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Ferntree Gully, VIC

Suburb on the southern edge of the Dandenong Ranges National Park

Today Ferntree Gully and Upper Ferntree Gully are suburbs on the edge of Greater Melbourne. They are located at the southern end of Dandenong Ranges National Park. The area experiences high rainfall and the combination of that rainfall and rich volcanic soils ensures that the whole area is covered with forests and fern gullies. It is noted for its walking tracks, its views of Melbourne, its eucalypt forests, picnic areas, birdlife, wallabies, bandicoots, echidnas and possums and its flora notably native orchids, native grasses and native shrubs. It is famous for its 1000 Steps walk - a challenging walk also known as the Kokoda Track - and for its excellent bushwalks


Upper Ferntree Gully, which is 663 m above sea level, is located 38 km east of Melbourne along the Burwood Highway or 42 km via the M3.


Origin of Name

This an example of a place named after its appearance. It was originally named Fern Tree Gully because it was an attractive gully with lots of ferns. It was duly named Ferntree Gully which was the title of an 1860 painting of the local forest.


Things to See and Do

Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground
Located only twenty minutes from Ferntree Gully Railway Station, the Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground is up the hill from the village - on Mt Dandenong Tourist Road. It has parking, toilets with disabled access, drinking water, picnic tables and shelters, electric barbecues, a ranger's office, information boards, a playground and walking tracks.

The Living Bush Nature Walk
Starting at the Acacia Picnic Ground, this 2.5 km, 90 minutes return, walk is typical of the area. The walk is through beautiful native bushland which includes spectacular fern gullies and tall eucalypt trees.

Ramblers Track Loop Walk
Starting from the Childrens Playground, this short 1.5 km, 45 min return walk is of medium difficulty. It connects with the lower section of the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk and is an opportunity to walk through the lush fern gullies of the Ferntree Gully Creek. Expect to see both the Rough and Smooth tree ferns as well as Crimson Rosellas and possums which include the newly forming fern fronds in their diet.

1000 Steps Kokoda Track Walk
Upper Ferntree Gully is famous for the Kokoda Walk, sometimes known as the 1000 Step Walk. It is a steep 3 km walk which takes ninety minutes starting at the Upper Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground. The walk was created in the early 1900s and originally made from the trunks of tree ferns laid along the wetter areas of the track to make the 290 metre ascent a little easier. Today it has a combination of wooden steps and concrete sections. The track follows a creek alignment up through the wet fern gully. There is native wildlife and birdlife along the way. Parks Victoria describe the walk: "Along the way are plaques depicting the lives of those who fought and died on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea in World War II. The physical effort required to complete the climb gives walkers a sense of the exhaustion experienced by the Australian soldiers following the trail during the Kokoda campaign in 1942. Along the way see tree ferns, and manna gum and blackwood towards the top of the hill. This walk is not recommended for those with medical conditions that restrict physical activity. Check out https://visitdandenongranges.com.au/1000-steps. When walkers and runners reach the top they can take the Lyrebird Track or continue on some 800m to One Tree Hill.

Lyrebird Loop Walk
The Lyrebird Loop Walk is 4 km long and takes around 2 hrs return. It is a steep climb  to the One Tree Hill Picnic area and then back down the Lyrebird Track to the picnic ground.

One Tree Hill Picnic Ground
The One Tree Hill Picnic Ground, which can be accessed either via Churchill Drive or One Tree Hill Road, is a picnic area which has parking, toilets, water, wood barbecues, picnic tables and shelters. From the Picnic Ground walkers can take either the Ferntree Gully Track to the Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground, or the One Tree Hill Track which passes through stringybark and peppermint gum forest. Pea shrubs bloom in spring.

Belview Loop Walk
The steep Belview Loop Walk, which starts at the Lyrebird track, is 4.5 km long and takes around 2.5 hrs return. It leads to Belview Terrace.


Other Attractions in the Area

Dandenong Ranges National Park - Ferntree Gully area
Dandenong Ranges National Park (3,540 ha) was declared in 1987 when the Ferntree Gully National Park, Sherbrooke Forest and Doongalla Estate were amalgamated. A decade later the Olinda State Forest, Mount Evelyn and Montrose Reserve were added. The park, which stretches from Kalorama in the north to Belgrave in the south is primarily a place for walking, sightseeing, picnicking, nature observation and car touring. More than 400 plant species have been recorded in the park, including the rare cinnamon wattle and smooth tea-tree, 130 bird species, 31 species of mammals (most are nocturnal), 21 reptile species and nine amphibians.

