Australia isn’t known for its autumn foliage—we’ve got a few deciduous trees in tropical regions and only one native temperate deciduous tree which can be found in Tasmania, so Victoria is all out of luck when it comes to natives in Autumn.
But European migration didn’t just bring espresso and kickass Turkish kebabs to Melbourne, it also introduced deciduous trees. British ex-pats may sniff at our idea of autumn leaves, but when you’ve grown up surrounded by eucalypts, any flash of red is going to seem pretty impressive. Generally, you want to head north of Melbourne for the best autumn foliage, or at least up into the hills where the air is cool—Macedon and Mt Dandenong are always good bets. Get a picnic hamper packed and jump in the car, these are the best spots for autumn leaves in Victoria.
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens
You don’t really need to visit a proper garden to get a good look at autumn leaves in The Dandenongs. Ash trees, Maple trees and Liquid Amber line most of the roads. But the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens are kind of special. Take the turnoff just before you get to Sassafras and stop when you get to the carpark.
Entry to the gardens is free and they’re open year-round (except for Christmas Day). Just thank Alfred Nicholas, the guy who invented Aspro painkillers. The foliage is pretty spectacular all through the gardens, but wander down to the ornamental lake for that picture postcard Autumn shot of golden ginkgo leaves over the water.
Gardens Of Glenlyon
It’s one of those tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it country towns. There isn’t much in Glenlyon, but it does have some of the best autumn foliage anywhere in Victoria. Every year the main street lights up in a firework display of reds and oranges. Next time you’re heading to Spa Country, take a detour and stop off at the Glenlyon General Store for a pie and a walk beneath the trees. As pit stops go, it’s pretty awesome.
Known as the ‘jewel’ of Mount Macedon, the Tieve Tara estate is home to the region’s most famous gardens. It’s definitely worth the $10 entry any time, but especially in autumn when the pine oaks, aspens and copper beaches all transform at once. The ground becomes a carpet of amber leaves—one of those spots where you just can’t take a bad picture. There are 7.5 acres of lawns, lakes and trees to explore, and the gardens open from 10:30am. The best picnic spots generally fill up in peak season, so get in quick and stake out some prime real estate. Fun fact: the property is currently for sale so it could all be yours if you’ve got a spare few million lying around.
The Valley Of Liquidambers
Good name, eh? Liquidambers, FYI, are a species of American sweetgum, and as the name suggests, they look pretty darn fine in the Fall (that’s ‘autumn’ to you and me). Heathcote isn’t exactly on the radar of many day-tripping Melburnians, but it ought to be. The food’s good, there’s vineyards around every bend, and the hillsides come alive in autumn time, especially in the Valley. You’ll find it alongside the McIvor Creek, near the centre of town. The perfect picnic spot.
Sitting at a cool 580m above sea level (practically alpine by Melbourne standards), Cloudehill is right at the top of the Dandenongs, where the air is cool and the soil is all volcanic loam. Perfect for growing pretty much anything, but especially deciduous European trees.
Wander down the Gallery Walk, just east of the entrance, or through the Cool Borders further south—that’s where you’ll find the best autumn foliage. The gardens are open 7-day from 9am – 5pm and admission is $10. Stretch the legs, then head into Olinda for antiques and scones (or stay put and go full Devonshire in the Cloudehill restaurant). It doesn’t get more Dandenongs than that.
Maroondah Reservoir Park
Not a park that makes its way onto many Best of Melbourne lists, but if you ever stumbled on it, you’ll probably want to keep it a secret too. Maroondah Reservoir Park is down in Healesville, and is one of those wildernesses that looks spectacular any time of the year.
In winter the rains fall and waters gush over the big river spillway. In spring the azaleas and rhododendrons (try spelling that one without Google) are in full bloom. And in autumn most of the park breaks out in a crazy tapestry of red and amber foliage. Pro tip: Get your iPhone camera ready for the Rose Stairway. It’s an absolute stunner.
Walhalla Goldfields Railway
This tiny gold rush-era town in Gippsland is home to only 20 permanent residents, so it’s the perfect, tranquil spot to find spectacular displays of autumn leaves. Take a ride on the Walhalla Goldfields Railway through the beautiful Stringers Creek Gorge and Happy Creek—yes, that’s a real place. April is the best time to go, with the majority of the train line zooming through autumnal tapestries of colour. Alternatively, if you want to get your body moving then trek along the Goldfields Rail Trail. Both options are a treat for the eyes.
If you’re just after a hint of autumn on your lunch break or don’t want to venture too far out of the city, then Fitzroy Gardens is the place to go. These heritage-listed gardens on the doorstep of the CBD are lined with mature elm trees that put on a show of colour every autumn. Take yourself for a stroll or stay a while for a picnic on the lawns, there are 26 hectares of gardens to choose from.
Royal Botanic Gardens
You didn’t think we’d leave the Royal Botanic Gardens out, did you? With over 6000 species of trees and 50,000 plants in the gardens, you’re bound to get all shades of autumn on display whenever March rolls around. The gardens are stunning all year but autumn brings on a whole new realm of colour that’s well worth seeing every single time. We’d recommend heading to the Oak Lawn to find all the crunchy leaves on the ground, it’s also the best spot for photos too.
Now you know where to find the leaves, make a day of it and check out these awesome walks around Melbourne.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni