkland. In 1900 the narrow-gauge Puffing Billy steam train from Ferntree Gully to Gembrook commenced, bringing still more visitors to the region.
Although best known for its wonderful mountain ash and elegant ferns, there are over 350 native plant species growing here, including stringybark species that thrive on the range’s drier, western slopes, and native grasses, delicate plants such as summer spider orchids and various ﬂowering bush peas. Chandlers Track and Edgar Track are two good sites to see wildﬂowers in season.
Of the more than 30 mammal species that inhabit the park, most are night-feeders, shy and elusive, but sharp-eyed wildlife-watchers may spot an echidna or perhaps wallabies during the day. Twenty-one reptile species have also been recorded here.
The superb lyrebird, renowned for its mimicry of other birds’ calls, the male’s showy tail feathers and dance ritual, is most commonly associated with the ranges, but sulphur-crested cockatoos, rosellas, currawongs and kookaburras can also be seen and heard. Two evocative sounds are the whiplash call of the scrub-dwelling whipbird, and the tinkle of bellbirds, which echo through the forests.
Walking and picnicking are highest on the list of activities, though enthusiasts can cycle and there is good birdwatching. Scenic drives wind through the park’s forest and gullies.
Three hundred kilometres of walking tracks crisscross the park, from self-guided nature trails suitable for a leisurely stroll to four designated tracks for day walks. More challenging walks are the Tourist Track Walk (16 km, 6 hours one way) that descends from Sassafras to the lovely waters of Emerald Lake; Sherbrooke Trail (9.6 km, 3½ hours one way) through Sherbrooke Forest; Western Trail (14.6 km, 7 hours one way), which includes the 1000 Step, Kokoda Memorial Track; and Olinda Forest Trail (17.5 km, 7½ hours one way), which passes the picturesque Olinda Falls and ends at the SkyHigh Mount Dandenong Observatory.
Picnickers are well catered for with natural forest settings, grassy glades, gas and electric barbecues and some ﬁreplaces (you must bring your own ﬁrewood). Check to make sure that the picnic area you are heading for is open, as some are closed until further notice. Note that there is no vehicle access to Valley Picnic Ground.
The highest point in the ranges (over 600 metres) is the SkyHigh Mount Dandenong Observatory, which is worth visiting for its stellar views. There is also an English-style garden, maze and bistro. If the weather is poor, the district’s multitude of restaurants, tearooms and antique shops are other diversions.