Cycle Melbourne, Mountain Bike Ride, Woodlands Wander
A ride through history on this former grazing property, complete with 1840s homestead that is open to the public, enlivened at regular intervals by jets flying low overhead on their way to nearby Melbourne airport. At 14 kilometres, this is an ideal family ride that lends itself to repeated laps by fitter riders.
It’s not unusual to see young kids riding along the crushed granite trails at Woodlands Historic Park with mum and dad, although the track behind the ‘Back Paddock’ wilderness area offers more of a challenge, especially in the wet. There are some shady stretches on this ride but the park can be hot and windy in summer.
Starting from the Somerton Road picnic area, the first stretch is a crushed granite shared-use track leading to the park’s service road, before a gravel doubletrack takes you near a stone monument to early explorers Hume and Hovell.
The ride then climbs back to the service road and meanders past the Woodlands Homestead, which dates back to 1843, with the Moonee Ponds Creek on the right and kangaroos grazing where once there were sheep. As you reach the high, vermin-proof fence of the Back Paddock, you start heading away from the airport and past several former quarry pits, one of which is now a lake.
This is where you would join the ride if you were arriving from the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail. From here you travel uphill alongside a new section of fence intended to make it easier to stop foxes entering the Back Paddock and make it possible to reintroduce bandicoots to the area. The track passes the Gellibrand Hill lookout and the ruins of an 1870s homestead, Dundonald, to the east before returning to a crushed-granite surface for a run down through the Back Paddock, which is good fun. The double gates are a bit tricky to navigate with a bike and may sometimes be locked for breeding programs. Then the ride skirts a sugar gum plantation back towards the picnic area. Experienced mountain bikers can do laps of this ride in an hour or so but first timers might want to take a little longer.
The ride is located at Woodlands Historic Park, about 20 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, overlooking Melbourne airport. By car, take the Tullamarine Freeway and continue past the airport towards Sunbury. Turn right into Oaklands Road and then left into Somerton Road to reach Woodlands Historic Park’s main picnic area (Melway 178 C6). It has toilets, tables, picnic shelters and modern electric barbecues.
Bike: Follow the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail and it will take you near to the bottom entrance of the Back Paddock, where you can join our ride at the 7.1km mark.
Food and Drink
There is a coffee shop at the Woodlands Homestead but consider bringing everything with you, for a barbecue feast in the Somerton Road picnic area.
Check out the old homestead buildings and historic displays of Woodlands. It is not open every day but, when it is, makes a nice spot to break your ride, especially if some of the Living Legends race horses are grazing in the paddocks nearby.
13.971 km / 8.681 mi
205 m / 672 ft
186 m / 610 ft