74. Explore the Dandenong Ranges using only public transport

27 06 2012

I can’t remember why they decided to wave like the Queen.

Ever since Uni finished, Lucy and I have been living like tourists. As such, we had been looking at getting out of the city for a day to explore some of the greater Victoria region. We’d hoped to head down the Mornington Peninsula, but it was looking as though we’d need to get the train to Frankston and then a lengthy bus journey to get anywhere near Mornington.

A much easier option, it seemed, was to go an explore the Dandenong Ranges.

Now, when we told people of our plans, we were met with questioning eyebrows – even the lady in Tourist Information thought we were a bit foolish to want to go there without a car, particularly at ‘this time of year’.

You know what? It was the easiest day trip ever. And it was beautiful.

Catching the 9.16am train from Flinders Street to Upper Ferntree Gully (Belgrave Line, Platform 3 in case you’re looking to recreate this trip) we headed out of the city eating Salted Caramel cupcakes that I’d picked up from Little Cupcakes en route.

Once at the station, a women stole 5 cents off Lara which we thought may be a bad omen for the day. This fear continued when we got a bit lost trying to find the correct bus stop and missing our intended bus.

Fortunately we then found the 688 bus stop directly opposite the exit of the station next to the Tourist Information building. Buses are at least two an hour on weekdays so it wasn’t too much of a wait before we got on the bus and headed to our first stop for the day: Sassafras.

Chocolate Tart, Apple and Pear Batter Cake and Lemon Cheesecake. YUM.

We still don’t know how to pronounce Sassafras, but we do know that they love Devonshire Teas. We stopped off for morning cake and had a wander around the small town – finding an amazing produce shop with vast quantities of tasters which we enjoyed before Lucy bought some expensive, but delicious, Goats Cheese.

You see how it could be a little bit creepy?

Next we caught the bus to Olinda. Olinda, as Lara declared, is a great place to bury a body. It’s quiet and creepy-looking forests are in an abundance. We did a circuit of the town (it seems quite a few shops there close on Tuesdays) then headed off to the National Rhododendron Gardens which were a short walk away. Entry to the gardens was free and on a clear winter’s day they were beautiful (even if rather lacking in rhododendrons). There was a lovely lake that provided ample photo opportunities and Lucy declared Olinda to be a very romantic place.

I’m not sure how one place can be both ‘romantic’ and ‘a great place to bury a body’, but seemingly Olinda justifies both those qualities.

Pretty lake, National Rhododendron Gardens.

Look at that blue sky – perfect Melburnian winter day!

After lunch (be warned that everything is much more expensive out there) we got back on the bus and headed up to SkyHigh Mount Dandenong. By this point we were very cold, so after pointing out the city on the horizon (unfortunately it was pretty misty) we went down to the bistro and got three hot chocolates to drink by the fireplace.

We wanted to check out the maze but it was closed and the English Garden had little to explore bar the Wishing Tree which offered some humorous photo opportunities.

We caught a bus back towards Upper Ferntree Gully direct from SkyHigh, but you could’ve equally got back on the 688 heading towards Croydon and continued to see what the other side of the mountain offered.

Lucy and Lara at SkyHigh Mount Dandenong.

So was it worth the effort? Most definitely. And using a concession Myki it cost less than $5 for the whole day’s transport. Perfect for an exchange student’s day out (with a local student joining us for the tourist fun too!)

Unfortunately I’m leaving Melbourne on Saturday, but if anyone has any other daytrip suggestions feel free to suggest away…

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