Have it all close to home at the Dandenong Ranges
Take a good look up that hill – you’re going up. Way up. The steep and fern-lined 1000 Steps and Kokoda Memorial Walk is one of Melbourne’s most popular walking trails, and is your gateway to the beautiful paths of the Dandenong Ranges, skyscraping gums and native fauna (we spotted a mother wallaby with joey on our visit).
For a real village feel, head to the winding mountain roads of Olinda and buy quality locally made goods (and don’t forget to stock up on lollies at Olinda Sweet Co). Stay on the shopping train and head to the Emerald Market; the largest market in the Dandenong Ranges. Stalls range from locally grown plants and homemade alpaca fleece knits to artisan cheese, honey and bread.
When dusk begins to fall, head to Sky High Mt Dandenong; a lookout point that offers an unrivalled view of the sunset over Melbourne’s city skyline.
You’re already treating yourself to a weekend away – why not splash out on a dinner to remember? Make a reservation at Wild Oak Restaurant, where chef Ben Higgs serves up modern Australian; go for the wild barramundi with forest mushroom and caper butter sauce, with a rich sticky date pudding to follow.On the fringes of Sherbrooke Forest is Burnham Bakery and Piggery Café, the bakery-cum-café by Vue de Monde’s Shannon Bennett. Head in for lunch and order the artichoke soup with herb oil and artichoke chips, then play a spot of bocce on the lawns.
If you’re here for a romantic getaway, then don’t go past Candlelight Cottages. The open-plan Twilight Cottage features a king bed, spa bath with ceiling skylights for stargazing, and open wood fire and a fully equipped kitchen. Nice little touches include complimentary brandy in a decanter on the mantlepiece, the continental breakfast basket with local bread and preserves and a comfy rocking chair positioned by the fireplace.