Some stores are more than just shops. You step into them and it is like entering a secret and special space and you can easily pass time, lost in exploring all they contain. Whether you are looking for somewhere to escape a cold or wet day or are just in need of a gift or a little retail therapy for yourself these are some of my favourite stores in the Dandenongs.

1. Epoche in Kallista

77A Monbulk Road, Kallista

Epoche's niche specialty is Steiner toys, books and gifts. They have an array of ethically and environmentally responsible products including clothing, homewares, personal care items and art and craft supplies. Epoche describe themselves as being for "the whimsical child in everyone" and their delightful, yet ever changing, window displays are just the beginning. The store is spread across three rooms and has the most enchanting displays. When it comes time to pay for your purchases I personally just love that they add up the prices on a wooden calculator and record what you've bought by writing it in a little notebook. There is no scanning barcodes and computers here. Open 7 days a week and located at 77A Monbulk Road, Kallista you can learn more about Epoche here: Epoche | Steiner gifts, books and toys | Kallista Australia.

2. Tea Leaves in Sassafras

380 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Sassafras

You don't need to be a tea drinker to be wowed by this dainty little shop. As you enter you will be welcomed by the most colourful, and in many cases whacky, array of teapots, mugs and cups. They come in every shape, colour and size you can imagine and the shops slogan of "the crazy teapot shop" is pretty damn accurate. Once your visual senses have been overwhelmed it is time to move onto the sense of smell as you wander the shelves looking at the 300+ varieties of tea on offer. For each one there is a little glass bottle with a stopper, containing a sample and it is so fun to smell a variety and if you are shopping with someone to have them try and guess what each one is. Some of my favourites include Turkish delight, chocolate mint and mango which contains little slithers of the dried orange fruit. And coffee lovers, fear not, they also sell a range of specialty blends for you. Open 7 days a week and located at 380 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Sassafras you can learn more about Tea Leaves here: Tea Leaves & Teapot Online Shop | Tea Leaves.

3. In The Neck Of The Woods (formerly The Belgrave Emporium) in Belgrave

1662 Burwood Highway, Belgrave

In The Neck Of The Woods is a permanent market space which houses a collective of over 80 small artisan makers. Its offerings are ever changing and include jewellery, handmade soaps and body products, knits, crafts, vintage and handmade clothes, candles and local art. It is easy to loose track of time while exploring the aisles, never being quite sure what the next little space will offer. There is something lovely about knowing purchases made here will support locals, many of whom create their wares at their kitchen table or in their spare room. Open 7 days a week and located at 1662 Burwood Highway, Belgrave you can learn more about In The Neck Of The Woods here: The Belgrave Emporium – Retail artisan and makers market. Watch out for their second store in Monbulk opening in Winter 2022.

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.".