Listers, when we set off on a daytrip to the Dandenong Ranges a week or two ago (which it turns out is only a measly hour’s drive out of Melbourne), we thought for sure we’d just find a bunch of trees and mountains, and maybe the odd dodgy cafe. My, oh my, how wrong we were.
With some help from Visit Dandenong Ranges—and by help, we mean a couple of great maps and a list of wifi hot-spots, cos ain’t no Lister going to miss out on a day’s Instagramming—we set off on an adventure that led us to discover some incredible hidden gems, as well as chill out surrounded by #nature. Handcrafted homewares, delicious Argentinian food, an amazing day spa, the most epic cheesecake we’ve seen this side of the Yarra—we could go on. So, keen to know where to find all of this in the Dandenong Ranges? Read on…
Epic Patisserie at Café de Beaumarchais, Sassafras
If you love French pastries (and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t), you’re going to need to make Café de Beaumarchais in Sassafras your first stop of the day in the Dandenongs. The cute little café does an amazing breakfast menu, including veggie, vegan and gluten-free options, but the jewel in its buttery crown has to be the Lindt chocolate hazelnut cheesecake. One of the best dessert experiences we’ve had in a very, very long time, and totally guilt-free so long as you offset it with the Thousand Steps walk. Because, balance.
Incredible Argentinian Food & Local Wine at The Independent, Gembrook
We seriously don’t know HOW we haven’t been to The Independent before now. This amazing restaurant in Gembrook serves delicious modern Argentinian-style food accompanied by mouth-watering local wines in a beautiful industrial premises that was once a mechanic’s workshop. If you’re a meat lover, the Gippsland beef cheek beats what we’ve eaten in many a Melbourne restaurant, and if you’re a seafood fan, definitely go for the green chilli and scallop ceviche, which is fresh, perfectly balanced and incredibly moreish.
Complete with a custom-designed interior—even the plates you’re eating off have been made especially for The Independent—this is one Dandenongs restaurant we’ll be back to. Our #1 date spot for dinner in the Dandenong Ranges.
The Ultimate Aromatherapy Massage at Balance Mountain Day Spa, Mount Dandenong
An aromatherapy massage is the perfect way to relax at the end of a long day’s walking in the mountains. Or eating epic food and quaffing wine, natch. There’s no better place for a massage in the Dandenongs than at the Balance Mountain Day Spa. This tranquil wellness centre is a mecca of luxury massages, facial treatments, beauty therapies and more, all set within the stunning backdrop of the mountain range. Thinking about a girls’ day out or a long-overdue pamper session? Lock it in!
Amazing Terrariums, Home Accessories and Gifts at Seven Pages, Sassafras
I know what you’re thinking: The Dandenongs is chockfull of weird granny-esque homewares that no self-respecting urbanite would ever have in their home. Well, meet Seven Pages, legitimately one of the coolest homewares boutiques we’ve stumbled upon this year. They hand-pour their own concrete accessories, hand-craft their terrariums, and hand-pick everything that they don’t make themselves. A great lifestyle store that delivers something different than Melbourne’s CBD shopping haunts.
The Wild Card: A Treetop Adventure at, um, Trees Adventure, Belgrave
Birthdays, hen do’s, family outings, team-building exercises…I don’t care what the next group event is in your diary, you NEED to have it at Trees Adventure, which is—no points for guessing—an adventure obstacle course that runs through the treetops of one of Mount Dandenong’s forests. Genuinely hilarious and surprisingly physically challenging (at least it was for The Urban List’s resident burger tester…), you’ll be met with flying foxes, balance beams and net tunnels, all set high above ground-level. This is one Dandenong Ranges to-do you don’t want to miss. Get it on the list, pronto!
Like what you're reading? You can win the ultimate weekend for two in the Yarra Valley and spectacular Dandenong Ranges!
We’ll chopper you from Melbourne CBD to the Yarra Valley, where you’ll be staying for two nights in private luxury, enjoying sunrise from a balloon then exploring wineries, farm gates and breweries, before heading back in the chopper.
While you can pop to the Dandenongs for an afternoon, there’s enough to keep you occupied for a whole week if you’ve got the time! Need more info? Check out Visit Dandenong Ranges to plan your own itinerary.
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Image credits: Café de Beaumarchais, The Independent, Balance Mountain Day Spa, Seven Pages, Trees Adventure, all by Michelle Jarni for The Urban List