Gateway to the Yarra Valley north west of Melbourne
Lilydale, which is located on the Olinda Creek, is often described as the gateway to the Yarra Valley wine-growing area. In fact a profitable wine industry, which took advantage of the rich red volcanic soil in the area, developed around Lilydale in the 19th century. Today this small and charming town is a good starting point for visitors eager to explore the rich vineyards and cellar doors of the Yarra Valley.
Lilydale is located 41 km west of Melbourne via the M3. It lies at the edge of the Yarra Valley at the northern end of the Dandenong Ranges.^ TOP
Origin of Name
There are three possible explanations for the name. One claims that the Government surveyor, John Hardy, suggested that the town be named Lillydale after his chainman was heard singing a popular song ‘Lilly Dale’. A second one claims that the surveyor saw lilies growing in the creek. The third one argues that the Yarra Valley's first vines were planted in 1838 at Yering station. The pioneers were William Ryrie, Paul de Castella and Baron de Pury. The name Lilydale was taken from Lilly, the daughter of Paul de Castella and that council clerks and the local schoolmaster shortened the spelling to Lilydale.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Yarra Ranges Regional Museum
Located at 33 - 37 Castella Street, the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, which opened in 2011, is in the original two-storey Classical Revival shire offices (1889). The museum combines a shop, cafe, resources library and exhibition spacces. The focus of the museum is the Yarra Ranges region. It houses a local history collection and has changing exhibitions. Items include 2,000 photographs, documents and artefacts, including significant memorabilia relating to Dame Nellie Melba who made Lilydale her home after her retirement. The museum is open daily from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm, tel: (03) 9294 6511 or check out http://ach.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Regional_Museum.
Lilydale Athenaeum Theatre Company
Located at 39-41 Castella Street, the Lilydale Athenaeum Theatre Company is housed in a 19th-century brick building (built in 1888). The theatre was founded in 1976 and produces four shows each year, tel: (03) 9735 1777 or check https://www.lilydaleatc.com for details.
Located at 61 Castella Street, the brick courthouse which was built in 1876.The Victorian Heritage Database notes of the building: "The oldest existing and most elaborate early public building in the region. A solid building of an interesting design.
A well found substantial brick courthouse building, prominent carbels, pediment gable and round window heads, recalling the work of Paxton and in the idiom of the Villa Rustica ... The Courthouse is an important example of both the work of the Public Works Department (PWD) and of this form of Courthouse. It forms an important part of the townscape of Lilydale, has historical associations with the settlement and growth of both town and district and is architecturally important as a notable example of Italianate Classical revival design." For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/115252.
Located at 6-10 The Eyrie, The Towers was built in stages in the 1870s and 1880s and it mixes Classical Revival and Gothic elements. The Victorian Heritage Database notes of its significance: "Construction of The Towers was commenced in 1876 and extended in three stages. It was started by Alfred Hand, a tanner and a member of a family well known in local business, fruit and wine growing. The first stage, a simple cottage, reflects the vernacular traditions of rural Victoria in the 1870s. It was sited on a prominent slope to the north of Lilydale.
"In 1886, Andrew Fulton and his wife Elizabeth (nee Hand) built the distinctive and picturesque second stage. The twin towers and the entrance porch are a late example of Naive Medieval Revivalism. These make the house, with its elevated castellations, an important local landmark. The next owner, in 1893 was Edward Janson who named the house The Towers and used the name, with an illustration, as the label for his famous wine. He sold to Joseph Bell who completed the complex in 1901 with the third stage and stables." For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/654.
Dame Nellie Melba's Grave
Located at 120 Victoria Road, the Lilydale Lawn Cemetery's most famous grave is that of the famous Australian soprano, Dame Nellie Melba. David Mitchell, Melba's father, was a prominent Lilydale citizen and one of the largest landholders in the area. He owned a dairy, a bacon factory and built a 16 km tramway to convey firewood to his lime kilns. Dame Nellie (1861-1931) maintained her connection with the area during her adulthood. While in Australia, and particularly after her retirement, she passed time in the district. When she died large crowds lined the streets and she coffin was transported from Melbourne to Lilydale where it was met by a guard of honour who conveyed the hearse to a gun carriage and from there to the Lilydale cemetery where she was laid to rest in a family plot.
The Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail (known as the Warby Trail)
Lilydale lies at western end of the 40 km-long Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail which is suitable for walkers and cyclists. It was officially opened in 1998 and follows a clearly marked course along an old railway line which was built in 1901 to relay local fruit, vegetables and timber from the Wandin farmlands to Melbourne. The line closed in 1964.
The track, which takes around four hours to complete on a bicycle, can be subdivided into several sections which can be walked singly or collectively.
* Lilydale - Mt Evelyn - 6.9 km - the trail passes through an area rich in fauna (such as kangaroos and birds) and springtime wildflowers and terminates at the former Mt Evelyn station where there is a picnic area. This is the most challenging section of the trail as the route rises 125 metres.
* Mt Evelyn to Wandin - 5.4 km - passes through fern gullies and remnant bushland. There is a car park and picnic area at Wandin.
