If you haven't yet been to visit the stunning Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden (formerly the National Rhododendron Garden) then do yourself a favour and check it out next time you're in the Dandenongs. And if good food is on the menu, then don't miss the Seaside Street Food Festival at Frankston Pier!
I'm known for being a bit of an organiser, so when my friend Meagan and I had a list of things we wanted to do during a weekend, I got online and put together our itinerary.
If I'm going out for a day trip then I like to put some planning into it to make sure we don't waste any valuable time trying to decide what to do next or driving around aimlessly.
We started off with a trip to the gorgeous Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden. These gardens are formerly known as the National Rhododendron Gardens and are located in the beautiful country town of Olinda. The gardens are known as the jewel of the Dandenong Ranges and are host to brilliantly coloured blooms of over 15,000 rhododendrons, 12,000 azaleas, 3,000camellias, 250,000 daffodils and countless cherries.
The garden is open 10.00am to 5.00pm daily (last entry 4.30pm) except Christmas Day, and entry to the garden is free.
Home to some of the rarest Australian flora and fauna, there are also fern gullies and hidden delights dotted throughout the park. One of the best views is of the stunning ornamental lake that perfectly reflects the surrounding foliage. The stillness of the water creates an almost mirror image of the sky above.
If you're interested in visiting, you can take a self-guided tour of the almost 103 acres of scenic botanic gardens and believe me when I say there's lost to see. The park is home to a wide variety of birds, including some rare breeds of native Lyrebirds. There's also some great spots for photos...
... and places to take a quick break...
... and benches to soak up the peace and quiet.
The gardens play host to almost 60,000 visitors every year. If you're planning a visit, keep in mind that there are tonnes of places for a picnic, so be sure to pack a rug and some bubbly to sit and take in the beauty of the Blue Australian Alps.
We left the gardens having had some exercise, enjoyed the relaxing surroundings and with big smiles!
Parking can be a bit of a nightmare depending on how busy it is, so you might need to drive around a bit or stalk someone who's leaving in order to score yourself a spot.
Also, keep in mind that it is on the water, so bring something to layer on top once the sun starts to set and it cools down (that ocean breeze can be quite brisk).
On the day that we went, the sun was shining and it was quite warm although the wind made things a little messy. We were determined to try as much food as we could, but to be honest we could barely make up our minds on what we wanted to try - there were so many options!
Eventually we settled on some good old fashioned American fare, and let me tell you, the food was incredible! We absolutely gorged ourselves on mac and cheese (Meagan swore she was going to go back and buy enough for lunch every day that week), country fried chicken (real American style) and homemade lemonade (that we think they forgot to add the sugar to when they were making it - blech!).
As a side note, I've spent every outdoor festival since this one trying to find the mac and cheese lady because it was so damn good!
After we'd stuffed ourselves with food, we took a wander down to the beach and along the fantastic boardwalk pier. The views are stunning and watching it as the sun goes down is the best part.
Finally it was time to hit the movies to see the latest in the Da Vinci Code series - Inferno. As a quick movie review, I didn't find it as good as the first two in the series, but it was definitely enjoyable.
All up it was an awesome weekend and we have many more planned. There is so much to see and do in Melbourne and Victoria that you could spend every weekend out and about for a year and still not see it all. Personally, I can't wait to see what else we get up to!
Until next time, Nat