The Dandenong Ranges and Knox Tourism Information Centre is located at 1211 Burwood Highway at Upper Ferntree Gully, tel: (03) 9758 7522.
Dandenong Ranges National Park
Dandenong Ranges National Park (3215 ha) is a very attractive and popular attraction which beckons Melburnians who can gaze upon its western slopes. It offers opportunities for walking, sightseeing, picnicking, nature observation and car touring. More than 350 plant species have been recorded in the park, including the rare cinnamon wattle and smooth tea-tree, 130 bird species, 31 species of mammals (most are nocturnal), 21 reptile species and nine amphibians.
The Park is divided into five sections. The southern section is known as Sherbrooke (over 800 ha) which extends from Selby in the south to Sherbrooke in the north and the Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd in the north-west. It is bisected in the middle by Monbulk Rd.
This part of the Park has substantial stands of mountain ash. Most grew after a severe fire in the 1920s. The largest flowering plant in the world, it can reach a height of 100 m and can live for 500 years. These forests are home to lyrebirds, ring-tailed and brush-tailed possums, blue-winged parrots and treecreepers which forage from the tree trunks.
There are three picnic grounds. Grants Picnic Ground is in Monbulk Rd, just be the intersection with Sherbrooke Rd at Kallista. It has barbecues, picnic tables, toilets, an information board, a kiosk, a picnic shelter, a disabled toilet and several walking tracks. The Margaret Lester Forest Loop Walk (300 m) passes through mountain ash forest and has been especially designed for the ease of the disabled. The Hardy Gully Nature Loop Walk (700 m) is only a short distance from the picnic area. The kiosk can provide a pamphlet which provides details relating to 10 numbered signs (it is meant to be followed in an anti-clockwise direction) relating to the forest, tree ferns, bats, blackwood, blackberry, epiphytic ferns, mountain ash, lichens and native flowers. The longer (7.1 km) Eastern Sherbrooke Forest Loop Walk also starts from the picnic area. It follows Lyrebird Walk, then Neumann Rd, passing through cleared areas created by a series of bushfires and through mountain ash and messmate-stringybark forest. At Paddy Track Junction turn south and cross Hardy Creek before climbing Welch Track and following Coles Ridge Rd back to the picnic ground.
For information on the other two picnic grounds in this section of the park - Sherbrooke Picnic Ground and O'Donohue Picnic Ground - see entry on Sherbrooke.
For general information and literature contact Parks Victoria on 131 963 or, if you require more detailed information contact the office at Upper Ferntree Gully on (03) 9758 1342. You can also visit the Parks Victoria website on http://www.parks.vic.gov.au which provides contact details for commercial operators in the park: AAA Plus Surf Tours, AAT Kings Tours (coach and 4WD tours), Allwalks (bushwalking), Art Tracks (bushwalking), Australis Nature Tours, Auswalk (bushwalking and abseiling), Autopia Tours (bushwalking and coach tours), Driving Force (4WD tours), Excellent Tours (coach tours), Footsteps Holidays (bushwalking), Owen Correa Outback Adventures (4WD tours), Ventura Coach Holidays and Young At Heart Tours (coach tours).
The George Tindale Memorial Gardens
The George Tindale Memorial Gardens are a popular attraction located on hillside terrain in Sherbrooke Rd (about halfway between Kallista and Sherbrooke). Covering 2.4 hectares, the Gardens have an impressive range of exotic flowering plants and shrubs under a canopy of mountain ash.
The property was purchased in 1915 by Herbert Harper for use as a holiday retreat. He built the existing house, established Harper's Drive, started an English garden and received some distinguished visitors, including prime minister Billy Hughes. Improvements were made to the property by a Mr Potter who purchased the property in 1939. However, the most substantial work on the existing garden was carried out by George Tindale, a research scientist with the Victorian Department of Agriculture, and his wife. They bought the property in 1958. Mrs Tindale bequeathed the garden to the Victorian Conservation Trust in 1980 and Parks Victoria took over the management in 1995.
In springtime, the garden boasts magnolias, azaleas, camellias, cornus and spring bulbs. Summer sees liliums, fuchsias, hydrangeas and perennials in bloom. There are cyclamen, nerines, lapageria and autumn foliage in autumn and camellias, luculia, rhododendrons and hellebores in winter.
The gardens are open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily, tel: 131 963. The entry fee is $4 for adults, $3 for concessions and $2 for children. Met bus 694 from Belgrave Station stops near the front gate. There are picnic and toilet facilities and many walking paths. You can picnic on the lawn and guided tours are available, tel: 131 963.
The Johns Hill Reserve
The Johns Hill Reserve, to the south-east of Kallista, on Ridge Rd offers excellent views of Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay and Westernport. Head south-east of Kallista on the Kallista-Emerald Rd. After a short distance take the right turn into Grant Ulla Rd. When you reach the intersection, turn left into Ridge Rd and the reserve is at its end.
Heidelberg School and Historical Trail
This route is designed to take interested parties to the approximate sites depicted in the paintings of those associated with the Heidelberg School (i.e., Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers, Louis Buvelot, Tom Roberts, Clara Southern, David Davies, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Charles Conder, Tudor St George Tucker, Eigene Von Guerard, May Vale and Jane Price).
At each such site there is a reproduction of the relevant painting, providing insight into the artist's interpretation of the landscape and into how the landscape has changed since that time. It passes largely along the Yarra River, through Heidelberg, Bulleen, Templestowe, Eltham, Diamond Creek, Research, Warrandyte, passing through Ringwood and Montrose, en route to Kalorama, Olinda, Kallista and Upper Ferntree Gully. There is a guiding brochure which can be obtained from Banyule Council (tel: 03 9490 4222) or the project's organiser, tel: (03) 9458 5955 or (0418) 356 768.
Vintage Fun offers chauffeur-driven rides in vintage cars. They pick up from anywhere for any occasion, tel: (03) 9754 7670. Another local operator is Top End Tours, tel: (1300) 130 766.