Get your hands dirty on historic properties and enjoy the romance of steam travel as you experience the daily struggles and genteel pleasures of the past in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges.
The start of the story
Mount Dandenong was originally known as Corhanwarrabul (the present-day site of Burke's Lookout is also known as Mount Corhanwarrabul) and was the summer hunting place for the Bunurong people from Western Port and the Woiworung people from the Kulin nation.
Botanist Daniel Bunce's 1840s foray into the Dandenong Ranges marked the first recorded European expedition. Wholesale clearing began in the 1850s when the settlers moved in, before the state forest was established in 1867.
Learn more about Victorian Koorie culture and their historical and contemporary relationship to the Dandenong Ranges at Burrinja Gallery in Upwey.
Over in the Yarra Valley, the area around Healesville was originally occupied by the Yarra Yarra or Wurrundjeri Aboriginal group. By 1863 these peoples were settled at the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reservation on Badger Creek, which soon became Victoria's largest and best-known Aboriginal reserve until its closure in 1924. Visit Healesville Sanctuary to learn more about the area's Aboriginal history.
A head full of steam
Jump aboard Puffing Billy, the pride and joy of the Dandenong Ranges and a symbol of the area's status as a refined weekend destination in the pre-war years. Picture yourself as an intrepid early-1900s tourist, travelling along the narrow-gauge track across trestle bridges and toiling up hills between Belgrave and Gembrook. Complete the experience with a meal of Yarra Valley food and wine in a first-class dining carriage.
Stop in at historic gardens around the ranges for a glimpse into refined days gone by, and pick up souvenirs from your voyage into Victoria's past at antique shops around Sassafras.
Check out the farm implements and household items that reveal daily life for Yarra Valley pioneers at Gulf Station, almost unchanged since the 1850s when it serviced gold miners. See how blacksmiths operated and explore the museum, gardens and homestead at Mont de Lancey.