The Dandenong Ranges National Park is one of the national parks nearest to central Melbourne. The park is surrounded by picturesque little towns such as Olinda, Sassafras, Montrose and Silvan. The National Rhododendron Gardens are also nearby, as well as the Mount Dandenong Observatory and the Mount Dandenong Arboretum.
Most of the 200 native and foreign tree and plant species in the R.J. Hamer Arboretum were planted in 1978, after a fire destroyed the forest plantation which had previously occupied the area from the 1940s onwards. It is named after the premier of Victoria of 1972 – 1981, Sir Rupert Hamer.
The area is accessible through a car park and picnic area on Chalet Road coming from Olinda.The area is hilly and there are beautiful viewpoints, starting from the car park on Chalet Road. Several tracks lead north into the national park, so that a walk through the arboretum can turn into a hike of several hours.
Walking through the arboretum visitors can spot many familiar decorative species popular in European and Australian gardens, such as Rhododendrons and Grevilleas, here for instance a Grevillea banksii cultivar in bloom.
The arboretum and adjoining park is also home to many local species of wildlife. This land crayfish, or burrowing crayfish of the genus Engaeus, one of the 35 species of land crayfish only occurring in Australia and Tasmania, lives in burrows in the ground, on top of which a towering mound is constructed.
The Arboretum and National Park are open to visitors year round, subject to seasonal closures. For detailed information check the National Parks Victoria website at parkweb.vic.gov.au or call the Parks Victoria Information Centre at 13 1963.