A Hidden Jewel

21 September 2010

The Grand Ridge Road stretches across the Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria’s south-east

Tourism Australia research tells us that Western Victoria is the most popular region for travellers in Victoria, so we headed in the other direction. Starting from the Korumburra-Warragul Road, the Grand Ridge Road has a spectacular beginning with the gravel road clinging to the steep hillsides of the green dairying country around SeaView. 


We left our home in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and arrived to begin the Grand Ridge Road in the afternoon when the trees threw long shadows down the almost vertical slopes. Along its length, the Grand Ridge Road surface varies from highway to unsealed tracks frequented by logging trucks.


I must admit we met several such trucks including two on tight bends. The first had just enough room to squeeze past when I pulled as far over to the left as possible. The second was on a bend so tight the truck had to take up the entire width of the road. I reversed back around the corner and parked on the right-hand side because the truck had no chance of passing me on the usual side.


At Mt Worth State Park, we turned off the Grand Ridge Road into the Moonlight Creek picnic area, where we walked the Giants Circuit following an old timber tram route to a huge mountain ash 300 years old with a girth of 7m. Logging in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s removed most of the mature trees. But following extensive regeneration efforts in recent decades, nearly 100 species of birds live in this forest. Leaving Moonlight Creek, we came to the first of two lookouts where we parked to enjoy the spectacular views over Warragul to the Great Dividing Range and the myriad of stars in the night sky.


We woke with the first light of dawn and rejoined the Grand Ridge Road to gently travel through ever-changing country, arriving at Mirboo North township, close to the halfway mark of the road. We were so early, the shops had yet to open. This is a town the tree change generation is just discovering. What took them so long? We walked the main street and found every type of shop we needed including a quilting shop, much to Jill’s delight. Granny’s Cupboard, as it is known, also features coffee and cake, ideal for a girl’s day out. Jill decided we should live in Mirboo North.


Opposite the Shire Offices are the visitors’ amenities and parkland. We had morning tea at the Lyrebird walking track. We heard the lyrebirds, saw their scratchings, but didn’t actually see them there. A local advised us to use a four-wheel-drive if we intended to go further east, and another person warned us to avoid night driving because of the wombats. As it happened, our van handled the conditions with ease.


Jill counted seven wallabies along the way, all black, some with white or silver fur on part of their faces. They hopped away as we approached. Unfortunately, we also saw as many wombats but they were all road kill. I hate to think what damage they would do to a fast-moving car. Wherever we stopped to walk, we spotted wombat holes with fresh droppings outside them, so there appears to be no shortage of them.


Leaving Mirboo North, we pressed on through countryside varying from green rolling hills to tall timber, with magnificent views in every direction and pockets of dense wet forest. That’s where we saw a lyrebird hen. As we crept around a sharp bend on a gravel part of the road, we startled the bird, which fled ahead of us. Lyrebirds are basically ground dwellers, and this one had us laughing. It looked like a maiden aunt hitching up her skirt and running madly. Her wings were flapping, her tail feathers fluttering in the breeze, her long skinny legs going nineteen to the dozen until she took a right hand turn into the bush. The sights you see when the camera isn’t ready!


The predicted wet weather arrived, and this is where we met those logging trucks. I’m not sure I’d want to tow a caravan along this section as we headed through Gunyah Gunyah and Ruyton. The various junctions in the road are signposted, but on occasion we found ourselves stopping to doublecheck we were heading in the right direction. Some tracks including logging tracks are better made than the Grand Ridge Road and it is tempting to take them.


By late afternoon we had arrived at Tarra Bulga National Park and I must admit, I was tired of driving in the rain, dodging debris and falling branches, one of which I had to drag aside. The risk of meeting logging trucks coming out of the vast stands of pines and eucalypts also added to my weariness. We stopped in the car park and watched the low-flying cloud blowing just above us, with the trees slicing the cloud into long streamers.


I enjoyed a peaceful sleep and woke refreshed ready for the day ahead. We walked the Lyrebird Ridge Track of 2.4km, leading to the graceful Corrigan’s suspension bridge, originally built in 1938 and with help from Army Engineers replaced in 1982.


