Melbourne, Victoria – June 1999
If you have read my previous reports you will see that many of the things we
do in Melbourne are dependant on the weather. If you want to make polite
conversation with a stranger, talk about the weather.
Melbourne has a reputation for having changeable weather. At this time of the
year, mild Autumn days are interspersed with wet Wintery weather.
The day may start out fine and mild but finish with rain and cold. As a
native, I never travel without some provision for a change in the weather –
just in case!
(Some readers may be aware that there is an inter-city rivalry between
Mebourne and Sydney to the North. I must make the point that although Sydney
weather is more stable, they do have more rain than us.)
If you feel like getting out and about, you can make a very pleasant trip to
“The Dandenongs“. These are the mountain ranges to the east of the city with
the television transmission towers on them.
While they are not big mountains
in comparison to other parts of the world, they are graced with an abundance
of beautiful trees. There are good roads through the hills which provide pleasant driving and hiking through hillsides bathed in Autumnal colours.
For those on a budget, a cheap day can be spent hiking or cycling through
the many reserves and National parks that abound in the area. ‘
Victoria‘ has online information on the parks in the state, and more
specifically, throughout the Dandenongs.
The region has a large number of craft shops and antique stores for those
that want to browse or to shop. There are some interesting items that you
will find in these shops but I cannot be sure that you will pick up any
Small tearooms and restaurants are spread through the area and a stop for a
‘cuppa’ and scones is a great way to spend some time. Many of these
establishments have open fires. One of my great pleasures on a cold day is
to sit in the warmth and watch the world pass by. Of course, if the weather
is mild, it is equally pleasant to sit outside.
The Dandenongs are also the home to “Puffing Billy”. This is a small narrow
gauge railway line that has been lovingly restored by a group of volunteers.
This little steam train takes passengers through the hills from Belgrave to
Emerald and beyond.
“Puffing Billy” has been highly commercialised over the years and is a very
‘touristy’ attraction, but don’t let this distract you from the beauty of
the journey. If you make it to the early outbound trip, you can spend some
time at your destination before returning. Menzies Creek is a popular and
pleasant stop with shops and cafes to keep you amused until it is time to go
By far the best way to see the sights is by car. There are good roads
leading to the Dandenongs and plenty of signposted and advertised scenic
drives. A map of the area is a good idea and the roads have developed
according to the terrain. You could easily become disoriented by roads that
don’t end up where you think they may be heading.
Having a vehicle will also allow you to explore further out into the small
towns at the back of the ranges and up into the ‘wilder’ parts. You also
have the opportunity to stay later and enjoy the view of the city lights from
some of the lookouts. The old fire tower at ‘One-tree hill’ is free, or
you can head to the ‘Skyhigh’ restaurant at the base of the TV towers – an
ordinary place with a spectacular view.
You can put your bicycle on the train and enjoy the ride downhill from
Belgrave to Ferntree Gully. Watch out for the traffic and make sure that your
brakes work! The nature of the hills (they go up and down a lot, in case you
haven’t noticed) means that a bike ride out into the more adventurous
regions is not for the casual rider. There is an opportunity for a keen
rider, however, to explore some of the pathways that a vehicle cannot get
If you don’t have a set of wheels, the suburban train will take you to
Belgrave station where you can connect with “Puffing Billy” or head out for
a day’s hike. You need to allow about an hour and a half for the train trip
if you are heading out from Melbourne. You also need to remember that
suburban trains do not start as early on Sunday and that will eat into your
Warning: Do not go to the city of Dandenong if you want to see the
Dandenongs! You need to make your way to Belgrave, or Ferntree Gully. This
is especially important if you are using public transport. The radial nature
of the Melbourne railway system means that you will need to travel almost
all the way back to Melbourne to change from the Dandenong rail line to the
Belgrave rail line!
Of course, no trip to the Dandenongs is complete without a visit to
the Healsville Sanctuary. This animal sanctuary boasts a terrific collection of Australian Flora and Fauna. A great place to visit if you want to see some of Australias more unusual creatures in a short time. A great place to visit, too, if you want to spend a relaxing day in bush surrounds (A picnic lunch is fabulous in the warmer seasons).
Keep your eye on the weather and adjust your plans accordingly, but most of
all ‘Enjoy!’, and remember the words of the no-so-wise person who said “a
journey of 1000 miles starts with the tying of the bootlaces”.
If you want to know more about Melbourne look at the following links:
And best of all …. a picture of my boots