Sunday, 20 September 2015

A Weekend in the Dandenong Ranges

I dragged the Sonofaguns away from the comfort of their Playstations and Laptops last weekend for a minibreak to beautiful mountain villages east of Melbourne.

I had heard of the spectacular National Rhododendron Gardens in the village of Olinda.  And the Interwebs also told me it was Tulip Festival time in the nearby village of Silvan. So to make a weekend out of it we hopped in the car to see the sights of a small part of the Dandenong Ranges.

First stop was Olinda and the National Rhododendron Gardens.


So our weekend began trekking through this beautiful park and the Sonofaguns got lost when they wandered off in another direction after getting bored of the Amazona taking ALL of the photos of every single thing.


Unfortunately the Japanese Cherry blossoms were about 2 weeks late and the Azaleas were not yet flowering, but the Rhodies were beautiful and the views of the far off Blue Dandenongs were breathtaking.

I'm a real sucker for a gorgeous Mag that's bigger than my head...

Carpets of Helleborus everywhere

Sonofagun No.1 contemplates like, bushes and stuff.
After we walked our legs off, we piled into Luce the Xtrail and the GPS took us down rollercoaster country lanes and mountainous steep curves to the village of Healesville.

I love driving around these curvy mountainy roads. Just beautiful!

We were running a couple of hours behind a very casual schedule so we first checked into our cabin at Healesville Tourist Park, before driving a short kilometer to the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary.
Healesville Tourist Park. The view from our cabin. How's the serenity...

Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the three Zoo Victoria zoos, this one featuring Australian native wildlife.

I've visited all three zoos now and whilst it's always lovely to visit Melbourne and Werribee zoos, I really loved this one.


The Sanctuary is set in lush bushland with all sorts of close encounters and zoo experiences.  There are also lots of beautiful places to sit and have a cuppa or picnic while the kiddies play.

One of the first animal enclosures we found was the Emu enclosure where these inquisitive huge birds were at the low fence and the keepers were handing containers of lettuces and greens to the kids to hold up for the birds to eat. Sonofagun No.2 thought this was the best!

The Koala enclosure was also amazing. 


Similar to the Koala Sanctuary on Phillip Island, you walk around on an elevated bridge with the Koalas dozing and gazing sleepily at us from their perches just out of arms reach. Just as well. We all know they are closely related to their vicious cousins the Drop Bears and turn on you any minute....

koalas healesville wildlife sanctuary
Will rip your head off. But easily deterred by a smear of vegemite behind the ears.

There were also sweet Fairy Wrens hopping and flitting everywhere throughout the Sanctuary.

healesville wildlife sanctuary
Cute as a button Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)

The next morning after a scrummy breakfast at a café on the main street in Healesville (Sonofagun No.2 had all his breakfast dreams come at once when his choc chip pancakes came with icecream! Sonfoagun No.1 opted for the ridiculous and bewildering choice of chicken nuggets?!), we hit the road for the 35 minute drive to the Tesselaar Tulip Farm Tulip Festival.

In my misspent youth, I was a horticulturist so was very familiar with Tesselaar Bulbs being a major producer of bulbs in Australia and as such I was keen to see what kind of displays they could produce.

Where's Tiny Tim when you need him?

tesselaar bulbs tulips dandenong


tesselaar tulip festival

Does this blossom make my bum look big?

Sonofagun No.2 is hiding. 10 bucks says you won't find him.

It was beautiful but I had to stop myself from comparing it to Canberras annual Floriade Festival which is happening now as well. 

Floriade is truly amazing with garden beds and sculptures following a theme, this years being 'Reflection' with the garden displays created to represent the ideas of war and peace as a part of the 100th Anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli.  I am super sad I won't make it this year.

The Tesselaar Tulip Festival was beautiful but the key difference is the bulb beds are in long nursery fields.  On one hand it's a little boring. But on the positive side they are set up so you can walk right in and take lots of photos of yourself and the kids tiptoeing through the tulips.  And all the different varieties were clearly labeled which was fantastic.

Because clogs.

Sonofagun No.2 thinks mum is awesome for saying 'yes' to a ride on the Tulip Tractor. Mum just couldn't be arsed walking all the way down the the end of the field.
It's a Win-win!

Each weekend over the 4 weeks of the festival have a theme. This weekend was Turkish Weekend because apparently tulips originated in Turkey!

I almost blew the weekend budget to buy one of these beauties. But I was a good girl and opted for a much cheaper little bowl instead.
There was Turkish food stalls, Turkish music, Turkish pottery.  It was a lively fun atmosphere and there were thousands of people there.

tulip festival floriade
See that yellow flower bowl up in the back left corner? That's now in my loungeroom!
There was loads of easy access parking and most importantly loads of dunnies.  And we all know that's super important, am I right ladies??

Sonofagun No.2 and I went on a Tulip Train (a truck with a couple of carriages) whilst Sonofagun No.1 slunk off in his teenage angsty way to discreetly find a pressie for his girlfriend. 

In the 'Top Garden' there are beautiful perennial garden beds and a gorgeous fairy/ gnome garden filled with lots of different varieties of violets.

My favourite opportunistic pic of the day...

Hope you all are enjoying your Spring and Autumn wherever you are in the world!


  1. Cool! :-D
    I remember when I saw my first magnolia... I never realized that they were so HUGE! My first thought was "ALIEN"-Flower!

    "I love driving around these curvy mountainy roads."
    Obviously, you've never been to NZ..?! Where the road shoulders are about a meter wide, NO guard rails, and 500-ft drops just on the other side of the benign looking tree/jungle line... And, despite their overwhelming friendliness, they all drive like speed-demons! - Then again, over here [out west anyway] those curvy mountain roads are just prone to rockslides and/or covered in snow! - But the rails are much higher! And, we drive on the OTHER SIDE! ;-D

    1. Ive heard in some countries peeps drive on the wrong side of the road! I havent been to NZ yet. We've often talked about going as it's just beautiful. I dont think id love their mountain roads though! For some reason the Australian govt freaks out when people die in car accidents etc so barricade the heck out of everything and speed limits are everywhere. This is probably why it feels such enjoyable drive for Nana drivers like me!

  2. Oh wow what a trip the blooms are beautiful, that view and all those cute animals, would have been in my element.

    1. It really is beautiful up there and there were lots of animals I couldn't photograph as my camera ran out of batteries such as platypuses and Tassie Devils .

  3. I know what you mean about taking loads of photos of the flowers. Each one looks more beautiful than the last and it's very difficult to know when to stop. Looks like you had a great time even if Sonofagun No,1 was a bit fed up :p

    1. Im a flower photographing addict. Sonofagun mildly enjoyed himself but didnt want to really show it because that would be like, so uncool!

  4. What a great weekend - love the rhoddie photos.

    1. Thank you! It was nice to get away. I really want to go up again soon xox

  5. It looks beautiful. Lovely colours just as the UK is turning brown and cold and raining even more than the summer!

    1. Ive been looking forward to this all winter after our own dreary weather!

  6. So many beautiful flowers! I especially like the magnolias, so gorgeous :) x

    1. Aren't they amazing? And the trees aren't even that big yet!

  7. What beautiful area to visit, I'm very jealous of all the gorgeous scenery

    1. I wish I lived over that side of Melbourne so I could go more often!