Folly Farm Rural Retreat, Dandenong Ranges review: Cosy retreat

Read our writer's views on this property below

Dandenong Ranges, vic

192 Falls Road, Olinda

Phone: (03) 9751 2544



The location Just when it seems Melbourne's endless eastern suburbs will stretch all the way to the Pacific coast, the Dandenong Ranges declare an end to the sprawl and the start of nature. High above the city, impossibly tall and straight mountain ashes, giant tree ferns and hidden glades create a cool and peaceful retreat.

The place The cottage at Folly Farm was planned as a packing shed and office for the blueberry crop, but at some point during construction the vision shifted from functional to fabulous. The spacious cottage has been built in the same fashion as the 1912 farm house, with polished timber floors, high ceilings and a four-poster bed. Decorated in cottage style with a hint of French provincial, it makes for a cosy retreat a deux - the guest book tells of many romantic evenings, two of which involved marriage proposals. The cottage also looks over Edna Walling gardens, classified by the National Trust. Walling was the pioneering landscape designer who broke gender and horticultural boundaries when she began creating her remarkable gardens in the 1920s.

The experience This is a place where nature's loveliness meets brilliant human design. The couch next to the corner fire is a perfect place to watch the mist tumble across the mountain tops, while in the foreground two fat kookaburras perch on posts. But the Edna Walling legacy is the main thing here. A stroll through the gardens, with her signature low stone walls, shows how Walling sought to make her gardens a "place of repose for mind and body". There is also a wonderful sense of history; those who have walked these paths include Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier, who came to the farm for afternoon tea.

Don't miss Cloudehill Nursery and Gardens (, a few minutes up the road from the village of Olinda. Grand garden "rooms" have been created on the hillside, a wonderful place to walk off a lunch enjoyed in the restaurant perched above. In Olinda, the Mangana arts and crafts shop ( is a magnet for visitors.

Need to know

Cost: $500 for a two-night minimum stay, including breakfast (occasional single Saturdays available).

Distance: 50km (50 minutes' drive) east of Melbourne.

Children: By prior arrangement.

Pets: Yes.

Wheelchair access: Yes.