Less than an hour out of Melbourne is the idyllic Dandenong Ranges – the perfect location for a wintery daytrip. Although the air might be a little more crisp at 600 odd metres above sea level, the views more than make up for it. Follow the winding roads lined with ferns and giant mountain ash trees and you’ll find cosy restaurants, cafes and shops, all of which are the perfect place to visit on a cold winters day.
Whether it’s picking a place to enjoy a hot beverage and a hearty meal, or searching for the best view on the mountain, the Dandenongs have plenty to offer in the cooler months.
Below are some places well worth taking the time to drop in and visit.
The General Food Store, Emerald
Located in the bustling town of Emerald is The General Food Store, a café unlike any other in the Dandenong Ranges. Established and run by Paul ‘Dougie’ Douglas (a former St ALi head chef) and Belinda Smullen (a graphic designer), The General Food Store is a place devoted to offering not only fresh local produce but also a sumptuous menu to suit the season. Current winter items include a succulent pork belly dish, cornbread, a hearty vegetable soup and waffles, all of which are freshly made in-house. If you’re still hungry after your first course, turn your attention to the cake cabinet, which offers a hefty selection of homemade cakes and muffins. The lemon yoghurt cake is a winner and the perfect accompaniment to a well-made coffee or a Kennedy and Wilson hot chocolate garnished with a dollop of homemade marshmallow.
377 Belgrave-Gembrook Road, Emerald
Tues to Sat 7.30am–4.30pm
Miss Marple’s Tea Room, Sassafras
Situated in Sassafras’s petit main strip, Miss Marple’s Tea Room is a quaint cottage inspired by Agatha Christie’s fictional detective character. Those who flock to this cosy teahouse are met by an open fire, floral table cloths and perfectly matched wall lamps and curtains. At least a hundred teapots adorn the surrounding shelves and in a tribute to Miss Marple herself, black and white photos of the famous female detective decorate the walls. A Christmas in July menu is on offer in addition to their usual treats, which include Miss Marple’s famous toasted ‘fingers’, fluffy scones, chocolate and pecan fudge cake and a decadent sundae presented in a giant glass. Dressed with sprigs of holly and faux snow on the roof, Miss Marple’s is all about the Christmas in July cheer. It pays to get in early on the weekend as hungry patrons file into the cosy room looking for a tasty delight the moment the doors open.
382 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Sassafras
Mon to Sun 11am–4.30pm
Also nestled in amongst the quaint shops on Sassafras’s main drag is Ripe. It may look like a sleepy little cafe from the street, but on a busy afternoon Ripe is buzzing with the chatter of locals and tourists alike. It’s the kind of place where it’s perfectly acceptable to waste the day away with a paper spread across a communal table and a hot beverage clasped in your hand. Speaking of beverages, the Lindt hot chocolates here are not to be overlooked when deciding on something to warm your bones. Available in dark, milk and white chocolate, these delicious creations are just the thing to warm you from the inside out. Ripe’s menu changes regularly and with a plethora of ingredient combinations on the baguette menu, a mouth-watering breakfast selection (try the breakfast risotto) and plenty of produce available to purchase at the counter. It’s no wonder Ripe is such a popular meeting spot for so many. 376-378 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Sassafras
Mon to Fri 8.30am–6pm
Sat & Sun 8.30am–4pm
Burke’s Lookout, Mt. Dandenong
If you’ve ever noticed the television towers high above the trees on the top of Mt. Dandenong, it may interest you to know that the view from these is pretty extraordinary. Situated off the beaten track is Burke’s Lookout, or as it’s formally known, Mt. Corhanwarrabul. At 628 metres above sea level, this part of Mt. Dandenong was the scene of the famous Kyeema aeroplane crash in 1938, which resulted in the loss of 18 lives. At the base of the towers (which are breathtakingly huge when you are standing directly beneath them) is a simply incredible view of the Melbourne CBD, Port Phillip Bay, distant mountain ranges and surrounding suburbs. If you’re lucky, you might even come across a hang glider preparing to launch off the steep ramp that sits just above the clearing – definitely a sight to see.
Eyre Road, Mt Dandenong