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The hidden Melbourne - the lesser known natural charms
Author: MedhaRuby

Think of Melbourne, and chances of most will think of a hep and happening city, a huge cricket stadium, one or two lovely beaches and a wonderful population. The fact that it has been voted as the best place to live in many times draw focus to the concrete infrastructure. Yet, hidden from the knowledge or itinerary of many who visit Melbourne for a day or two, are a whole host of spectacular charms. Melbourne's geological position presents it with an astonishing variety of landscapes and rockfaces. Built on the confluence of lave flows and Silurian mudstones, it follows the Yarra River and the Dandenong Ranges, spreading into a flat country later on. The ocean-side situation further provides it access to the oceanic geology. The result is an astonishing variety of landscapes and natural wonders with breathtaking scenic beauty.

Northeast of the city proper one can see the beautiful Yarra Valley. The Black Spur Drive is an enchanting 30 minutes drive between Healesville and Marysville. The drive links the Yarra Valley with the mountains around Marysville, and crosses through tall trees, fragrant air and heady scenery. The famous Lady Talbot Forest Drive is a round-trip drive of 46 kilometers through rare old growth myrtle beech forests, boulders, gorges and creeks lined with ferns and mosses. The drive takes one through the Marysville State Forest and the Yarra Ranges National Park with rolling valleys of eucalyptus. Nearby is the Steavenson Falls Reserve which is full of pristine mountain ash, mountain gray gum, peppermint, and other trees. It has any number of beautiful walks, one of which will take you to the top of the central attraction - the Steavenson Falls, 84 meters tall and one of the highest in Victoria. The Mt. Donna Buang Rainforest Gallery is situated within the Yarra Valley providing another unforgettable forest experience. At one end of the Yarra, merely one hour from the Melbourne CBD, is the SkyHigh - the summit of the Dandenong Ranges. If offers a wonderful vista of the whole city and nearby landscape amid its cool ferns and verdant ageless forests. It offers a spectacular sight after sundown as the stars pop out of the sky - one by one - and as the city lights are switched on to welcome the dark night. While you savor this stellar performance you can enjoy the SkyHigh café and bistro, or you can light your own barbeque. With a beautifully crafted garden and trails, SkyHigh has something for everyone. One can take the picturesque and enchanting Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road to arrive at the Mt. Dandenong Observatory.

The Mornington Peninsula, on the other hand, much south of the city proper, is a haven for the beach lovers. Mornington has an endless parade of beaches. The Frankston is a large and safe sandy beach popular for all sea activities - including swimming, snorkeling, sailboarding, yachting and diving. Safeguarded by a Lifeguard club, this is a popular family picnic spot and is also known as a boating location. Between Mount Eliza and Mornington there are a large number of small bay beaches, like the Daveys Bay, Ranelagh and Sunnyside beaches and the Canadian and Half Moon bays. Mornington itself is another focal point of other spectacular beaches. Around this picturesque bay harbor lie the Scout, the Mill, Shire Hall, Fishermans and other beaches. In fact the list is quite endless. You could visit the Mount Martha beaches, the Safety Beach, the Dromana, the Rosebud, the Rye or Blairgowrie, the Sorrento Front Beach or the Portsea Front Beach.....Just across the Port Bay from Mornington are the two fabulous pair of the French island and the Philip Island. But let these two enchantments be a tale for another day.... The simple fact is that far too many people shy away from exploring the Melbourne hinterland - a treasure trove of natural spectacles. Far too many...

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