Melbourne: Puffing Billy Railway

Let's go on a magical journey this autumn.

Melbourne: Puffing Billy Railway
I've always wanted to go on the Puffing Billy Railway trail ever since I read about it (on Groupon Australia, no less), and it seems like the perfect autumn activity to do when the parents came to visit me while I was on student exchange at Melbourne. You don't have to walk a lot since you're on the little train most of the time, with plenty of sights to enjoy. What's more, it is completely build for quality time since you're literally stuck in the same space for a good one to two hours.

From Melbourne city, hop onto the train to reach Belgrave via the Belgrave line. Upon reaching Belgrave station, follow the blue line as pictured above to reach the Puffing Billy Railway station. The duration of the train journey is around 1 hour, depending on where you board the train. You are advised to check a few things before setting off:

Are the puffing billy trains running that day?
There are certain days allocated for Total Fire Ban, which means that steam locomotive trains cannot operate. You will still get diesel locomotive trains running, but it is different from the classic one. For up to date information on the operating days, click here.

What time should I reach?
It like most likely that you want to hang out at the beautiful nature destinations that the puffing billy trains will bring you, and there are very limited return trips of the trains. Hence, you should definitely aim to catch the first train departing from Belgrave at 1030. Timetables change depending on seasons, so click here to confirm (in case it changes long after I publish this). You have to queue up to buy tickets, take some photos, linger around the souvenir shops, so it is best to aim to reach at 0930 if you intend to buy tickets on the spot. This is quite a popular tourist activity with limited spots, so it's best to play safe. Therefore, it's best if you checked the train timings (from the city to Belgrave) the day before to ensure you can reach on time.

Should I get the Groupon Australia deal or...?
If you're arriving in Melbourne as a tourist and buying a new Myki card, remember to get the green MykiVisitor Value Pack. Inside it, you should have a 20% discount off a return fare (not valid for concession, only Adults). For the Belgrave > Lakeside/Emerald adult return trip (recommended), you will be paying AUD41.20 instead of AUD51.50. This will be cheaper than the Groupon Australia deal of AUD59 inclusive of morning tea and CBD transfer.

In autumn/winter months...
Check the temperature and weather, and most importantly, bring enough warm clothing. I thought I had more than enough but ended up freezing my toes off, so yes... don't be afraid to 'overestimate'.

Preparing for a picnic...
It is a touristic area with limited food sources/cafes/restaurants, so bring your own picnic equipment! There are a lot of places for that opportunity.

Prior to leaving for the Puffing Billy Railway, I did some research which was definitely helpful because you might just be at a loss what to choose at the ticket booth with a long queue behind you!

For trip from Belgrave > Emerald/Lakeside OR Emerald/Lakeside > Gembrook
Adult - AUD31.50 (Single), AUD51.50 (Return)
Child (aged 4-16) - AUD16 (Single), AUD26.50 (Return)
Concession - AUD25 (Single), AUD41 (Return)
Family - AUD104 (Return)

For trip from Belgrave > Gembrook
Adult - AUD45 (Single), AUD68 (Return)
Child (aged 4-16) - AUD22 (Single), AUD34 (Return)
Concession - AUD36 (Single), AUD53.5 (Return)
Family - AUD137 (Return)

For trip from Belgrave > Menzies Creek OR Menzies Creek > Lakeside
Adult - AUD22.5 (Single), AUD30.5 (Return)
Child (aged 4-16) - AUD11 (Single), AUD16 (Return)
Concession - AUD18.5 (Single), AUD24 (Return)

I know, a lot of information to take in, right? Don't worry, here's a TL;DR version:
For groups without children (or trying to avoid children), I will recommend the Belgrave > Lakeside
For groups with children, I will recommend the Belgrave > Emerald
With your MykiVisitor discount, you should be paying AUD41.20 per person.
On hindsight, it is really quite expensive but well, you pay for the experience of being on the train (and photos).

Why I don't recommend Menzies Creek or Gembrook:
Menzies Creek is quite near to Belgrave and you practically don't get to see much, Gembrook is much further from Emerald/Lakeside and takes way too long to reach.

I was so thrilled to be at the Puffing Billy Belgrave station because everyone was in this happy holiday mood waiting for the train to pull into the station! In the far distance, the train was already sputtering smoke and blaring its way over. It was freezing cold too as we piled into the train. You can choose to hang your legs out of the windows, but I found it was quite scary (but safe) so I kept my limbs to myself. There is considerable difference in scenery between sitting on the left or right side of the train. The right side of the train has much more interesting attractions and points of the journey where you can see the curvature of the track, so try to get the seats on the right if you can (it's free seating). Of course, be nice people and try not to hog the windows all the time so everyone in the carriage can take turns to take pictures.
It was a really relaxing journey well, similar to taking a ferris wheel. Even though it was enjoyable, I was glad I didn't pick the one to Gembrook which would be way too far out! Remember to grab the brochures at the start of your journey so you can watch out for some stunning attractions along the way including the Cardinia Reservoir, Port Philip Bay as the train brings us to elevated heights along the Dandenong Mountain range.

Everywhere was filled with autumn leaves fluttering in the air, it was so pretty! This is where I went to pick autumn leaves for souvenirs - there are so many that stayed in perfect maple-leaf shapes. At Emerald, we took a leisurely walk around the lake. There are other activities to be done in the summer, but it was really too cold to do anything but eat and lounge at a corner then.
I lost this scarf the next day (R.I.P scarf) in my university due to my carelessness and never got it back.. sigh nothing will ever replace it. This is the last set of pictures with it.
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a travel and food blogger with a constant longing to be somewhere to makes her feel alive ☆ life's an adventure

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