Dandenong Ranges National Park
Whenever the Sydney vs Melbourne debate comes up, I fall firmly on the side of Sydney. I moved to Sydney more than a decade ago, and while I've spent a few years out of the city — first in Christchurch, and then London — Sydney is where I've returned to. But I've never spent a great deal of time in Melbourne. A few weekends here and there, mostly to attend concerts, and I warm to places slowly. This winter I've had the opportunity to get to know Melbourne a little better, while spending a couple of months here for work. Now, I won't be waving the flag for team Melbourne any time soon, but I am enjoying discovering different parts of the city and beyond.
It was great when it all began
My time in Melbourne coincides with the newly opened season of Rocky Horror at Her Majesty's theatre, an obscurity I'm taking as the city extending me welcome. Seeing the latest production was, of course, a priority (it was a fun show, facing an obvious challenge). I've had the great pleasure of seeing three incarnations of that sweet transvestite Frank N Furter — raunchy and enigmatic iOTA, playful and camp Craig McLachlan, and now, comic and energetic Todd McKenney.
With Rocky ticked off my Melbourne to-do list, it was time to head out of town to see what Victoria has to offer in its National Parks.
Visiting Dandenong Ranges National Park
For my first trip out of the city I chose to head to the Dandenong Ranges National Park. The drive takes you out through Melbourne's sports precinct and past the Royal Botanic Gardens before joining the motorway.
At around an hour's drive east of Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges National Park makes for a great spot to lap-up a bit of weekend shinrin-yoku.
The Dandenong Ranges are home to lush ferns and towering eucalypts. It's also an area known for its birdlife — the morning I spent in the Dandenongs I saw so many crimson rosellas... I'm told superb lyrebirds are often about too.
What to do in the Dandenong ranges
There's plenty of ways to spend time in the Dandenongs... you can climb aboard the historic Puffing Billy steam train and take in the view as the train chugs its way through the forest, or you can make the most of your sojourn out of the city by hitting one of the hiking trails in the National Park.
Once you've worked up an appetite, the tiny and charming village of Sassafras is worth stopping into for lunch (or devonshire tea) and a spot of shopping.