The Dandenong Ranges and Knox Tourism Information Centre is located at 1211 Burwood Highway at Upper Ferntree Gully, tel: (03) 9758 7522.
At Kalorama there is a general store, which can supply local information, and a lookout on the main road which looks down over Kalorama Park, Silvan Reservoir, forests and farmland. There are also tea rooms.
Kalorama Park is a very pleasant 22-ha reserve on the eastern slopes of the Dandenongs. This land was purchased from the Jeeves family who were among the first European settlers in the area. There are picnic facilities, free gas barbecues and walking trails which lead through open country and mountain ash forest. It is located just off Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd at Kalorama. There are fine views across Silvan Reservoir and the Upper Yarra Valley, tel: 131 963.
The Five Ways Galleries
The Five Ways Galleries specialises in fine art and contemporary paintings. It is open every day but Monday from 11.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. or by appointment and is located at 1282 Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, Kalorama tel: (03) 9728 5975.
Mt Dandenong Observatory
Kalorama Park is located near the intersection of Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd and Ridge Rd. If you follow Ridge Rd you will soon come to a turnoff on the right into Observatory Rd which will take you to Mount Dandenong Observatory. At 633 m above sea-level (the highest point in the Dandenongs) it offers outstanding views of Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay, the You Yangs and Mt Macedon. It is accessible day or night (it is open weekends and school and public holidays) and a kiosk operates in business hours. There are picnic facilities and toilets, tel: 131 963.
Further along Ridge Rd there is a signposted turnoff on the right into Eyre Rd which leads to Bourkes Lookout, offering excellent views of Melbourne on a clear day.
Karwarra Australian Plant Garden
A little over 1 km north of the Kalorama general store, via Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, is the Karwarra Australian Plant Garden which is a two-hectare landscaped botanic garden with a wide range of native wildflowers and other plants, a diversity of birdlife, easy-going walking tracks, picnic facilities, toilets, a nursery and a continuous floral display situated beneath stands of mountain grey gums and messmate. Some of the plants featured include banksia, boronia, correa, crowea, epacris, eucalyptus, grevillea, hakea, hibbertia, persoonia, pomaderris, prostanthera, telopea, thomasia, waratah, rainforest and fern species, indigenous flora, rare species, shade-tolerant plants and a special area for unusual Tasmanian plants. It is open weekends from 1.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. and Tuesday to Friday from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Guided tours are available on weekends and school environment activities are catered for, tel: (03) 9728 4256.
William Ricketts Sanctuary
South of Kalorama on Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd is the rather beautiful and very tranquil William Ricketts Sanctuary which features a series of kiln-fired clay sculptures executed by William Ricketts who bought this land in 1934. From 1949 to 1960 he made numerous trips to Central Australia to live with the Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte Aboriginal people whose culture and traditions inspired his sculpture. From 1970 to 1972 he lived in India where he felt a spiritual affinity with the Indian people. While there he spent some time at an ashram in Pondicherry. Ricketts continued to live and work on his four-acre plot on the side of Mt Dandenong until his death, at the age of 94 years, in 1993.
Ricketts' figurative works were inspired by the attitude of the Aboriginal people towards the land and they reflect his philosophical view that the indigenous people are exemplary in their role as custodians (rather than lords and masters) of the natural environment. The works are artfully situated amidst moss-covered rocks, trickling waterfalls, mountain ash, moist fern gardens and meandering paths, in such a way that they appear to be a part of rather than separate from the natural environment they inhabit. The ambience is tranquil and meditative.
There are toilets, water, a gatehouse/shop, an information centre, a gallery, a kiln display area and an audio-visual display. Picnics, dogs and smoking are forbidden. The sanctuary is open from 10.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. daily, tel: 131 963. A bus service operates from Croydon railway station.
Innisfree Herbs and Follies
Innisfree Herbs and Follies are located at 41-45 Barbers Rd which heads south-east from Kalorama. They provide organic produce such as herbs, eggs, gourmet preserves, oils, vinegars and honey amidst a 3.5-acre garden. It is open most days from 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. or by appointment, tel: (03) 9728 4475.
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 eastern section is known as Olinda (790 ha) which is Spanish for 'Oh, most beautiful'. It extends from Olinda north to Kalorama and east towards Silvan Reservoir Park. It features a relatively undisturbed habitat.
The first European settlers in this area were the Holden family who camped on the slopes from 1855 and felled mountain ash until the turn of the century. Official settlement began in the 1870s and fruit-growing accompanied timbergetting. Guest houses and tea rooms were established to encourage tourists when fruit prices fell.
Gang-gang cockatoos, superb parrots, lyrebirds, wedge-tailed eagles, possums, bats and gliders (all nocturnal), swamp wallabies and the rare broad-toothed rat are all found in this section of the park which consists primarily of dry forest of messmate and narrow-leaved peppermint eucalyptus, although there are wetter gullies where tree ferns, manna gum, mountain grey gum and swamp gum can be found.
There are three picnic areas: Eagle Nest Picnic Ground in the east, the Valley Picnic Ground in the south and the Olinda Falls Picnic Ground in the north-west. To access the latter turn off Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd into Falls Rd which runs along the western boundary of the Olinda section then rejoins the Tourist Rd near Olinda. It leads past the picnic ground which provides access to Olinda Falls.