* Wandin to Seville - 3.4 km - traverses large agricultural areas and passes the Carriage Cafe. It reaches Seville Station which has a small car park.
* Seville to Killara - 3.2 km - passes through bushland and open pastures before reaching Killara station in Sunnyside Road. There is a carpark and a picnic area with horse facilities.
* Killara to Woori Yallock - 4.0 km - a slow descent onto the Yarra Valley floodplain concludes at the Woori Yallock station. There are parking and picnic facilities.
* Woori Yallock to Launching Place - 6.4 km - traverses rural areas along the banks of the Yarra River and finishes at the Launching Place Hotel.
* Launching Place to Yarra Junction - 2.1 km - travels along the southern side of the valley and follows the Warburton Highway to Corduroy Road and on to a former train station at Yarra Junction which is now the Upper Yarra Museum.
* Yarra Junction to Wesburn - 3.7 km - crosses the Little Yarra and offers fine views over the Central Highlands and Yarra Ranges National Park.
* Wesburn to Millgrove - 1.6 km - after crossing a number of bridges the trail heads out onto the floodplain. There are excellent views of the Yarra Ranges National Park.
* Milgrove to Warburton - (3.3 km) - passes by the foot of Mt Little Jo, Tommy Finn's Trout Farm, the gateway to Yarra Ranges National Park and Warburton Station.
There is a very handy and downloadable brochure. Check out https://visityarravalley.com.au/sites/default/files/files/documents/activities/lilydale-warburton-rail-trail-pocket-guide-2017.pdf.^ TOP
Other Attractions in the Area
Wineries in the Yarra Valley
In areas like the Yarra Valley district, where there are a number of cellar doors, it is best to refer to the specific knowledge of the wine experts. The Wine Yarra Valley website, an excellent site (check out http://wineyarravalley.com.au/wineries) has extensive information about 68 wineries in the region. It provides maps to each of the wineries and a hot link to their specific websites. There is also a useful Iconic Winery Trail with recommendations and information which can be accessed at http://www.daytrippa.com.au/barossa-valley/full-guide/daytrip/4073.
Mont De Lancey Historical Home and Museum
Located 9 km south-west of Lilydale, the Mont De Lancey Historical Home and Museum consists of an 1882 homestead, a chapel, a schoolroom and the original gardens which have been faithfully restored. The homestead was built by Henry Sebire, a stonemason, who settled in the area. It remained in the family until it was donated to the community in 1993. It is now a not-for-profit destination combining, tours with a museum and a tearoom. The museum details the history of the earliest European settlers in Wandin with photographs and memorabilia including hand tools used to clear and cultivate the land.
The highlight of any visit is the guided tour of the house and the surroundings. The website explains: "Our tour highlights the comparisons between a modern home and the pioneer Homestead ... How would you manage without mains water, hot water, electricity, phone, car and many other conveniences ... As the Tour progresses around the property, you will walk through the beautiful gardens set in lawns with stunning trees including a magnificent 100+ year old oak. The Tour also includes the 1920’s St Marys Chapel, Historic Kitchen, Home Dairy, Blacksmiths and Vintage Machinery shed. After your guided tour you are welcome to explore our extensive Museum and gardens or visit Monty’s Tearoom where you can enjoy a Devonshire Tea, Barista Coffee, a cup of Tea or a light Lunch."
It is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm. Devonshire teas and guided tours are available and there are fine views, tel: (03) 5964 2088 or check out https://www.montdelancey.org.au/.
Located 2 km south of the Lilydale shopping centre, the Lilydale Lake covers 28 ha and is part of a park which cover over 100 ha. It has an all-abilities playground, outdoor fitness station, walking tracks, fishing jetties, BBQ's, picnic shelters, sandy beach areas and public toilets and popular activities include sailboarding, sailing, canoeing and fishing. There is a 10 km walking/cycling track, tel: (03) 9735 8221. For more information check out https://visityarravalley.com.au/activity/lilydale-lake-playground.
Dandenong Ranges National Park
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 350 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, Pakenham and Sherbrooke.
The Olinda and Doongalla Area
The northern section of the National Park, known as Olinda and Doongalla, extends from the town of Olinda north to the town of Kalorama and east towards Silvan Reservoir Park. It is characterised by relatively undisturbed habitat. The gang-gang cockatoo, superb parrot, lyrebird and wedge-tailed eagle, possums, bats and gliders (all nocturnal), swamp wallabies and the rare broad-toothed rat are all found in this section of the park which consists primarily of dry forest of messmate and narrow-leaved peppermint eucalyptus, although there are wetter gullies where tree ferns, manna gum, mountain grey gum and swamp gum can be found.
There are eight picnic areas in the Olinda section.
* Olinda Falls Picnic Ground
* Eagle Nest Picnic Ground
* Kalorama Park
* Mount Dandenong Aboretum
* Valley Picnic Ground
* Doongalla Stables Picnic Area
* Doongalla Homestead Picnic Area
* Silvan Reservoir Park
See https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/695865/DRNP-visitor-guide-north.pdf for two good maps.
