Discovering Dandenong Ranges and the Village Life
After a good night sleep at Botanica Editions we felt pretty relaxed. For day two we wanted to take the time and get to know the region. We decided to enjoy the beautifully scenic drive to the Dandenong Ranges and explore the town of Sassafras. This town is the perfect place to take it easy. It offers a unique opportunity to unwind and experience village life. For Melbourne folks it’s only an hour away.
Sassafras is the kind of town you want to return to over and over again and stroll its charming main street. Here you will find the perfect way to while away the morning into the afternoon. We started at a chic French inspired café called, Cafe De Beaumarchais. It is named after Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, a well-known and celebrated French historical figure. Born a watchmaker's son, he rose in French society to become influential in the court of Louis XV as an inventor and music teacher.
From the moment we stepped through the French doors, we were greeted with chandeliers, couches and wall displays instantly reminding us of France and the café’s namesake. Head here for High Tea. The staff are extremely friendly and can create a High Tea experience for two or larger groups. A visit here is not complete without indulging in one or two cakes. A local patisserie chef extraordinaire makes these delicious creations. Credit image above © Yarra Ranges Tourism.
Having imbibed at Café Beaumarchais we decided to check out some of the shops on the street. Our inner child started to cry out and we stopped into Geppettos. It’s a world of nostalgia and inspiration specialising in wooden toys like marionettes, hand puppets, spinning tops, kaleidoscopes, puzzles and games. These are the kinds of toys you want to keep forever. Our favourite was the Tin Man. The staff are engaging and helpful and the toys are sourced from all over the world.
Sassafrass main street has a shop for everyone, we visited one of the oldest shops on the street, Tea Leaves. It is the kind of shop that fills you with fear and excitement all at once. The teapots seem to have their own personalities and call out for you to touch them. The fear creeps in when you hear your mother's voice in the back of your head telling you not to touch. We were particularly entranced with a wall of owl teapots and could feel their eyes follow us around the shop. Credit image above © Yarra Ranges Tourism.
We were lucky on our visit and the weather was pretty good but it was still a little chilly. We stopped into Creswick Natural Fibres, which is owned by Creswick Woollen Mills. The mill is the only coloured woollen spinning mill in the country. The shop features all kinds of things to keep you warm. From alpaca throws made in Ballarat to possum beanies from New Zealand and everything in between. This is the place to find that perfect merino wool scarf or the granddaddy of comfort, a cashmere jumper. You can even find possum garments from New Zealand, which we understand is a very normal thing to find across the ditch. We were a little surprised to see possum garments but as some of you may know, New Zealand has long produced possum goods as a way to keep the numbers under control.
Our last stop was Soak, one of the nicest smelling shops in Sassafras. The sole purpose of this boutique is to pamper oneself. It features a collection of Australian made soaps, salts, lotions and bath products. It is the kind of place that encourages you to find your own fragrance by tempting you with body butters, handmade soaps and candles. Why not try soap made from linden flowers or goat’s milk or bath salts named after Cleopatra herself? Credit image above © Yarra Ranges Tourism.
Village life would not be complete without a drive through the countryside. We were overwhelmed at the beauty of the region and discovered many wild flowers growing randomly in a roadside paddock. We were so inspired we had to stop and walk through them. Further down the road we stumbled upon a chestnut cart.
Besides being very charming, the cart was managed via an honour system. Chestnuts are very much in season at the moment and it was a real treat to grab a bag straight from the source.
The Dandenong Ranges offers a range of ways to create your own village life experience. Over a full day in the mountains, we had so much fun.
Here are five of our favourite experiences:
1. High Tea in the hilltops. Take the very scenic drive to Sassafrass and stop by Café de Beaumarchais for a wonderfully intimate high tea experience. The sweet treats are a true indulgence.
2. Explore Olinda, another village close to Sassafras with a fabulous collection of shops, teahouses and a candy store or check out Kallista, Belgrave, Monbulk or Gembrook which are all within a scenic yet short driving distance.
3. Enjoy the best view of Melbourne. For one of the most beautiful places to watch the sun set, head to SkyHigh for a glass of champagne on the balcony.
4. Take time to clear your head and breathe in the sights and smells of the impressive cool climate gardens which distinguish the ranges from many other regions. You can download a trail from the Dandenong Ranges website, which steers you to the well-known and the more obscure gardens open to the public.
5. Picnic in the magical tall timber forests of the Dandenong Ranges. The national and state parks in the Dandenong Ranges are an endearing yet sometimes forgotten attraction. Just a few moments in the astounding natural settings of Sherbrooke Forest, Olinda Falls Reserve or Dandenong Ranges National Park can help you recharge and refresh.
WIN THE ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE
You can find yourself in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges with an ultimate weekend getaway for two people.
We’ll be flying you direct by helicopter with Microflite from Melbourne CBD to the Yarra Valley, where you’ll be staying for two nights in private luxury.
Start your first full day with a sunrise balloon flight with Global Ballooning Australia, then explore the spectacular Dandenong Ranges.
You’ll get to explore the wineries, farm gates and breweries on an exclusive tour with Yarra Valley Transfers, lunch at TarraWarra Estate before being flown back to Melbourne by Microflite helicopter.
The competition closes on 31 July 2015 and is open to Australian residents 21 years and over, except residents from ACT and NSW.