Melbourne Day Trip Help Needed

Old May 9th, 2004, 06:45 PM
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Melbourne Day Trip Help Needed

I am planning on going on one of 2 day trips while in Melbourne (4 days +2 GOR) after I spend 2 days on the GOR and need some minor assistance. I am having difficulty deciding on how I should get out to Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary, a quick Winery tour - we like wine but not really into extensive touring of those facilities and wife wants to ride on the Puffing Billy Railway.

My dilemma is whther to rent a car, take the trains to Belgrave ride the Buffing and then train it over to Lilydale for the sancuary and then back to Flinders St for the end of the day or to just say heck with it an go on a tour. Any thoughs or suggestions welcome.
brazoo is offline  
Old May 9th, 2004, 09:20 PM
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Hi Brazoo,

I'm not sure if I understand you correctly. If I did the math correctly, you'll have 6 days in the area, i.e., 4 days based in Melbourne and 2 days driving the GOR. If I'm still on the right track, you want to spend 1 or 2 of your 4 Melbourne-based days on day trips out of Melbourne.

I would say you have the ratio correct, i.e., 2 days in Melbourne proper, 2 days doing the GOR and 2 days doing other excursions.

I think you would be really pushing it if you tried to combine the Healesville Nature Sanctuary, a visit to a winery and a ride on Puffing Billy. That's more territory than you can cover in a day and do justice to any one activity.

Using public transportation to get to Healesville is somewhat cumbersome, even from downtown Melbourne. You have to catch a train to Lilydale and from there a bus to Healesville.

Catching a train to Lilydale from Belgrave would add an additional level of complication, in that you would have to change trains at Ringwood.

Here's a map of Melbourne's commuter train system that illustrates the logistics:

Healesville Nature Sanctuary is nice. If you don't see Australian native animals anywhere else during your Australian travels, I would certainly recommend placing Healesville at the top of your list. It would be better to visit Healesville by car.

If you do see Australian native animals some other place, then I recommend skipping Healesville.

I confess I'm not into wineries. We typically stopped in at a winery on the way back from Healesville, but I generally did it to humour the relatives or friends to whom we were showing the sights of Greater Melbourne. To me there's nothing unique about those wineries. One can visit wineries in any number of other countries. That's just my personal opinion, of course. Anyway, it sounds as if winery tours are not that high a priority for you either.

After Healesville, there are a couple of activities that are equally attractive to my taste, and it's really tough to suggest which is the better of the two.

A ride on Puffing Billy is right up there on my short list of things to do in Greater Melbourne. It's really fun to make a full day of it, i.e., to go to Gembrook, which is the last station on the line, have lunch there, and then return. There are a couple of pleasant places at which one can disembark from Puffing Billy, look around, and then board the train again the next time it comes by. We are fond of railways, and one of the places at which we enjoyed stopping was a museum of old locomotives.

Another place that is right up there on my list is the William Ricketts Sanctuary near Olinda in the Dandenong Ranges. There the sculptures of the late William Ricketts are arranged so that they look as if they're growing out of the forest. Walking through the Sanctuary is an extraordinary experience.

Not too far from the William Ricketts Sanctuary are the National Rhododendron Gardens. The rhododendrons and azaleas are in their full glory in October and early November, but the gardens already put on a good show when the cherries blossom in September. The combination of formal garden plants and tall native eucalyptus trees is very interesting.

The William Ricketts Sanctuary and the National Rhododendron Gardens would make a delightful day's outing. You would need a car for this.

So my take on this is:

1. Visit Healesville if you don't have another opportunity to see Australian animals.

2. Ride Puffing Billy.

OR, if you've seen Australian animals elsewhere,

1. Ride Puffing Billy.

2. Visit the William Ricketts Sanctuary and the National Rhododendron Gardens.

I saw a guided bus tour on the Internet that offered to take you to Puffing Billy, the William Ricketts Sanctuary and Healesville all in one day. Speaking only for myself, this would involve too much racing around to savour any one of those places at an enjoyable pace.

Hope this helps.

Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old May 10th, 2004, 02:18 AM
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Hi brazoo,
Hire a car for healesville and the surrounding area, you will have so much flexibility and also Air con in the vehicle. We did it last December and were able to get to many places in a short space of time. A tour probably would have limited us in many ways.

Good Luck

Mucky is offline  
Old May 10th, 2004, 04:41 AM
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We did the tour with a small group - total 8 people so we were in a van which was most comfortable. The Puffing Billy was in the morning, then out to the winelands with lunch at one of the wineries (excellent food and wine). Afterwards, we headed to Healesville and spent a good amount of time here. Finally, back to MEL.

This does go back a few years, so I don't recall if we made any other stops during the day, but with a small group (of diverse people/ages) it seemed more like a group of friends out for the day, than a tour. At no time were we rushed, with the exception of keeping to the Puffing Billy schedule. And the driver/guide was a great guy. Something to consider.
Old May 10th, 2004, 06:25 AM
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Brazoo, something to consider is that the tours that combine Puffing Billy with other activities on the same day do only about a quarter of Puffing Billy's route. The full route provides more varied scenery, and the last station, Gembrook, which tours don't reach, is a charming, old fashioned little town.

The rangers at Healesville give interpretive talks on different species at different times of the day. I found them very interesting. One might not feel rushed going through the nature sanctuary on a day that included other activities, but one would not have enough time to avail oneself of the full cross section of the sanctuary's services.

If one has the luxury of time, I think it's nice to do Healesville and Puffing Billy over 2 days.

If one has only a single day to spend on these activities, Puffing Billy, a winery and Healesville can be covered in that day. Sandi says she enjoyed it that way.

So I guess you'll have to take your pick based on the amount of time you have and your own travel style.

Sorry, the URL I gave for Melbourne's railway map in my previous post was wrong. Here's the right one:
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old May 11th, 2004, 03:21 AM
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I think having a car will be a much better idea unless the thought of driving here on the left (not sure where you are from) stresses you out, and Puffing Billy is in Belgrave which has some winding roads.
If you do have a car, two good places to visit for a meal/snack are the Kallista Tea Rooms in Kallista or the small village of Olinda which has lots of good places to eat (Rolf's pies are yum) and nice touristy gift shops. At the Kallista tearooms there are cockatoos, king parrots and often a kookaburra swinging on the feed trays right outside the window. Makes the warm fruit scones taste even better!

You could do Healesville Sanctuary, the town of Healesville which is nice for a wander around, Maroondah Dam and a couple of wineries on the way home on one day.
The other day do Puffing Billy and Olinda. Lots to see and do up in the hills area, the Pig & Whistle just outside Olinda is a cosy tavern style place with good food and service - quite casual. Hope you enjoy Melbourne.
KayF is offline  
Old May 12th, 2004, 06:28 AM
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If driving up on Mt Dandenong you musn't miss the view from the lookout across over Melbourne. On a clear day you can see across the sprawling suburbs to Port Philip Bay and beyond to the YouYangs (spelling?),a small range of mountains at the southern end of the Great Dividing Range, south west of Melbourne.
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Old May 12th, 2004, 11:22 PM
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I'd certainly do Puffing Billy and the Dandenongs on one day and keep another day for your trip to the wineries and Healesville. Renting a car would be the easiest way to do both trips and would give you freedom to stop and look.
If you run out of time to do the Healesville Sanctuary, here are some suggestions to see Australian wildlife in other places.
If you are driving along the Great Ocean Road, the golf course at Anglesea is known for the mobs of kangeroos on the course, particularly early morning and late afternoon.
Mt Eccles National Park (about 50 km inland from Port Fairy) is a good place to see koalas.
The Grampians National Park (inland from the Great Ocean Road) is usually a good place to see wildlife, plus some great scenery.
If all else fails, Melbourne Zoo is excellent, a very short tram trip from the CBD, and has a good collection of Australian and other animals.
If you are in Melbourne in springtime and whilst you are in the Dandenongs, the Rhododendron Gardens at Olinda are worth visiting.
marg is offline  
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