Walking around the Doongalla and Olinda Sections
This is an ideal area for bushwalking. The best walks start from the picnic areas and range from from a 1.2 km walk to a 6.5 km walk. They range from easy to challenging. Parks Victoria recommend five walks of differing difficulty.
* Olinda Falls – 1.2 km, 30 minutes circuit - this walk starts at the Olinda Falls Picnic Ground and includes viewing platforms over Olinda Falls and Olinda Creek as well as a pleasant walk through thick forest. It returns to the Picnic Ground.
* Eagle Nest Walk – 3 km, 60 minutes circuit - this is an easy to moderate walk which starts at Valley Picnic Ground, proceeds to the Eagle Nest Picnic Ground and returns to Valley Picnic Ground. It passes through a range of forest types (mountain grey gums, fern gullies and dry bushland
* Valley Walk – 6.5 km, 3.5 hrs circuit - this is a steep and rocky walk for experienced walkers which starts with the Eagle Nest Walk (ie from the Eagle Nest Picnic Ground) and continues via Barges Road to Predator Track and back to Valley Picnic Ground.
* Doongalla Stables Track Loop – 1.9 km, 45 minutes circuit - this walk starts from the Doongalla Stables parking area and follows the Stables Track, has a short steep climb uphill until it joins Camelia Track and then joins the Doongalla Forest Road and heads back to the car park and picnic area. The gullies along Dandenong Creek support mountain ash while the drier more exposed slopes are characterised by long-leaved box and red stringybark communities. Birdlife in this section of the park includes pardalote, mistletoe birds, ravens, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, thornbills, eastern yellow robins, New Holland honeyeaters, whipbirds, golden whistlers, boobook and powerful owls. Goannas, grass skinks and echidnas can be seen in the daytime although most of the park's mammals are nocturnal.
* Channel 10 Track/ Camelia Loop – 3.6 km, 1.5 hour circuit This long walk starts at the Channel 10 Track at the Doongalla Homestead car park and provides panoramic views of Melbourne to Port Philip Bay and the You Yangs, detour via Zig Zag Track to Burkes Lookout, and, if you are keen for a longer walk, to Mount Dandenong Observatory and the Sky High Restaurant
Mt Dandenong Observatory and Sky High Restaurant
The Mount Dandenong Observatory is 621 m above sea-level (the highest point in the Dandenongs) it offers spectacular views of Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay, the You Yangs and Mt Macedon.
SkyHigh, basically a wedding venue and restaurant, is located near the Observatory and enjoys impressive views across Melbourne. It offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in the restaurant we well as landscaped gardens with views over the city, a maze and a short bushwalk. Check out https://www.skyhighmtdandenong.com.au for more details.
Silvan Reservoir Park
The Silvan Reservoir Park is a recreation area in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges. There are 20 ha of lawns and landscaped picnic areas which consist mainly of exotic vegetation (including cypress, spruce, liquidamber, poplar, and maples), surrounded by eucalypt forest. The European-style formal gardens, which were developed in the 1930s, feature azaleas and rhododendrons and have stone terraces and a vine-covered pergola. The Park has children's play facilities, barbecues (with free wood), some fine views and numerous walking tracks.
This site was chosen for a reservoir after a severe drought in 1914. Construction commenced in 1926 and the dam was officially opened in 1931. The dam wall is 644 metres long, 219 metres wide at its base and 43 metres high. It stores water for Melbourne and surrounding areas. The area is rich in native fauna and it is possible to see the short-beaked echidna, brush-tail and ring-tail possums, sugar gliders and the common wombat. Birdlife includes herons, spoonbills, ducks, rosellas, kookaburras, wedge-tailed eagles, thornbills, tree creepers, robins, owls and cockatoos.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the
* The valley of the Yarra River was first settled by Europeans in the 1830s.
* The Yarra Valley's first vines were planted in 1838 at Yering Station.
* By the 1850s there was a track through the area to the goldfields in the Upper Goulburn River.
* In 1856 a small number of locals petitioned the government to allow the formation of a local council. Lilydale was constituted as a district and the Upper Yarra Roads Board was constituted that year.
* Land sales were held in 1860.
* The first meeting of the Upper Yarra Roads Board was held in 1862. By that time the settlement had a post office, a store, a hotel and a butcher's shop.
* The Lilydale Shire was formed in 1872.
* During the 1870s the town became a sales centre for local livestock.
* A Court House was built in 1876. The same year saw a Primary School open.
* By the start of the 1880s wine-growing was thriving, as was the lime industry.
* A Baptist church was opened in 1881.
* The railway from Melbourne arrived at Lilydale in 1882.
* The town's Mechanics Institute was opened in 1888.
* The local Shire Hall was completed in 1889.
* The disease known as phylloxera hit Australian vines late in the 19th century and destroyed the vineyards.
* Lilydale High School was built in 1919.
* In 1994 the Lilydale Shire was amalgamated to form the Yarra Ranges Shire.
* The population, in the 1996 census, was 10,694.^ TOP
Lilydale Visitor Information Centre, Lilydale Railway Station, Maroondah Highway, Lilydale, tel: (03) 9610 8891.^ TOP
The official website is https://visityarravalley.com.au/lilydale.^ TOP