Published 03.07.2020. Any post on this site may contain affiliate links which could result in Many Journeys Blog receiving a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The Dandenong Ranges are around 50 minutes drive from Melbourne and make a fantastic day trip or weekend away. Follow windy roads under a canopy of lush trees, stop at small villages for coffee and cake and enjoy the beautiful surrounds.
Exploring the free gardens in the Dandenong Ranges will leave you feeling refreshed and recharged!
William Ricketts Sanctuary
Whilst not technically a garden, the Williams Ricketts Sanctuary is a must see in the Dandenong Ranges. The sanctuary has 92 clay sculptures lovingly created by William to celebrate and reflect his deep love for nature and Indigenous Australians. The sculptures are placed around the sanctuary to form flowing pathways that gently guide you through the sanctuary while surrounded by ferns and eucalyptus trees.
Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden
Another free garden not to miss is the 103 acre Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden. Formerly called the National Rhododendron Gardens, the gardens boast a huge variety of plants and extensive network of walking trails both sealed (5km of track) and gravel. Autumn and Spring provides the best flowering but the gardens can be enjoyed year-round.
What I found most enjoyable about this garden was the huge native gum trees standing tall and proud, but also blending into the garden as a seamless transition from forest to garden. This gives the garden a casual, nature based feel rather than a perfectly manicured formal garden (not that there is anything wrong with that, I just like things a little more wild!).
Give your legs a break at Serenity Point and enjoy the beautiful views while soaking up the atmosphere of the peaceful gardens.
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens
Access to the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens is via the beautiful Sherbrooke Road. Follow the steps down the steep hill, or take the gentler management vehicle track to arrive at the ornamental lake and highly photographed boathouse. The lake makes a great photo location in Autumn with the warm colours reflecting on the lake surface.
R.J. Hamer Arboretum
Come for the view, but then stay for a walk (120 hectares to explore!) and a picnic. The beautiful view across the Yarra Valley at R.J. Hamer Arboretum can be enjoyed from the carpark if you don’t fancy walking around!
Oh the hills!
The Dandenong Ranges are known for being steep with deep fern gullies and excellent lookouts which provide views over to Melbourne and surrounding valleys. So expect to walk up and down some hills when you explore these free gardens!
All of these gardens have good paths to view the main sections of the each garden, but the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens are pretty steep. This might be a challenge for people with disabilities (I can’t image it would be easy take a wheelchair to these gardens). The Botanic Gardens seemed to be the most accessible of the free gardens I visited, but they are still on a big hill!
Range of pathways – sealed, gravel and steep steps
Can I take my dog?
William Ricketts Sanctuary – No
Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden – No
Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens – Yes, on a leash
R.J. Hamer Arboretum – Yes, on a leash
George Tindale – Yes, on a leash
Pirianda Gardens – Yes, on a leash
Where to Stay
The Dandenong Ranges are known for cosy Bed and Breakfast (BnBs) style accommodation which come with a boutique price tag. Hotel style accommodation can be found in surrounding towns such as Ferntree Gully and Lilydale.