The whole of the Dandenongs is a gastronomic delight and I was overjoyed when I dined at the Ivy in Olinda to be served genuine Italian pizza with that wonderful thin and crispy crust and garnished lightly with all the flavours you’d expect of Italian food. There are award winning pie shops and Sassafras is known as the village of tea so sharpen up your taste buds and look forward to fantastic food in one of Australia’s most beautiful surroundings.
Fondest memory: The Ivy, as previously mentioned, is highly recommended but, across the road is the ever popular Pie in the Sky shop where you can get a great selection of pies, cakes etc. either to die in or take away. Its claim to be "Best East of Adelaide" is a bit spurious though. I've definitely had better pies at three places in Tasmania but they aren't bad, certainly better than average.
Oh, the difficulty of deciding whether to place this tip in “General” or under “Shopping” or even “Tourist Traps”! Sassafras is the first little village you encounter as you enter the Dandenong Ranges from the Burwood Highway. It isn’t large and you won’t find a newsagent or hardware store here – instead, the street is full of those shops intended to attract the female of the species. Luckily for me, the garden shop was closed when we arrived! (Photo 2)
You want cute smelly things with pastel colours? There’s a choice. Likewise, you’ll find antiques and eating places. Maybe the most unusual was the shop claiming to have the largest range of teapots in Melbourne (Photos 3, 4). Me? Well, I couldn’t find a pub or a place selling bits for old motor cars, or power tools, but I finally settled on the House of Coffee (Photo 5) and yes, I’m enjoying a brew from the coffee I purchased right now.
House of Coffee, main street, Sassafras. (03) 9755 1100.
Favorite thing: Time for a quick botany lesson! What’s the difference between trees and ferns? It’s not necessarily size: the “Soft Tree Ferns” (Dicksonia antarctica) in this photo taken in the Dandenong National Park are as large as many trees. The difference is that trees produce seeds, while ferns produce spore. And yes, I did have to look that up! Either way, Australia has many members of the tree-fern family and the Dandenong Ranges are a good place to find some impressive examples. Just look at the size of these examples, and remember that these were around long before the flowering trees evolved – then it becomes easy to conjure up an image of dinosaurs peering through the fronds. Watch out Pauline!
Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus Regnans) have been recorded growing to a height of almost 100 metres – they are the world’s tallest hardwoods (flowering trees). You will find them, plus other gums, in the quite surprisingly dense moist temperate forests of the mountain ranges near the coasts of Victoria – the Mt Dandenong area is probably the easiest to reach for most people.
I was not fortunate enough to be able to photograph the forests with mist passing through them, but the effect of mist among these superb trees is unforgettable. In the photos, the large trees with white bark are tall Manna Gums (Eucalyptus Viminalis).
During our walk in the Dandenong Ranges, we enjoyed the company of one of Australia's native birds, the Kookaburra!
Known as the Bushman's alarm clock, because of its break of dawn cackle, these birds are members of the kingfisher family.
Known to be in all parts of Australia's bush, this bird is quite curious of people, and did not have any trouble posing for me.
This one preys specifically on snakes and lizards, clearing the paths for you to walk safely!