To access Eagle Nest Picnic Ground turn off the Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd at Kalorama into Barbers Rd which leads into Olinda Creek Rd. Just before you reach Silvan Reservoir turn right into Silvan Rd. You will soon come to a turnoff on the right into Eagle Nest Rd which leads to the picnic area. From here it is possible to walk to Valley Picnic Ground (see entry on Olinda) or you can get there by car if you continue south along Silvan Rd and turn right into Boundary Road (for further information on Valley Picnic Ground see entry on Olinda). Silvan Road eventually leads into Chalet Rd which leads into the Olinda-Monbulk Rd. The latter will take you back to the Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd.
If, instead of turning off Olinda Creek Rd into Silvan Rd, you continue to its end, it leads into Stoneyford Road which is the point of access to Silvan Reservoir Park (see next entry). 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).
Silvan Reservoir Park
The Silvan Reservoir Park is a very popular recreation area in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges. There are 20 ha of manicured lawns and beautifully landscaped picnic areas which consist mainly of exotic vegetation (including cypress, spruce, liquidamber, poplar, and maples), surrounded by eucalypt forest. The European-style formal gardens (constructed in the 1930s) feature azaleas and rhododendrons within a framework of stone terraces and vined pergolas. The Park has children's play facilities, barbecues (with free wood), some fine views and numerous walking tracks. Most paths have ramps for the disabled.
This site was chosen for a reservoir after a severe drought in 1914. Construction commenced in 1926 and the dam was officially opened in 1931. The dam wall is 644 metres long at its crest, 219 metres wide at its base and 43 metres high. It distributes water all over Melbourne and to other reservoirs.
Construction, clearing, urbanisation and introduced species have greatly affected local fauna populations over the years. However, short-beaked echidna, brush-tail and ring-tail possums, sugar gliders, the common wombat and a variety of bat species are found in the park. Birdlife includes herons, spoonbills, ducks, rosellas, kookaburras, wedge-tailed eagles, thornbills, treecreepers, robins, owls and cockatoos.
To get there take Barbers Rd east off the Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd at Kalorama. It runs into Olinda Creek Rd which continues eastwards, eventually leading into Stoneyford Rd. On the right-hand, or southern, side of the road are two entrances which lead into Silvan Reservoir Park, at the northern edge of the reservoir.
The first of the entrances (the western entrance) leads to a carpark, adjacent which are the Lower Rotunda Picnic Area (hot water, wood barbecues and the rotunda itself) and the stilling basin. On the western side of this carpark there is a children's playground and the start of the Stonyford Creek self-guided nature trail - a half-hour loop walk that passes through some remnant bushland and across Stoneyford Creek, incorporating moist eucalypt forest, wattles, banksias, native grasses and gullies of tall tree ferns along the creek banks. Points of interest are indicated by numbered posts. A corresponding leaflet is available from the information shelter by the playground. Near the end of the circular walk, you will see, to the left, the Cypress Picnic Area which has shady trees, open lawns and wood barbecues.
On the eastern side of the carpark is the Peppermint Picnic Area - a shaded arbour with wood barbecues. Nearby are toilets (including disabled facilities) and picnic tables. A trail heads east for 100 metres to the attractions associated with the eastern entrance, past the Top Rotunda Picnic Area which has hot water, wood and electric barbecues, picnic tables and views across the Dandenongs (if you prefer to drive, return to Stoneyford Rd and continue east along Stoneyford Rd for about 150 metres and turn right).
There are fine photographic opportunities from the eastern carpark (the outlet tower is nearby) and information boards. On the eastern side of the carpark is the Torulosa historical stairway which has open lawn areas and views over the reservoir. A loop track leads east, passing by the park office.
Four longer walking tracks cover terrain on the other side of Stoneyford Rd. The Messmate Walking Track (1.2 km) starts from a point on Stoneyford Rd, just east of and opposite the eastern entrance. Follow the trail for about 700 metres to the track junction. If you turn left the track leads back to Stoneyford Rd. If, instead of taking this left, you continue straight ahead, the track eventually reaches a T-intersection. If you turn left here onto the Grey Gum Track it leads back to Stoneyford Road at a point opposite the western entrance. If you turn right, instead of left, at the aforesaid T-intersection, the track leads into Dandenong Ranges National Park. Contact the Parks Victoria office at Upper Ferntree Gully for further details, tel: (03) 9758 1342.
The park is open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. from December to January. It closes at sunset at all other times except from June to July when it closes at 5.00 p.m.
If you are coming from Melbourne, follow Canterbury Rd, turn right at York Rd at Mt Evelyn and follow the signs to the park (Melway map 120 H11).
Tours are conducted in the park by Allwalks (bushwalking) and Off Road Cycling Adventures. Talks and tours can also be organised with Parks Victoria, tel: 131 963. Large groups and school groups should book four weeks in advance as some picnic areas and rotundas may be reserved. An entry fee applies.
Opposite the western entrance to Silvan Reservoir Park is the start of the Melba Walk (5 km return) within the Mt Evelyn section of Dandenong Ranges National Park. Signs lead along the Grey Gum Track and through eucalypt forests, zigzagging onto Track 10, then Track 12, making left turns at both Tracks 13 and 18 into fern gullies. At the end of Track 18 turn right and walk through the gate onto Stoneyford Rd and back to the start. The Olinda Creek Walk (5.6 km) and the Mt Evelyn Aqueduct Track (7.2 km) are two other walks in this section of Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Heidelberg School Artists 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.