Like the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, the Dandenong hills are enveloped in a blue haze rising from the forests of gum trees here. Rain ensures the area stays cool and lush, while fine old houses and gardens add to the scenery. Easy bushwalks in the Dandenong Ranges National Park start from Upper Ferntree Gully, accessible by train or by car via the Burwood Highway. The most picturesque route is along the winding Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, lined with mountain ash trees and quaint little villages, many with small cafés, galleries or craft shops that make for a pleasant pit stop. Atop the ranges there are amazing views of Melbourne and beyond from the newly developed SkyHigh observatory, one of the park’s most popular destinations. The area itself also has a café and bistro, a maze and gardens. A pleasant way to enjoy the forests and fern gullies is to take a ride on the Puffing Billy steam train, which runs for 13km from the Puffing Billy station in Belgrave to Lakeside on Lake Emerald, stopping at Menzies Creek and Emerald: one train a day continues a further 9km from Lake Emerald to Gembrook. The Puffing Billy station is a short, signposted walk from Belgrave station (suburban trains).
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