THE DANDENONGS' BEST KNOWN PUBLIC GARDEN

1A Sherbrooke Road, Sherbrooke

Alfred Nicholas is perhaps one of the most photographed spots in the hills, with its iconic lakeside boathouse drawing hoards of visitors, particularly in Autumn. During the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 this garden became quite literally a playground for my children. My daughter Piper refers to it under the moniker "lookout lake". This name came about after she discovered a small stone set of steps that runs up the left hand side of the upper portion of the waterfall which runs into the lake below. Despite frequently visiting Alfred Nicholas over the years I still find new pockets and tiny details I have never noticed on previous excursions.


HISTORY

Alfred Nicholas Gardens is probably the best known of several previously, privately-owned gardens in the Dandenongs which are now managed by Parks Victoria. Originally part of the larger Burnham Beeches Estate the gardens were developed by Alfred Nicholas. Nicholas was a pharmacist and the creator of Aspro. In 1929 he hired a team of 60 staff to clear the land. He set off to the Chelsea Flower Show in England and imported 150 trees. Works continued but sadly he passed away in 1933, as the gardens would have been beginning to become established. During the second world war the art deco home adjoining the grounds was used as a hospital and Alfred's wife continued to live at the property until the 1950s. Beyond that it was used a a science research facility before being donated to the State of Victoria.


GETTING THERE

Entry to the gardens is free and there is parking across the road and public toilets just inside the entrance. For those coming by public transport catch bus number 694 from Belgrave Train Station and hope off at the stop at the corner of Sherbrooke Road and Nobles Lane. From there it is a 2 minute walk to the gardens.


Just inside the impressive front gates is a detailed map of the gardens. I highly recommend photographing the map on your phone before you head off down the slope, in case you need to refer to it to navigate your way back.

The sloping Arboretum at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
The ornamental lake at Alfred Nicholas Gardens with one of the wooden bridges in the foreground
The ornamental lake and stonework at Alfred Nicholas Gardnes

OVERVIEW

When I visit I always think of the 13 acre gardens as being in four sections, each quite different from the others. The first section is the flat area comprising the driveway and upper ponds that lead towards the art deco home. The second section is the sloping paths and steps that are dotted with hydrangeas and winter roses. The third section - and most famous - is the area around the ornamental lake, boathouse and waterfall. And the fourth and final section is the sloping arboretum, which few actually go down to visit.


MANMADE STRUCTURES

In many ways what makes Alfred Nicholas Gardens so popular are not the gardens per se but the manmade structures throughout them. These include the small ponds and little bridges on the approach to the main house and the rotunda which is located halfway down the property. The stone retaining walls which line the paths and steps and are now moss covered and are a pretty feature. The main manmade structures are the ornamental lake, pedestrian bridges, boathouse and waterfall with central pond.


KIDS FAVOURITES

My 6 year old daughter Piper and her brother Oakley (who is like a little mountain goat) love to visit Alfred Nicholas Gardens and always run up to the top of the waterfall and call to us below. Their next favourite playspot is over behind the famous boathouse where there are two hollow trees. One is still standing and they like to hide inside it. The second is laying against the slope and they love to crawl straight through it like a tunnel. Their third favourite spot is one we only just recently took to exploring; the lowest part of the gardens (the signed Arboretum). They love running down the grassed hill at full speed or sometimes even rolling. They also love getting in below the conifers and using them as cubbies.


THE SEASONS

Each change of season brings variations to what Alfred Nicholas offers. In Autumn the deciduous trees are the obvious drawcard. Come Winter the hellebores and the fern glades take centre stage. As Spring enters the rhododendrons become the star and in early Summer the hydrangeas come into all their glory.


OTHER NEARBY GARDENS

If you enjoyed Alfred Nicholas Gardens be sure to continue down the road to also explore George Tindale Garden, which is a smaller, but extremely sweet publicly owned garden. Also in the vicinity, and accessible off Olinda-Monbulk Road is Pirianda Gardens along with the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens (formerly known as the National Rhododendron Gardens).


SURROUNDING VILLAGES AND AMENITIES

From Alfred Nicholas the nearest townships with stores and amenities are Kallista to the east and Sassafras to the north-west. If you enjoyed visiting Alfred Nicholas be sure to check out the nearby nurseries where you can purchase many of the plants you would have seen.

The pedestrian bridge to the island in the ornamental lake at Alfre Nicholas Gardens
Flagstone steps and stone walled path amongst the trees and ferns at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Stone wall lined walking path amongst the ferns and flowering plants at Alfred Nicholas Gardens

As a family photographer - and the only one currently licensed by Parks Victoria to operate at Alfred Nicholas Gardens - I am excited to be able to guide visitors through the gardens and to use the beautiful surrounds as the backdrop for their images.

Parks Victoria Licensed Tour Operator Logo
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Little girl in pink hugging her grandfather at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Portrait of adult brothers taken by Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Portrait of adult family of four at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Couple portrait taken by Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Grandparents walking the ornamental paths with their two young granddaughters at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Couple dancing amongst the Autumn leaves at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Extended family photoshoot with Kate Cashin Photography at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Cousins looking at the ornamental lake at Alfred Nicholas Gardens by Melbourne photographer Kate Cashin
Portrait of a young girl with a rainbow blanket at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Couple portrait taken at the Upper Ponds at Alfred NIcholas Gardens
Young girl in pink hugging her grandmother at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
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ARE YOU INTERESTED IN OUTDOOR PHOTOS?

If you are interested in having family, extended family, couple, maternity, newborn, business or personal branding photos taken outdoors in the beautiful forests or gardens of the Dandenongs please get in contact.

Address: 1A Sherbrooke Road, Sherbrooke

Public toilets: Yes

Terrain: Extremely steep

Dogs allowed: Yes

Nearest playground: Olinda Playspace

Kate Cashin is a family photographer based in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

She specialises in nature sessions and forest adventures with the motto "Play. Move. Explore.".

I ACKNOWLEDGE THE BUNURONG AND WURUNDJERDI PEOPLE WHO ARE THE TRADITIONAL OWNERS OF THE LAND ON WHICH I PHOTOGRAPH.
I PAY MY RESPECTS TO THEIR ELDERS; PAST, PRESENT AND EMERGING.