Local Escapes

The Best Things To Do In The Dandenong Ranges, 2024 Edition

By Rick Stephens

One of the best things to do in the Dandenong Ranges is visit the Paradise Valley hotel.

There’s a certain magic in b-lining up Mount Dandenong Tourist Road. Sure, the weekend warriors lining up to take on the 1000 steps can be disconcerting, though once they begin to dissipate as you continue to climb, you’ll immediately notice the cooler temperature, age-old ferns giving the towering gums a run for their money along with the calming sounds of the mountain. This divine forest escape also happens to be barely an hour out of town—there are plenty of things to do in the Dandenong Ranges, you just need to know where to look. 

Avoid the tourist traps and follow this ultimate itinerary for a day in the Dandenong Ranges.

Stop One: Burnham Beeches 

Okay, we’ll level with you, this one's on many a 'things to do Dandenong Ranges' itinerary, so it gets busy, but the grounds are so damn bucolic and charming it’s worthy of a mention. Your best bet is to get there in the AM take in the serenity, and descend down into the gardens past the sprawling art deco mansion—once the holiday home of the inventor of Aspirin—before taking off to stop two. 

It's also worth noting, that soon, Burnham Beeches will become a boutique Six Senses retreat hotel. So if you're hoping to sight the space in its current form, best get there soon. 

Visit the serene Burnham Beeches in the Dandenong Ranges.

Stop Two: Olinda Falls And Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens

Stretch your legs at Olinda Falls in the Dandenong Ranges. Surrounded by gumtree varietals and plenty of ferns, this oft-overlooked waterfall steeps down into one of the many troughs of Mount Dandenong. 

Take it all in from the viewing platform at the top or get in some cardio and follow the 500m trail alongside falls to the bottom—just keep in mind you have to make your way back up. 

The immaculately kept Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens is just a few minutes up the road and worth a look-in for their rhododendron gardens and ornamental lake alone. Two of the most underrated things to do, but also two of the best things to do in the Dandenong Ranges.

A gushing waterfall between old ferns, one of the best things to do in the Dandenong Ranges.

Stop Three: Micawber Tavern

If you search 'things to do Dandenong Ranges', this spot might slip under the radar. Micawber Tavern is an age-old pub that has about 37 chicken parmigiana variations on the menu, and all of them slap.

The old-world charm in the decor is about as authentic as the locals that show up in their mud-clad utes—join them for a pint of Guinness by the bar or head outside and smash down that parma by the charming creek and ferns out the back. 

Stop Four: Emerald Lake Park 

Head up and over the Dandenong Ranges and you’ll find yourself in a town called Emerald, a little blip on the mountain that's primed with things to do for the day-tripper in us all.

At Emerald Lake Park, you’ve got not one, but two lakes, grassy patches everywhere, plenty of barbecues and even two-seater paddleboats should you be trying to charm that special someone. 

As you drive into this gorgeous Dandenong Ranges park, you’ll see the main lake which acts as somewhat of a tourist cache. So park that car, and b-line east for the secondary lake called Lake Nobelius.

The track gets a little muddy, but a few minutes of trudging will be well worth the scenery that you’ll probably have all to yourself. For those with time on their hands, take a few of the trails into the ferns until you find the hidden wishing well.

A charming lake with an old wooden bridge running over it in the Dandenong Ranges, considered one of the best things to do in the region.

Stop Five: The Independent 

You’ll most likely be toward the end of your day after a meander around Emerald Lake, but those in no rush to return to the city should make tracks to the charming township of Gembrook just outside the Dandenong Ranges, for a feed at regional fine-diner The Independent.

Once a country motor garage, Mauro Callegari’s modern Argentinian restaurant is sure to meet the lofty standards of any Melburnian on their single-day sojourn out of town. Make sure you book in here.

Stop Six: Paradise Valley Hotel

Anyone who truly wants to push the boat out, and still looking for things to do in the Dandenong Ranges, should swing by the iconic Paradise Valley Hotel for a pint with the locals.

Should you still be peckish, or if you're after a more casual dinner, Paradise Valley serves up one helluva parma. Once locals-only knowledge, PV's chicken parmigiana took out gold for the best in the state last year. 

Looking for things to do in the Dandenong Ranges? Try Victoria's best parma, covered in cheese and red sauce, at Paradise Valley Hotel.

Once you’re done in the Dandenong Ranges, check out our Heathcote Roadtrip here.

Image credit: Visit Victoria, Peter Kent

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