Parks Victoria has divided the park into four distinct areas:

* Olinda Area
* Doongalla Area
* Ferntree Gully Area
* Sherbrooke Area

Each has its own attractions and they can best be explored by:

(a) check out https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/dandenong-ranges-national-park and downloading the specific Visitor Guides for each section.
(b) checking out Aussie Towns specific entries on Belgrave, Dandenong, Emerald, Upper Ferntree Gully, Kallista, Kalorama, Monbulk, Olinda and Sherbrooke.
(c) there is a useful, downloadable map of the Ferntree Gully area - check https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/695873/DRNP-map-FernTreeGully.pdf

Ambleside Park Homestead Museum
Located at 3 Olivebank Road, Ferntree Gully, Ambleside Park Homestead, which is the Museum for the Knox Historical Society. The Knox Council website (https://www.knox.vic.gov.au/Page/Page.aspx?Page_Id=292) explains the history of the building: "A mixed farm of 210 acres, the selection was taken up in 1872. The house represents the later stability of the settlers. Ephraim Hansen gained the Crown Grant in 1887 and built the house in 1899 having first lived in a modest timber dwelling. The solid practical Hawthorn brick house is built in the Italianate style of multi-chrome brick and is a reflection of progressive building techniques of the time ... The garden has significant trees and shrubs dating from the 1870s, 1890s and 1950s ... Andrew and Ephraim Hansen were Swedish immigrant brothers who came to Australia in the 1860s ... Andrew settled at the site of the plains of the Dandenong Ranges and grew flowers and vegetables. Ephraim settled at Ferntree Gully on the site now known as Ambleside (only 2 acres remain). A general farm, the land extended from Forest Road to Mountain Road (now Olivebank Road) ... In 1952 on the death of Ephraim’s son (also Ephraim), the property was sold to Oliver and Mabel David. After provision for their family, the David’s bequeathed the house and 2 acres to the City of Knox in 1970. It was made available to the Knox Historical Society in 1977." The exhibits include two rooms - a parlour and a bedroom - furnished in the style of the early 20th century, a collection of antique farm equipment, and 25,000 photographs of the local area. The Ambleside Park Gardens, covering 2 acres of land, have trees planted in the 1870s. Behind the homestead is a huge magnolia tree and an oak tree. In the front garden camellias, rhododendrons, a holly, a magnolia and a blackwood tree were planted in the 1890s when the homestead was built.  The museum is open Thursday, Friday to Sunday from 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm. Group tours can be organised by prior arrangement, tel: (03) 9758 6722 or check out http://home.vicnet.net.au/~khsinc/museum.html.

Heidelberg School Artists Trail
Starting in Heidelberg and continuing into the Dandenong Ranges and to Yarra Glen, this route is designed to take visitors to the sites depicted in the paintings of those artists who were associated with the Heidelberg School (Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers, Louis Buvelot, Tom Roberts, Clara Southern, David Davies, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Charles Conder, Tudor St George Tucker, Eigene Von Guerard, May Vale and Jane Price).
At each such site there is a reproduction of the relevant painting which allows the visitor to see artist's interpretation of the landscape and to observe how the landscape has changed since the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
There is an explanatory signs at Ferntree Gully:
44. Eugene Von Guerard, Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges, 1857



* Prior to European settlement the area was home to the Woiwurrung Aboriginal people. The Wurrundjeri people also once passed their winters near the Dandenong Ranges.

* The first European in the Dandenongs was botanist Daniel Bunce in 1839. He climbed Mt Corhanwarrabul (628 m) and Mt Dandenong (633 m).

* Ferdinand von Mueller, the botanist responsible for the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, explored the area in the 1850s.

* Ferntree Gully was named after an 1860 painting of the local forest.

* The area became a popular holiday destination in the 1860s.

* By the 1870s the town comprised two hotels and a post office.

* A school was built in 1880.

* Ferntree Gully was set aside for public recreation in 1882.

* Small sections of land were first opened for settlement in the area in the 1880s.

* The railway reached Ferntree Gully in 1889. That year saw the establishment of the Shire of Fern Tree Gully.

* A narrow-gauge railway to Gembrook was opened in 1900 and it now forms part of the Puffing Billy railway line.

* By 1901 3,936 acres were under cultivation.

* A road to the summit of Mt Dandenong was made suitable for coaches in 1904.

* The first motor coaches made the trip in 1922.

* Large boarding houses were built for holidaymakers in the 1920s.

* The reserve was expanded in 1927 when Ferntree Gully National Park (the nation's second National Park) was declared.

* The railway line was electrified in 1929. 

* An animal sanctuary was created at Ferntree Gully in 1931.

* A Catholic primary school was opened in 1936.

* A local arts society was established in 1944.

* A kindergarten was opened in 1949.

* The Ferntree Gully animal sanctuary was phased out in the 1950s.

* In 1954 a boy's technical school was opened. That year also saw the opening of the William Angliss Hospital.

* A Catholic Secondary School opened in 1965.

* Ferntree Gully  became part of Dandenong Ranges National Park in 1987.


Useful Websites

The official website is at https://visitdandenongranges.com.au/upper-ferntree-gully.

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