Cycle Melbourne, Mountain Bike Ride, Ship Rock Roller
This ride is pleasant in summer or winter with plenty of shade and no major climbs to stress out those who don’t like a vertical challenge. It is a real mountain bike ride that can be enjoyed even if you have limited off-road experience. Ferns grow in abundance on the Soldiers Road section and the Kurth Kiln picnic area is a very beautiful place to start and finish. This is a ride that will have you coming back to explore the area further.
When riding through the vast Kurth Kiln Regional Park trail network it is hard to believe its rather grim past as a centre of charcoal production during World War Two and as a forestry area before and after that period. The park is named after the kilns used to turn local trees into charcoal which was then used as fuel for vehicles when petrol was scarce during the war. The then Forests Commission used the area to provide work for returned servicemen after the war and, ironically, accommodated them in huts bought from the army. With the Yarra State Forest and Bunyip State Park nearby, this area around the town of Gembrook provided a large amount of timber. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that Kurth Kiln was redeveloped as a park with picnic spots, camping areas and horse riding facilities. Apart from the charcoal kiln the area is dotted with tourist attractions, not least of them Ship Rock and Ship Rock Falls.
The giant granite boulder seems to owe its name more to its size than its shape, while the falls are a pleasant walk downhill from the rock. Nearby Egg Rock is another giant boulder popular with rock climbers, although it is also home to a fire tower. Much of the former timber mill settlement of Beenak was destroyed by bushfires in 1926 but its cemetery and post office tree are in Beenak Road near Narrow Leaf Road. Three of the World War Two huts that were moved to Kurth Kiln after the war were destroyed in 1963 bushfires but four remain, beautifully restored by the Friends of Kurth Kiln to keep the area looking like a remote bush settlement. The group also has helped establish a walking track along the Tomahawk Creek. Camping here is pleasant thanks to the wood-fired barbecues and abundant animal life. It can get crowded on long weekends and school holidays and the toilet facilities are rather primitive.
For those looking for something a little more classy in the immediate vicinity, the Gilwell Scout Camp (ph (03) 5968 1284) has a range of accommodation available to make it possible to explore the vast local trail network in the area over several days.
Kurth Kiln Regional Park is about 55km east of Melbourne, Melway page 14 R10. Take the Warburton Highway (B380) to Woori Yallock and turn right on Lusatia Park Road, two kilometres after the roundabout, heading towards Hoddles Creek. Turn right at the T-intersection with Gembrook-Launching Place Road (C424) and follow it past Beenak Road to Soldiers Road. Turn right and follow Soldiers to the Picnic Ground Car Park. This carpark is on the left nearest to the intersection with Beenak Road.
Food and Drink
There is no food or drink at Kurth Kiln but Gembrook is just 10km south, or you can buy something from the shops in Woori Yallock on your way in.
The short diversion to Ship Rock at the 5.6km mark is well worth it if the falls are running, but watch the traffic on Gembrook-Launching Place Road.
15.161 km / 9.421 mi
366 m / 1,201 ft
342 m / 1,122 ft