With rich red volcanic soils feeding tall Eucalypt forests & cropland, through to valley soils supporting grazing and heathy foothill forests, the variety of the patchwork landscape known as the Eastern Dandenong Ranges is unique.
So close to Melbourne yet a world away, you’ll find yourself travelling through quaint hills villages and rainforests, enhaling beautiful fresh air and taking in awesome panoramas that grow with every turn. No matter what season it is, the Eastern Dandenong Ranges is spectacular. To quote columnist Richard Cornish, Melbourne’s regional towns are artful, physically and spiritually nourishing.
Geographically, the Eastern Dandenong Ranges are the ridges and valleys stretching from Johns Hill and the Menzies Creek valley to the east, joining the Dandenong Ranges to the foothills of the Central Highlands at the headwaters of the Bunyip River.
So is it’s beauty, to traveller and local alike. With things to see and do in any direction, the region lies between the Yarra Valley & Westernport catchments. To the west lies the main Dandenongs range, Corhanwarrabul, presenting a different, gentler face to the east, compared to the steeper, more abrupt rise from the Melbourne side. Several streams rise here and criss-cross the Eastern Dandenong Ranges, including Menzies, Cockatoo, Tomahawk & Gembrook Creeks flowing north to join the Yarra and Cardinia, William Wallace Creeks & the Bunyip River, flowing south to Westernport Bay. Several communities call the Eastern Dandenong Ranges home, including the townships of Clematis, Emerald, Cockatoo through to Gembrook plus smaller ones including Avonsleigh and Macclesfield.
The small township of Cockatoo lies between Emerald & Gembrook to the east and Mt Burnett & Pakenham to the south. There is several cafes and an authentic smokehouse to pick-up some cured meats & delicacies to take on a picnic. Cockatoo is picturesque, quaint and home to Wright Forest and lovely walks through native bushland. The Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre located in the Alma Treloar Reserve is popular with visitors providing a history on the Ash Wednesday Fires and other major fires Victoria has endured. The Country Cockatoo Market is also held in the reserve on the 1st Saturday of every month. The Paternoster Winery on Paternoster Rd provides splendid wine & views and at the other end of Paternoster Rd is the Mt Burnett Observatory. If you are making your way to Gembrook you’ll pass Fielderberry U Pick berry farm and follow Puffing Billy on its journey. The scenic & windy drive between Cockatoo & Mt Burnett takes you through a canopy of tall Eucalypt forests and onto Chestnut Hill Vineyard & Pakenham.
Emerald is beautiful to visit any time of the year. You’ll be treated to majestic views and colours, mists and warm winter fires, stunning bird and wildlife and fern gully walks. Emerald is the highest station along the Puffing Billy line and the mid point for passengers travelling on Puffing Billy from Belgrave to Gembrook. The Eastern Dandenong Ranges Visitor Centre at Emerald Station is the best spot to pick-up information on what to see & do around Emerald and take some great pics of Puffing Billy. You’ll find a range of cafes & restaurants & giftware stores. The short ride on Puffing Billy from Emerald to Emerald Lake Park is perfect for families with little kids to experience Puffing Billy for the first time. Emerald Lake Park is right in the centre of Emerald’s two retail shopping precincts, Puffing Billy Precinct & Emerald Lakeside Precinct. You’ll find the Emerald Museum, Nobelius Heritage Park, Model Railway Museum, paddle-boats, playground, BBQ & picnic areas and walking tracks all at Emerald Lake Park. You can take a leisurely 20 minute stroll from Emerald Station to Emerald Lake Park passing through Puffing Billy Park, and taking the multi-use trail along the Puffing Billy track, enjoying the open space views out to Westernport Bay. Many visitors enjoy exploring Emerald’s history on foot. The Emerald Heritage Walk takes approx 1 hr and you’ll get to see both retail precincts & the Nobelius Heritage end of Emerald Lake Park. The compelling ANZAC Walk audio trail is a 30 min walk about the 32 local soldiers who lost their lives during World War 1.
As the name suggests, small gems were found in the small creeks and watercourses around Gembrook back in the late 1880’s. Rich in agriculture and well-known for its potatoes, Gembrook was settled in 1873 for farming and timber. Much of the township has an historic feel of the past and bestows patchwork landscape views. Gembrook is the last stop along the Puffing Billy line and home to Kurth Kiln Regional Park, The Motorist Museum, Gembrook Park, Gembrook Market & range of cafes & restaurants. Gembrook Village is the perfect place to take time out to relax and explore the surrounding beauty.