Another day in the life of being ‘hicks in the sticks’, as my old nanna affectionately regarded us. We head off day tripping, as in days of old, to tour the local Blue Dandenongs to the east of Melbourne, Victoria in Australia.
The Dandenongs are a perennial tourist attraction for motorists and coach trips, an easy driving distance from the state’s capital. In autumn, there are great stands of brilliant, blazing trees, changing colours from red and orange to golden yellow. Then unleaving, as a poet once wrote. Family fun can be simple, such as kids and grandchildren playing in the piles of Autumn leaves.
In spring, the day trippers can spend happy hours at tulip farms or take photos of breathtaking scenic vistas, as the hills overlook the suburban sprawl of Melbourne on one side and the seemingly neverending panorama of the Great Dividing Range on the other. Vast mountains roll away into the horizon, it’s a spectacular sight.
Day touring can include a visit to any one of the parks and gardens, to enjoy gazing at beautiful giant rhododendrons and azaleas, all in bloom amid greenery and mysterious lakes. Some of these gardens are quite historic, always a destination. They are colourful in spring, and a shady delight on hot summer afternoons.
Days in the Dandenongs can find bushwalkers and bird watchers in the national parks, aflutter with vivid jewels of parrots, lorikeets, blue wrens and bellbirds. Lyrebirds and nocturnal fauna can be found on night visits to the forests. The tree ferns and Mountain Ash (which is said to be the world’s tallest flowering plant) help keep temperatures down.
The 1,000 Steps Walk (also known as the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk) is an institution for fitness enthusiastics. It’s a 3-kilometre trek and one of the most popular spots in the national park, but the terrain is steep and should not be underestimated. It’s definitely for the totally energetic, but worth the feel-good at the end of the jaunt. Along the way you’ll discover plaques depicting the lives of soldiers who fought and died on the real Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea during World War II.
Puffing Billy is an vintage steam train, lovingly restored that can transport you back to a gentler time. It’s no surprise that a trip on it is a popular attraction. The train winds its way through the bushlands, hooting in the hills. You’ll want to allow at least half a day if you decide to journey your way into the Dandenong Ranges on the steam train, but you’ll enjoy a traditional morning tea of lamingtons, crackers with Vegemite and tea or coffee if you do choose this mode.
A definite must is day spent exploring the many of nurseries in the area, to learn about and purchase magnificent specimens of flora. Art galleries are also a frequent tour, nestled amid the tree ferns and Mountain Ash gums.
No day trip in the blue Dandenongs in cooler times is complete without a cosy café, a crackling log fire, a pot of tea or coffee, and hot scones freshly baked, lashings of whipped cream and lovely jam. There is more formal dining in the variety of restaurants, ever popular for wonderful wedding receptions for nuptials in any age group.
Love is in the air, for our days in the Dandenongs, for all of us being ‘hicks in the sticks’!