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My velvet escape travel tip” is a guest series about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. With this series, I hope to uncover travel tips from places around the world to help visitors have a truly local experience.

From my bedroom window, if I stand on tippy-toes and cock my head, I have a fabulous view out to Mount Dandenong. Whilst not a big mountain, it is the highest point close to Melbourne‘s Central Business District and I am right at the foothills making it very accessible for my ‘velvet escape’!

In a short fifteen minute drive from my home, the road weaves up the side of the mountain, past tree ferns, towering mountain ash gum trees, through the small mountain villages of Sassafras and Olinda to the summit. From here, there is a spectacular view eastwards over the eastern suburbs of Melbourne to the city centre which is clearly marked by the towering skyscrapers but is totally peaceful and far removed from the chaos of city life.

Throughout the Dandenongs there are some well-known landmarks that are frequented by both national and international visitors. The most well-known being the historic steam train ‘Puffing Billy’. The journey carries its passengers along a 24km stretch of track from Belgrave to Gembrook through forests and over the famous wooden trestle bridge built in 1899.

Another well-know location is the ‘William Ricketts Sanctuary’. A four-acre property purchased by sculptor William Ricketts during the 1930s and ended up expanding by the 1960s when the Victorian Government purchased the adjoining properties. William Ricketts remained on the property and continued to produce his Australian sculptures that can be enjoyed throughout the outdoor gallery, until his death in 1993 when he was 94 years of age.

There are also many less-known and well hidden treasures dotted through the hills. One of my favourites for that true velvet escape experience is the ‘Alfred Nicholas Gardens’. Set on a steep slope opposite Sherbrooke Forest, it is a magnificent garden of rhododendrons, camelias, azaleas and other exotics dwarfed by the surrounding mountain ash eucalypts.

Taking the path that meanders down the hill through the garden, you arrive to a small, secluded lake with small walkway bridges and families of ducks. At the end of the lake is a little, wooden boat shed framed by the garden and mirrored by its reflection in the lake. It’s an image that could be straight from a fairytale book. It’s not unusual to have this velvet escape all to yourself!

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About this week’s guest writer
kirsty_wilson Kirsty Wilson is a Melbourne based Virtual Assistant with a passion for travel to exotic destinations. You can catch Kirsty on Twitter or view her travel blog Travel Tips Plus which offers inspirational travel destinations.

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