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 kilometers, this is an ideal family ride that lends itself to repeated laps by fitter riding explorers.
The trail starts from the Somerton Road picnic area, then a gravel doubletrack leads you to 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. 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 a 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 biking enthusiasts can do laps of this ride in an hour or so, but first-timers might want to take a little longer.
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. This singletrack is generally undulating and non-technical.
The ride is located at Woodlands Historic Park, about 20 kilometers 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.
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.
If you want a side trip, 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 racehorses are grazing in the paddocks nearby.
- 0.0 Reset your bike computer near the toilet block in Somerton Rd picnic area. Head south on the path, away from the road, and go straight ahead at the car park driveway near the ‘Information, Homestead’ sign.
- 0.1 Cross the wooden bridge and then turn left at sign ‘Woodlands Hill Lookout’. Go straight ahead at the gateway.
- 0.5 Turn right at the road after the second gateway.
- 0.9 Go straight ahead at Y-intersection onto the gravel road.
- 1.8 Turn left at crossroads. Hume and Hovell memorial to the right near road.
- 2.4 Turn right at crossroads, heading back onto the crushed granite and go through gate. Observe sign to ‘Please shut gates’.
- 2.5 Visit homestead (entrance to right) or turn left and then bear right to go behind the homestead. Go through the gateway and ignore side tracks.
- 3.1 Ignore side tracks.
- 3.2 Bear right at sign: ‘Moonee Ponds Bike Path’.
- 4.8 Go straight ahead at sign: ‘WHP506’. The Back Paddock is on left, old quarries on right.
- 6.3 Bear left on the track near Back Paddock fence line.
- 7.0 Pass the entrance to Back Paddock and turn left through the break in an old fence uphill on a dirt double track.
- 8.8 Turn left into Back Paddock through vermin proof gates and left again after about 100m.
- 9.3 Bear right at sign: ‘Woodlands Homestead’.
- 9.6 Go straight ahead, not right, near the sign: ‘Providence Rd car park’.
- 10.2 Turn right and cross Greenvale Creek.
- 10.9 Ignore side tracks.
- 11.7 Turn right on gravel after exiting Back Paddock and passing through the gates. Ignore the side track and keep the sugar gum plantation on your right.
- 12.6 Ignore side tracks.
- 13.0 Ignore turn off for Parks Victoria depot and bear left.
- 13.2 Bear left at Y-intersection. Sign: ‘Management Vehicles Access Only’.
- 13.6 Turn right through gateway, with the sign ‘Woodlands Hill Lookout’ on your left, and cross the wooden bridge to return to the start.
- 14.0 Finish at toilet block or do another lap.
13.971 km / 8.681 mi
318 m / 1,044 ft
277 m / 908 ft
186 m / 610 ft