Garden Trails of the Yarra Ranges; An Escape Through Natural Beauty

Ever felt like visiting world class, spectacular gardens in the Dandenong Ranges but not sure where to go? The Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges beckon a stunning escape to the natural beauty of the region, which is accessible and free of charge. The World Loves Melbourne stayed for two nights, just outside of Healesville at Botanica Editions. This was a great location to set out from to explore the region over two days, and a very appropriate location for any garden lover.  We started our gardens adventure in the Yarra Valley at Coombe Estate before taking the back, winding scenic roads up into the Dandenongs.

Step into the lifestyle of an operatic diva. Coombe Yarra Valley is a must visit. The country home of opera sensation Dame Nellie Melba since 1909, it remains in and her family, who are well-known members of the British court. This is our attachment to royalty and a world of finery. For years thousands of passers by have wondered what was behind the large hedge off the highway. Coombe Estate has now been unveiled in a tasteful and stunning renovation that gives you a window into an iconic period in Victorian and world history.

Daily tours are available Monday to Saturday 10am and 2pm (you need to book) where a charming guide will take you on an engaging tour of the gardens. See Victoria's oldest pool where Charlie Chaplin swam, the historical homestead, Peacock chairs on the verandah and evidence of a rooftop entertaining area (Melbourne’s first rooftop bar?)

It’s easy to imagine the gardens in the time of Dame Nellie Melba, where she entertained her  her famous guests and had family frequently gracing the property. The homestead has been largely untouched since Melba's death in 1939. A 600 metre cypress hedge is a signature of the property and presides over the whole estate.

Dame Nellie Melba was a bold woman for the age and promoted women's causes such as the suffragettes. She operated an "open house" where friends such as painters Heysen and Streeton would "pop in", hence some of their paintings are on display.


A perfect place for a wedding, the 2.8 hectare garden was designed by William Guilefoyle the same talented designer of the Royal Botanic Gardens.. David Austin roses delight. Japanese wisterias captivate. Pencil pines and lavender allure. Secret garden spaces beckon. Stroll across the croquet lawn.  Then take the time to enjoy the new restaurant, gallery and cellar door and spoil yourself with a glass of Coombe Farm’s award winning blanc de blanc.

The Dandenong Ranges is famous for its gardens. The micro-climate of the region is much cooler compared to bayside Melbourne. The climate combined with the rich red volcanic soil found throughout the ranges, makes for a gardener’s paradise. The National Rhododendron Gardensis one such famous garden, easily accessible an hour from Melbourne, just off the Olinda-Monbulk Road and with a decent carpark. Put on your best walking shoes (or take the 24 seater bus tour) and take a long stroll for about 4.5km through 40 hectares of scenic botanic gardens to absorb the stunning floral scenery. These gardens are perennially spectacular even when rhododendrons aren't in bloom. Enjoy a picnic by the lake and take in stunning views of the ranges. The floral scenery and bird life is a photographer’s dream. We were amazed to find out these majestic gardens were only established in the 1960s!

A great time to visit the National Rhododendron Gardens is during the Spring Floral Festival held annually from August to November each year, to enjoy undercover floral displays including the largest display of daffodils in the Southern Hemisphere. Other features include the tall Mountain Ash trees, the Magnolia Lawn, the Conifer Lawn, Lyrebird Garden, Protea Darden, and Camelia Garden. And of course the Rhododendrons in Spring - all 15,000 of them!

Another stunning garden experience is a guided walk through Cloudehill Gardens(open 7 days, 10am-5pm). Cloudehill Gardens and Nursery feature a masterpiece garden with extraordinary stone walls and fine classic garden rooms amid woodlands of splenderous cool climate trees. Admire stunning works by Ian Marr, Ted Secombe, Rudi Jass and Rob Barron to name a few. Ceramics, steel, wood fired stoneware and glass fired porcelain greet the visitor.

Jeremy Francis took us on a tour of the gardens, his pride and passion. Jeremy has been the driving creative force in the structure and form of the gardens from what was previously rambling but beautiful state.Jeremy tells us about the year-round attraction of the gardens in changing seasons.

The garden is compartmentalised into 20 stunning garden rooms with the backdrop feature of an 80-year-old European beech, magnolias, maples and a collection of fabulous Himalayan tree rhododendrons. The garden is highlighted by sculptures from acclaimed artists, stunning architecture, and glorious herbaceous borders, which focus on two of the finest Japanese weeping maples to be seen anywhere in the world.

Cloudehill Gardens are full of treasures and the unexpected… Season’s Restaurant is also located on the property to satisfy any hunger you have developed while exploring these beautiful gardens.

Sky High in Mount Dandenong is a popular destination, where you can enjoy spectacular sweeping views of Melbourne across to Port Phillip Bay, as well as stunning surrounding gardens. Take in the views from the SkyHigh Bistro and Restaurant or on the terraces or get lost in the SkyHigh Maze with its large hedges.

Find replenishment among the ferns glades and native forest, the tones of Salvias, Plumbago, and Heliotrope “Lord Roberts” as well as Hydrangeas and Hostas. Fuschia “Coralle” are a standout, as well as vibrant purple flowers of Plectranthus ecklonii when in season. Csasanqua “Lutchuensis” produces a mass of dainty white scented flowers.  The Coral Bark Maples are majestic, whilst the October Glory maple is puts on a brilliant Autumn show. SkyHigh is also known for its abundance of bird life, and echidnas and wallabies are often spotted around the park. 

Enjoy a picnic amid the gardens with picnic tables and grass areas and take a stroll around the grounds which give you many windows to the panoramic view of Melbourne city and its suburbs below.

Back at Botanica Editions, Karen introduced us to her garden. It was replenishing to stay at this top notch accomodation where the garden has been restored and cultivated, and is a great place to stay for garden lovers.

You can explore more of the spectacular gardens of the Dandenong Ranges by downloading the Cool Climate Garden Trail from the


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.

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