Nobody likes to drive …
… if every day they’re driving to work on the Monash; or if they’re only shuttling the kids to and from school; or if they’re stuck in the CBD trying to navigate a hook turn; or if they’re just trying to drive home on the Prinny Highway late at night with souped-up cars racing beside you. Nobody likes driving then. (Featured image: Seven Roadtrips)
But then there are times when driving becomes something more than just getting from point A to point B (and back again). Something changes when the open road stretches out in front; when it slaloms up and down hills and mountains; and when breaks in the treeline offer spectacular views of the country. This is when driving ceases to be a necessity, and becomes fun and freeing.
To help reclaim this freedom from the annals of memory, find here a handy list of some of Victoria’s most scenic and riveting drives.
1. The Dandenong Ranges
Probably the least structured drive, and one of the closest to the city, is out in the Dandenong Ranges — Puffin Billy country. There’s not so much as one road that you should drive or a particular time of the year that you should go, but rather it’s all of them and whenever you get the chance. Every season offers up something truly special to see and nothing beats getting lost out in the mountains when there are multiple main roads to lead you back home.
So forget about the 1000 steps and head-on into the Dandenongs to discover a series of backroads snaking through the region, connecting towns separated by tall Mountain Ash trees and ferny undergrowth. Particularly interesting (read windy) roads include Wantima-Sassafras Road, Olinda Creek Road, and Sherbrooke Road.
While you’re in the area, check out the William Ricketts Sanctuary, a tranquil place exhibiting mystical Aboriginal sculptures, as well as the Sky High Observatory where on a clear day you can see the You Yangs on the other side of the city.
For more info and structured drives around the Dandenong Ranges, see here.
2. The Silo Art Trail, The Mallee
When it comes to scenic drives, the landscape of The Mallee isn’t the typical kind of imagery we associate with a long, enjoyable drive out on the open road. It’s dry, vast and the scrubland isn’t all that awe-enthralling. However, what The Mallee does have is Victoria’s Art Silo Trail.
Stretching more than 200kms and linking six country towns, the painted silos tell some of the stories of the region by recognising and celebrating members of the hard-working communities. From Patchewollock in the state’s north down through Lascelle, Rosebery, Brim and Sheep Hills to Rupanyup (just past Stawell if you’re coming from Melbourne), or the other way around, the Victorian Silo Art Trail will have you meeting locals learning the history of the area right from its indigenous roots through to its importance as one of Australia’s prominent grain-producing regions.
3. Black Spur Drive, The Yarra Valley
The Black Spur Drive throws up some absolutely spectacular scenery, slicing through a forest of tall trees and bushy undergrowth. There are tight corners too and hairpin turns to navigate requiring concentration and the feeling that you are one with your vehicle and your vehicle is one with the road.
The total driving distance is just short of 30 kilometres when starting out at Healesville and ending in Marysville. But a perfect addition to this drive exists in the warmer months when the snowfields are gone and Lake Mountain Road isn’t packed with winter travellers heading up to the ski resort. From base to the summit, it will take you less than 15 minutes but you’re probably going to want to drive up one more time.
For more info on the Black Spur Drive, see here.
4. The Grampians National Park
There are multiple reasons to visit the Grampians National Park. The majestic sandstone cliffs, the awe-inspiring views, the stunning flora and fauna, and the chance to escape to name but a few. And those seeking a scenic drive to match the natural beauty of the area, will not be left disappointed as sealed roads stretch out in front of them then disappear behind lines of trees, providing (good) surprises along the way.
First, drive out to Dunkeld in the south of the national park, a 280km trip from the city, to really begin the drive. From Dunkeld, take Grampians Road north towards Halls Gap, which spears straight through the heart of the national park and, shortly afterwards, turn left onto Mt Victory Road towards Wartook to unlock a total of 95 kilometres of sensational driving and lookouts worth stopping at, including MacKenzie Falls.
More info on the Grampians National Park.
5. The Grand Ridge Road, Gippsland
Straddling the ridge of the Strzelecki Ranges and at 132km in length, the Grand Ridge Road is one of Victoria’s great tourist drives. On a clear day, you can see the Latrobe Valley farmlands to the north and Bass Strait all the way to the south.
The road itself is a mix of bitumen and gravel, so it’s not for everyone; however, it is windy and the slower speeds (need to be cautious to avoid wildlife) means that you get to take in much more of the beautiful scenery.
To access the Grand Ridge Road, you will need to make your way to Warragul, Morwell or Traralgon from the Princes Freeway or Yarram, Foster, Korumburra or Leongatha from the South Gippsland Highway. It will take you just 20-30 minutes to reach the beginning of your next scenic drive from one of these towns.
In winter, you will need to be careful as the road is often wet and visibility can be poor. Even still, people suggest that five to six hours is enough to drive the entire route, but those that are keen to shorten the trip can use Mirboo North as a convenient halfway point.
For more info on the Grand Ridge Road, see here.
6. The Great Alpine Road (And 7. Bogong High Plains Road)
Arguably, this is one of the greatest driving experiences to be had anywhere in Australia.
The 339-kilometre drive from Wangaratta in Victoria’s north-east down to Metung by the Gippsland Lakes in the south-east crosses the Victorian Alps on Australia’s highest year-round accessible sealed road. (Sorry Bogong, you close in the winter due to snow and ice).
It is entirely possible to do this drive in a day since the long-sweeping corners lead you gracefully into lofty mountain ranges, down plunging valleys, into lush forests, and past rolling vineyards that plead with you to continue. The difficult part of the journey will be heeding your passengers calls to stop every so often and take in the phenomenal sights — Bright is superb to see in autumn and Omeo brings to life Victoria’s gold(en) history.
A great addition to the Great Alpine Road drive if you’re in the area for the weekend is Bogong High Plains Road, which runs almost parallel to the Great Alpine Road and passes through Mt Beauty and Falls Creek. Bogong High Plains Road will also lead you to a short detour that will take you to Australia’s highest driveable peak, Mt McKay at 1842 metres. On a good day, you should be able to see 250 kilometres into the distance.
8. The Great Ocean Road
Not much can be said about the Great Ocean Road drive that hasn’t already been said because it is the most scenic and beautiful drive in Victoria (and probably Australia). It’s fame also extends across the oceans with tourists, backpackers and intrepid travellers all having hired a car or caravan to drive the Great Ocean Road as a must-do when visiting Melbourne.
Unfortunately, the downside to this is that on weekends and in summer months the road is jam-packed and driving bumper to bumper is not unheard of on certain stretches of the 243-kilometre war memorial — did you know that the Great Ocean Road was built over 14 years by thousands of returned WWI servicemen making it the world’s largest war memorial?
Regardless, the drive along Victoria’s west coast from Torquay to Warrnambool is so peppered with quaint seaside towns, mouth-gaping sights and magical moments that you’d be thought a fool to refuse the drive. Make sure to check out the Twelve Apostles (now 8) before they all collapse into the sea, head to Bay of Martyrs for insta-worthy photos at sunset, and maybe a swim or a surf at the spiritual home of Australian surf — Bells Beach. Also, between June and October, female southern right whales use Logan’s Beach as a nursery making a winter expedition (less traffic) a real treat.
If you do get stuck behind someone, there are a number of turn-offs that take you to some pretty special roads like Turton’s Track, which winds for through the Otway rainforest between Beech Forest and Tanybryn. For about 12kms you’ll get tree fern glades, giant messmate and beech trees encroaching on you from either side.
More info on the Great Ocean Road.