Welcome to the first of a little series intended to highlight some of the best, most challenging, and most fun roads we (occasionally) get to drive on.
Driving isn’t always about going fast; let me make that clear from the outset. But while some people love the idea and feeling of straight-line speed, others – such as myself – have always revelled in the unadulterated bliss that is an endlessly entertaining strip of twisty tarmac (or gravel, if so inclined).
So let’s begin…
Built simply to join Kinglake, in Victoria’s north east, with Wattle Glen – located between Diamond Creek and Kangaroo Ground – the Heidelberg-Kinglake Road has been at, or near, the top of my favourite driving roads list since I was a 17-year-old Learner driver, as my Mum thought it’d be a good idea to have me get comfortable with tight, narrow, unlit, rural roads (not sure if her good intentions quite worked out to plan).
Anyway, while the drive from out of Wattle Glen isn’t bad – and nor is the run from Kangaroo Ground to just beyond Smiths Gully – the real money is found in the 13-odd kilometres between St Andrews and Kinglake proper.
Heading out this way, the C746 presents drivers with cliff-face to their right and a sheer drop to their left. A little daunting at first sight – which can be a good thing – the view out the passenger side is pretty spectacular.
Flip things around and head back from Kinglake towards St Andrews and, depending on the car you’re in, the echo of engine and exhaust noise off the cliff walls can be an extra delight.
The surface is largely high-quality sealed tarmac, but be aware: it is very tight, and very narrow, and even small bumps can result in a less than ideal scenario.
This time we’re going just down the road, to another all-time favourite.
A long-standing ‘testing’ road for motoring journalists far and wide, the C724 – also known as Chum Creek Road – brilliantly flows its way between Healesville and Toolangi.
Full of down-hill, off-camber bends when coming from Toolangi toward Healesville, go the other way, and it presents drivers with a hugely entertaining 20-odd kilometres of blacktop.
The surface has its faults, however. And although that makes it a top road for testing, it also means the utmost of respect should be paid at all times. Watch out for the red gravel mid-way through, too – it tends to make its way from off the road to onto it. And, as always, keep an eye and ear out for motorcyclists.
Easily accessible from either Maroondah Highway (B360) or the Melba Highway (B300), Chum Creek Road is one I’ve been driving since I was an eager-to-learn, 19-year-old P-plater in my 1999 R34 Nissan Skyline.
Fair warning though, I’ve also witnessed a very nasty collision there a number of years ago, where a DC2 Honda Integra Type R left the road at speed, and ended up lodged in a tree. There were no fatalities, but emergency services were required.
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Wow. Wow. Wow. Whether you like your roads sealed or not, Acheron Way/Donna Buang Road, in Victoria’s east, is simply sublime.
Effectively joining Warburton to Narbethong, the C507 isn’t quite as it seems from a basic map. For example, at first glance on Google Maps, you’ll likely assume it’s entirely tarmac. But, as they say, to assume makes… a fool of both of us (so to speak).
Start your Acheron Way experience – and I use the word ‘experience’ for a reason – at the Warburton end, and you’re greeted by around 8km of largely high-quality sealed bitumen. Start your adventure from the Narbethong end, and you get 15km of exceptionally challenging and enjoyable tarmac to enjoy.
In the middle, however, is the hidden bonus of Acheron Way – gravel. That’s right, about 13km of quality, tight and twisting gravel road.
Now, of course, not everyone enjoys driving on gravel and not everyone is happy getting their pride and joy dusty, or even potentially a little stone-chipped. But, if you don’t mind any of that, this single ribbon of road through the beautiful fern-riddled Yarra Ranges, is one of the greats.
Apart from the obvious dangers associated with driving on loose surfaces, those keen to make the trek to Acheron Way, be warned: it’s very, very narrow – think one-lane wide in most parts – and it’s also a commonly used logging road, meaning it is frequented by large, fully-loaded logging trucks. Take care, stay safe, and be sure to keep things rubber-side down.
Got a favourite road you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below.
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