Local walkers prepared to look further afield may be interested in visiting Doongalla, also located in the Dandenong Ranges National Park just to the north of Ferntree Gully.
The area is nestled around Dandenong Creek in a shady crook of the ranges. Not only is it a starting place for challenging walks, it’s also popular for picnics, with shady grassy spots and established deciduous trees surrounded by lush rainforest.
A 32-room mansion ‘Invermay’ was built here in 1892. In 1908, it was bought by Miss Simson, who renamed it ‘Doongalla,’ meaning place of peace. She made improvements and planted camellias, kalmias, rhododendrons and a lily garden. Many of these plants survive today. The mansion was sold to Mr Burke in 1922, before being lost to a bushfire in 1932.
Burke’s Lookout is known for its spectacular views across Melbourne to Port Phillip Bay. While the walk is challenging, it is no more so than the Lyrebird Track or the 1000 Steps. To take the walk, park at the top carpark near the former homestead site. Walk uphill on Channel 10 Track, through a shady forest filled with ferns, towering mountain ash trees and the sounds of birds and the shrieks of cockatoos. Soon, you should be able to hear a very small Dandenong Creek burbling along to the right of the path.
The intensity kicks up a notch after turning right on to Zig Zag Track. After zigging and zagging a bit, continue along Towers Track. The tracks are well signposted. Here the path becomes quite steep, and walkers will need to watch their step to avoid slipping. After 100 metres or so, you will see the transmission tower and potentially an autumn leaf or two.
Continuing north, the path turns very slightly downhill towards Burke’s Lookout. At 611 metres high, you can enjoy uninterrupted views across the city before returning down.
Visiting for a picnic
Doongalla is also very popular for picnics thanks to its good facilities and beautiful surrounds. There are two picnic areas, the Stables and Homestead areas, and both have picnic tables, wood barbecues and toilets. To use the wood fire barbecues, bring your own wood from outside the national park. The picnic grounds open at 9:00am each day and close at 4:00pm.
There are other nearby parks that are likely to offer good autumn colour for those keen to celebrate the ‘festival of the falling leaf ’ close to home. Consider one of the following:
- RJ Hamer Arboretum, Olinda
- Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden, Olinda
- Cloudehill, Olinda
- Silvan Reservoir, Silvan
- Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, Sherbrooke
- Emerald Lake Park