There’s not a lot of snow around Melbourne. Sure, the Dandenongs might get a bit of snow on a cold, cold, day but it rarely lasts. While there are no ski resorts within an easy day trip of Melbourne there are two options to get a bit of snow that you can do in a day trip. Lake Mountain is one option about two hours away. However the closest option is Mount Donna Buang which takes 90 minutes to get to.
Mount Donna Buang is a relaxed option as far as a snow visit goes. It isn’t a resort with a lot of infrastructure and no ski runs. It’s just part of a national park that sometimes gets snow and has some areas that are good for toboggans.
This makes it simple and cheap to visit (there’s no entry fees). The downside is that there may be no snow. There’s no snow makers and any snow that has fallen may only last for a day or even hours depending on conditions.
When it does snow, it often isn’t too deep so you can chance going with minimal snow gear if you don’t have any. It does get cold though – you’ll still need warm clothes and ideally waterproof boots (like a pair of wellies).
In terms of facilities there isn’t that much up there. There’s a food stand with hot and cold food and drinks which opens most weekends but only sometimes during the week. It also rents out toboggans for $10 for the day. There are some toilets as well which are well maintained.
Finding up-to-date information on conditions (like how much snow there is, if any) can be tough. The Visit Warburton Facebook page is the best source of information we found. It is more up-to-date than anything else but it relies on reports from people that are on top of Mount Donna Buang. As such the snow might have gone before anyone tells them (and you get there). There’s also a good FAQ provided by the same team that is one of the best sources of general information we found.
The casualness of Donna Buang has it’s downsides – you might get there and there’s no snow – but it also makes it more fun when you do get snow. There’s no entry free, less crowds (although it can get busy on weekends) and if you get the timing right, it is a great day trip from Melbourne to get some snow.
Do I need chains for Mount Donna Buang?
You can get by without chains but it might mean you’re stuck waiting for a few hours. Ideally have some handy.
When the Donna Buang Road gets icy or covered in snow Vicroads will grade the road to make it safe again. However as the snow fall is irregular they need to get out there and do it – they aren’t waiting around for it.
If the road needs grading, the the road is closed to all cars except for those with chains or four-wheel drives (sometimes the road is closed completely). The day before our visit this happened and cars were stuck waiting around for over three hours before the road was reopened. Then there was a queue to get down. Depending on conditions, the road can be closed from different points – typically either the 10 mile car-park (most of the way to the summit) or near the Rainforest Gallery (near the start of the road).
Unfortunately, there is nowhere close by around Warburton to hire chains. Marysville, 30 to 40 minutes away, does have two places that rent chains.
Getting to the top of Mount Donna Buang
Mount Donna Buang is approximately a 90 minute drive from the centre of Melbourne. From there you can take the Eastern Freeway and a little bit of Eastlink to get to the Maroondah Highway. To bypass Eastlink use Springvale Road to head south to get to the Maroondah Highway. Just after Lilydale take the Warburton Highway (route B380) all the way to Warburton. After going through Warburton for a few minutes you’ll see the turn off to the Donna Buang Road on your left. Follow it all the way to the top. It’s about 10 minutes from there.
There are public buses to Warburton from Lilydale Station (at the end of the Lilydale line) but there is no public transport up Mount Donna Buang from there.
Staying near Mount Donna Buang
While Donna Buang is only 90 minutes from Melbourne you might want to stay somewhere nearby. This lets you visit several times with a break in between or helps ensure you see some snow if the conditions are good but variable.
The town of Warburton is close by (and most people will drive through it to get to the mountain). It has several accommodation options. We stayed in the Warburton Motel and it was a great choice for us a as a family. You can read our review here.
Mount Donna Buang is free to visit. It’s located near Warburton and on the Donna Buang Road. See the Visit Warburton Facebook page for the latest snow updates.
Kid Friendly: Yes – snow or no snow it’s fine for kids to run around.
Pram/Stroller friendly: Not when there’s snow or post-snow slush around.
Change table: No