Feeding Australian Native Birds and Exploring Old Town of Sassafras in the Dandenongs9 January, 2011
After our Puffing Billy train ride across the Dandenongs, we continued our exploration of the Dandenong Ranges with an up close and personal encounter with native Australian birds at the Grants Picnic Ground. The scenic drive through the Ranges to the Grants Picnic Ground took about 20 minutes from the Puffing Billy station of Lakeside.
The Grants Picnic Ground is open from 9am til dusk everyday and this is where different species of Australian native birds gather for a picnic of their own too. Everyday, tourists (both Melburnians and from around the world) come here for a delightful (or terrifying – depends on how you feel about birds flying around you) bird-feeding experience. To start, simply drop by the Grants on Sherbrooke shop which is located conveniently by the carpark, to get a small bag of sunflower seeds for 1 Aussie dollar. If you are hungry after your bird-feeding session, you can also grab a bite at the Grants on Sherbrooke cafe.
You don’t have to walk far to find the birds – just a 1-minute walk away from the shop lies some picnic benches and here the birds – we saw 3 species: Galah (the one on Zhiqiang’s right palm – see upper left picture below), Cockatoo (the large white birds which dominate the grounds) and Rosella (the one on Tingyi’s head – see picture below), will be eagerly waiting for you.
If you are considering coming here for a bird-feeding experience, do note that these birds are very aggressive creatures (when it comes to food) – come with ample protection e.g. long-sleeved shirt (check out my battle scars on my arm at PassportChop.com Facebook pictures of our bird-feeding experience) and covered-toe shoes (they will peck at your toes if there are sunflower seeds on them). They have also become smarter through years of “grooming” by the tourists; they know that the prize is in the small bag of bird feed so they will not hesitate to “steal” and fly away with any unattended bird feed bags (just see the video below where we caught one of the culprits on digital film!). This is still a very fun experience and I would do it again if given the chance 🙂
After feeding the birds, it was about time to feed ourselves and one of the best places in the Dandenongs for brunch/lunch/tea is the Sassafras old town. Sassafras has retained its original charm since it became a popular destination for city dwellers in the nineteenth century. You can taste the famous Devonshire teas and scones in Sassafras’s cafés and restaurants, and come back for seconds in the quaint old tea rooms such as Miss Marples tea room, an authentic English cottage inspired by Agatha Christie. Sassafras is a very small town with just a handful of shops – it will take you just 10 minutes to finish exploring the town of Sassafras but if you are browsing the interesting collections of clothes, antiques that each shop offers, it might take you hours, depending on your interest. 🙂
You can browse in the antique stores and the local specialist shops between meals. For the best local wine and produce, check out Sassafras General Store and Café, and grab a teapot souvenir from Tea Leaves which offers a range of tea accessories and of course, the tea leaves and bags itself. We even found a teapot creatively shaped like a Christmas tree and van/bus (see pictures below). Even if you are not a fan of tea, you will enjoy browsing through the fascinating collections of the Tea Leaves shop.
Sassafras is 45 minutes from Melbourne. Take the Eastern Freeway and continue onto Eastlink tollway. Exit at Burwood Highway and follow the road through Upper Ferntree Gully. Alternatively, travel east on the Monash Freeway from the city and exit at Ferntree Gully Road.