For those looking to cover some distance and find long stretches of country roads with stunning views, the Gembrook loop drive is a perfect road trip. Gembrook, a small town on the fringe of the Bunyip State Forest can be accessed from many directions but driving from the north provides a pleasing drive with stop points along the way.
Leaving Lilydale head east for about 25 kilometres on B380 to the Gembrook -Launching Place Rd (C424), and turn right towards Gembrook. It takes approx. 30 minutes to get to Gembrook but there are several sites of interest to stop at along the way.
The Kurth Kiln Regional Park provides an immersive experience into the forest with well-marked walking tracks, picnic facilities and historical sites including a heritage listed kiln. Look out also for the tranquil Ship Rock Falls, which are an easy 2-minute walk from the carpark.
The scenery on this road varies enormously as it cuts softly into the Australian landscape and then emerges among a sea of vineyards. In fact, some of the great wine grapes of the region are grown in this fabulous cool climate area!
The township of Gembrook is a wonderful place to explore and take a rest break. The ‘end of the line’ for Puffing Billy, young and old can delight in the arrival and departure of a steam train, while enjoying a wander in the local park. There is also The Motorist Museum on the main street – driving enthusiasts can book a joyride in a classic or vintage car from the collection. A day in Gembrook is a relaxed experience full of its own rewards. There are plenty of places to dine – from the causal to the fine, a supermarket and picnic facilities. A walk around the town is a lovely way to explore an historical township that still holds its early settler charms and timber roots.
Heading back to Melbourne, the loop back to the Warburton Highway is an easy 30-minute drive on the Healesville-Koo Wee Yup Road (C411) through Cockatoo and Yellingbo to the turn off at Woori Yallock. Turn left and Lilydale is a 20-minute drive.
Of note on the return trip, Cockatoo is worth a visit. Once a gold mining town, it is also a central focal point for farming with many 20th century immigrants becoming established agriculturalists in the area. Surrounded by forests there is a good chance of spotting a wombat or a possum, and of course the namesake Cockatoo!
At Yellingbo, note the General Store which was the first building built in the town and is still standing today. Yellingbo is also the home of the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, which contains three of Victoria's natural emblems: the last remaining wild population of the Helmeted Honeyeater, the Leadbeaters Possum and the common-pink Heath all live and grow in this reserve.
Towns along the way at: Lilydale, Launching Place, Gembrook, Cockatoo, Yellingbo, Woori Yallock
Distance: approx. Approx 100 km loop from Lilydale return
Time: Spend the day – depends on how many stops you make
Terrain: Sealed roads, easy drive in farmland and some forest roads, some unsealed sections in National Parks (to access car parks)
Note: Look out for other places to stop along the way.