The ‘little slice of heaven’ on Melbourne’s doorstep

A fast-paced career in London’s fashion scene made Donna Ireland keen to carve out weekend escapes to the English countryside or one of Europe’s many villages whenever she could spare the time.

When she moved to Victoria, Ireland was keen to put down roots in an area that would deliver the same sense of nature-based tranquility she’d discovered overseas.

Drawn to the verdant mountain and historic charms of the villages of the Dandenong Ranges, Ireland purchased The Loft in the Mill.

Tucked 40 minutes away from the city, the Dandenongs feel like a world away from the hustle and bustle. Photo: Mark Chew

A collection of elegant bluestone buildings built in the late 1980s to replicate a Victorian flour mill and carriage house, the Olinda property provides boutique accommodation for local, interstate and international visitors.

“I looked at many places in Victoria, and this is the one that caught my eye,” Ireland says.

“There’s an abundance of green everywhere; it’s a little slice of heaven.”

Head for the hills

A 40-minute drive east of Melbourne’s CBD, the Dandenongs are a set of low mountain ranges home to temperate rainforest and protected parklands.

Montrose forms the northern gateway to the area, with the bustling suburb of Belgrave to the south and the villages of Mount Dandenong, Olinda and Sassafras in between.

Ireland says the villages and surrounds are made up of “wonderfully talented and passionate business owners”.

Fruit growers, artisans, restaurateurs and the owners of cafes, pubs and holiday retreats all contribute to making the mountains a brilliant place to live and visit.

You’ll find antique stores and plant nurseries, bakeries and chocolatiers, tea rooms and a gin distillery, botanic gardens and a golf course with views across the Yarra Valley to the Warburton Ranges.

City dwellers have been lured to the Dandenongs for its idyllic lifestyle offerings. Photo: iStock

Natural paradise

“For me, the one thing that sets this place apart is the most spectacular parks and gardens and walking trails, the everchanging colours of the seasons, the majestic night sky, the sunset seen from Skyhigh Mount Dandenong and the mornings when you do actually wake up literally in a cloud with the sound of beautiful birdsong,” says Ireland.

Ryan Bell of Bell Real Estate Montrose says prices continue to climb in the Dandenongs as city folk look for larger properties and a slower pace of life.

“Pre-COVID the market was strong, but I think it’s even more of a desired area now because people are not having to drive into the city,” he says.

“The main drawcard is the lifestyle. We’ve got the national parks, a lot more cafes popping up and a good range of schools, especially on the Montrose side of the hill.”

Ireland says she is looking forward to welcoming guests back to the Dandenongs as soon as restrictions in Victoria are lifted.

One to watch

At the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, Rapale is a 4.6-hectare estate boasting rolling lawns, a tennis court, a heated pool, a terrace with an outdoor kitchen, a garden pavilion and an orchard.

The gracious residence spans more than 1000 square metres and there’s a two-bedroom chalet for guests.

Peninsula Sotheby’s International Realty’s Marco Santos is privately selling the home with a price guide of $6.95 million-$7.6 million.

3 Pickwood Close, Montrose VIC 3765

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