Grand Ridge Road snakes 132km along the ridge of Victoria's Strzelecki Ranges between the Latrobe Valley and South Gippsland. The ever-changing scenery encompasses the green Latrobe Valley to Mt. Baw Baw to the north and to the sandy beaches and blue waters of the Bass Coast and Wilsons Promontory to the south. It has been rightly called one of the most scenic roads in the world.
Location: Gippsland, Victoria
Length: 136 km
Suggested return journey: via Princes Highway, LaTrobe Valley
Features/attractions: Strzelecki Ranges; views to Mt. Baw Baw, Wilsons Promontory
Minimum duration (one way): 3 hours
Grand Ridge Road in Victoria's South Gippsland region traverses the top of the Strzelecki Ranges and offers panoramic views which change at every twist and turn. Along the way are quaint villages, fern forests, rolling pastures, towering mountain ash and forestry plantations.
The Grand Ridge Road starts at Seaview, about 15 kilometres south of Warragul in western Gippsland, Victoria. It runs east and south through Hallston, Mirboo North, Gunyah Junction and Ryton Junction, then north-east to English's Corner, Balook, Blackwarry and finally to Carrajung, about 15 kilometres south of Traralgon.
It is definitely not one of the best surfaced roads in the world, any more than it's one of the best-known. In fact, in some places, and at some times of the year, it's possibly better avoided altogether. Its quality can vary from that of an acceptably fast two-lane rural highway to a rutted and washed-out goat-track that's seen a few too many timber trucks.
Driving along the road today, you can't fail to be impressed by the knowledge that most of the road was designed and built to service the needs of the settlers of the remote hill communities long before powered road construction equipment was in everyday use, which makes it an even more impressive engineering accomplishment. It begins at the western end as a firmly-based gravel road, but almost half of its total distance is bitumen.
The road runs along the top of the Strzelecki Ranges, a southerly outcrop of Australia's Great Dividing Range. This area was first explored in 1840 by the Polish-born adventurer of the same name, to his considerable peril, but it was not settled until 30 years later, when its earliest pioneers - many unskilled, and most of them inadequately prepared - acquired land on the understanding that they would clear vast reaches of some of the then-tallest timber in the world, often to their (and certainly to later generations') considerable loss. The terrain that the road traverses and the views that it overlooks will give you a glimpse into how difficult their lives must have been.
That having been said, you don't need a 4WD, any family car in reasonable condition will handle it easily - the important thing is to avoid making the journey in bad weather; also take your time so you can enjoy the scenery, and you'll find the drive most rewarding.