The Dandenong Ranges lie about thirty-five kilometres outside Melbourne proper. Filled with lush scenes of trickling waterfalls and secret gardens, these low mountain ranges were a beautiful spot to hike, climb, and take photos. We visited the iconic mountain range during autumn, which created a phenomenally vibrant seasonal colour palette of rich oranges, deep, warm-toned yellows, and fading greens, as we walked across a carpet of leaves.
We visited several gardens, including the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, which are known for the iconic bridges which criss-cross the central lake. Unfortunately, these bridges were being serviced when we visited, which we were assured was a rare occurrence. Still, the surrounding gardens were beautiful to traipse around it, as we discovered low-hanging branches shedding leaves, turning rust for autumn, and ornamental lakes peppered with lazy ducks meandering through the water.
The RJ Hamer Arboretum is a must-see for any trip up to the Dandenong Ranges. Set seemingly apart from the otherwise overgrown mountains, this arboretum is stunningly vast, empty and peaceful, with charming gazebos to gaze upon the flat, sloping planes. As someone who thrives off of adventure and activity, I particularly enjoyed kicking off my shoes and frolicking amongst the rows of neatly manicured and enormously tall trees.
Our last stop was a secret lookout, known to few but loved by those who have been there. Rather than paying a fee at the official SkyHigh lookout spot, there is a private outcrop on the mountain ridge that was once used by paragliders to take off across Melbourne. To get to this location, we parked our car after turning off at Ridge Road, and took the Kyeema walking track until we reached the paragliding platform, only a few hundred metres away. After walking through winding ridges upwards through the mountain, the paragliding site suddenly opens up into a large expanse with an unbelievable view of greater Melbourne, and far in the horizon, the washed out silhouette of the CBD. We arrived just before sunset, and the cloud cover made for an impressive view of shadows on the landscape below, and slats of sun filtering through the sky. A must-see during sunrise or sunset, this lookout capped off a peaceful and serene day in the Dandenongs.