From the bridge we looked down on the tree ferns, and the Beech Trees that are survivors from the time millions of years ago when Australia was still within the Antarctic Circle. The sun came out, and from Balook we had an easy run along the final part of the Grand Ridge Road with great views to the south. The road ends at the junction with the Hyland Highway running between Traralgon and Yarram.


We had covered every kilometre of the Grand Ridge Road and loved most of it. In all, we reckon the road covers about 150km, although with our detours we lost track of the exact distance. We still had to return home of course, so we headed into Yarram. Heading out through Jack River we found Hiawatha and the Minnie Ha Ha Falls. The very basic amenities there were closed so wehad the place to ourselves.


Our campfire was perfect for cooking spuds, and for dessert we enjoyed baked apples stuffed with sultanas. Delicious when cooked in foil. As the sun was setting, a huge flock of cockatoos came in, wheeling and diving as they headed for the forest.


We find it amazing how quickly our sleep patterns change without television. We were ready for sleep soon after the stars came out, and awake at the crack of dawn. Overnight rain doused the hot coals and washed the motorvan.


In the morning, a flock of wrens or Willie wagtails were feeding on the ground around us. The blue of the males was vibrant. Rosellas were also on the ground seeking food and their red feathers stood out in the morning light.


So it was our final day. We headed for Toora, passing dairy farms, visiting the Agnes Falls and the scenic route past the 12 wind towers high above the town. Toora appears to be slowly decaying, although the old Bank Building is not indicative of the whole town, and the pub meals are so good, bookings have to be made for the evening meals. This is a town just waiting to be discovered by the sea change and tree change generation.


A different scene awaited us at Foster. The town was bustling with people, and the café latte set was ensconced in the coffee shop and bakery. We enjoyed browsing through the excellent book shop and the garden centre. After lunch we took the highway through Korumburra and so to home. In all we had covered around 550km on less than a tank of petrol.


Would we do it again? Yes. The Grand Ridge Road could be covered in a day, but is worth taking time to explore. We’ll go in clearer weather to take advantage of the views over Warragul, the Latrobe Valley and Wilson’s Promontory. We may try the weekend to avoid the log trucks. We certainly loved the native forest.


Our guess is one day the whole length of the road will be widened, sealed, and therefore losing some of its charm that stems from travelling on roads built by early settlers and loggers. We’ll go again before that time.


From Melbourne: to reach Grand Ridge Road take the freeway to Warragul. Turn right on to the Korumburra Road, and then left to Seaview


Granny’s Cupboard
Enjoy afternoon tea in this quilting shop.
42 Ridgway Mirboo North
(03) 5668 2715

Grand Ridge Brewery
Main St, Mirboo North
(03) 9778 6996
Watch the brewery process. On weekends the brewers provide a casual talk on the brewing process.

Foster Museum
Main Street Foster
(03) 5682 2582
$3.00 admission
Open 11am – 4pm on Sundays, school holidays and public holidays.

Stockyard Gallery
The Roundabout, Main Street Foster
(03) 5682 1125
Open 10am – 4pm.


The Giant’s Circuit at Mt Worth State Park
Grand Ridge Rd, Warragul
1.8km return walk through giant tree ferns to a 300-year-old Mountain Ash.
Info: 131 963

Lyrebird Ridge Track at Tarra Bulga NP
2.4km return walk from the Tarra Bulga Visitors Centre carpark (near the intersection of Grand Ridge Road and Bulga Park Road, Balook).
Info: (03) 5196 6166

Fern Gully Nature Walk at Tarra Bulga NP
30min walk to the graceful Corrigans suspension bridge with views over the gully.

Agnes Falls Scenic Reserve
Agnes Falls Rd, Toora A short walk brings you to Agnes Falls, Victoria’s highest single-span falls.

Mirboo North Markets
Held on the last Saturday of each month at Baromi Park, 8:30am to 1pm.

By Malcolm and Jill Gray