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William Ricketts Sanctuary

Delve into the mystical realm of William Ricketts Sanctuary, one of Australia’s most artistic and spiritual forest walks where you will see art and nature in creative harmony. 

Visit the Dandenong Ranges to see the mystical creations of the William Ricketts Sanctuary, a natural art gallery in a ferny glade. Stroll along the unique art trail created by a self-made artist who became an advocate for Aboriginal philosophies about nature.

William Ricketts Sanctuary depicts the special bond between Mother Nature and Australia’s Aborigines, whose ancestors were already roaming this vast country some 50,000 years ago. Ricketts, who was born in 1898, spent years in remote Aboriginal communities. Indigenous Australians base their Dream Time stories and beliefs on natural landmarks and animals, which they consider to be sacred. Ricketts gained a deep respect for his hosts, who acted as custodians of the land instead of its proprietors. 

Ricketts returned home and found his own spot for spiritual reflection among the tall tree ferns and mountain ash trees of the Dandenong Ranges. He named his land “Potter’s Sanctuary”and lived and sculpted there until his death in 1993. Before he died, he sold the land to the Victorian government, which turned his life’s work into a public art trail.

Reconnect with nature by following the trail with nearly 100 artworks. Most sculptures portray Aborigines, but there are also winged angels and statues of native wildlife. The Gun Brute sculpture depicts how the European settlers have forever upset the age-old harmony between humans and Mother Nature on this continent.

Ricketts worked mainly with clay, so that his creations seem to organically sprout up from the tree trunks and rocks. Note how the statues and carvings are slowly gathering a thin layer of moss, destined to become one with nature over time.

Entry to the William Ricketts Sanctuary is free of charge. The visitor center is across the road from the car park. The main track is only about a third of a mile (500 meters) long and mostly suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. There are toilet facilities and some covered galleries that provide basic shelter.

To get to the William Ricketts Sanctuary, follow the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road from Montrose on the outskirts of Melbourne to Olinda. The winding road is an attraction in itself. For a full day out, also explore the nearby National Rhododendron Gardens and the maze, barbecue area and panoramic restaurant of SkyHigh Mount Dandenong.


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