Excursions in Australia: Dandenong, Healesville, Puffing Billy

The Dandenong Ranges are one of the Australian state of Victoria’s main tourist destinations, both from the state capital, Melbourne and from around the world.

Known especially for its natural wonder and terrain ripe for discovery, it is also fast gaining a reputation for a vibrant arts scene. Every meal you have may be complemented with a selection of wines from the world-famous Yarra Valley vineyards.

If nature is your thing, you could spend weeks in Dandenong and not be sated. It is famous for its cool climate gardens where you can discover rare plants amidst natural trails in an atmosphere that seems to be insulated from the rest of the world. Besides every shade of green, explosions of many vibrant hues are scattered throughout as seasonal plants flower.

Mount Ash dominates the landscape. The nearby fern gullies are painted with cool streams of crystal-clear water. The verdant bushland echoes with the calls of native birds and wildlife. Start your trek at the Grants Picnic Ground for a mildly-taxing walk that will take you through the Eastern Sherbrooke Forest, a great place to spy koalas in the wild. Grants Picnic Ground itself is renowned for the bird feeding experience on offer so you can start and end there to continue your interaction with Aussie wildlife.

No visit to the area would be complete without a ride on the Puffing Billing Railway. This century-old train is touted – very accurately – as one of the world’s best preserved stem railways. In fact, it even runs along the original 25-km section of track!

Puffing Billy’s carriages have open sides, an excellent vantage point from which to explore the greenery if your feet are tired. You can dangle those feet from out the sides, too!

On Friday and Saturday evenings, your have the option of fully-enclosed first-class dining carriages, the luxurious way to discover the Ranges. You can even enjoy a night of murder and mystery on the Puffing Billy with the organized ‘Murder on the Puffing Billy’ package.

The Puffing Billy stops at many stations along the track, and is connected to the city of Melbourne via a modern train, meaning that you can get there and back from your Melbourne hotel without breaking a sweat.

Get extremely up-close and personal with hundreds of native Australian species of wildlife at the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary which is a stop on the Puffing Billy Railway.

Besides featuring the evergreen favorites – kangaroos, koalas, wombats and emus – it also has over 200 other species of wildlife. The eastern edge of the Australian continent is the only place where you can find an echidna or a duck-billed platypus in the wild. If you don’t have the time to look for them, the Sanctuary allows you a wonderful closeup with these amazing animals.

There are few places in the world so packed and well-connected with things to do over such a large area. If you plan to visit Melbourne, take time aside to visit and discover for yourself why it is such a popular national and international tourist destination.