I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published February 23rd 2020
A Great Little Road Trip
As road-trips go the Burke & Wills Track doesn't rate, not much more than a milk-run really at just over 36-Kilometres. But in terms of a relaxed drive with a couple of interesting highlights along the way it does make for a pleasant day out and, just like a rainbow, there's a little pot of gold at the end.
A historic marker at Mustey's Bridge, Lancefield acknowledges the passing of the ill-fated Burke & Wills expedition in August 1860 and marks the beginning of the Burke & wills Track. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
No prize for guessing that this section of road is named after the ill-fated Burke & Wills expedition that set out from Royal Park, Melbourne on 20th August 1860 to trek to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The track starts near Mustey's Bridge on the northern outskirts of Lancefield, the site of the expeditions 4th campsite. From here, it snakes through the rolling, timbered hills of the Cobaw State Forest.
Fifteen-kilometres in and we come to Granite Hills Winery at Baynton, near the site of the expeditions 5th campsite, at about the point where the heavily timbered hills give way to undulating, boulder-strewn grazing land.
A family-owned business, Granite Hills winery is a great little cellar door that punches well above its weight having received more than 500 awards in domestic and international competitions.
Granite Hills Winery has been run by the Knight family since 1970. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Just a couple of kilometres further up the road there's another excellent boutique winery. Well off the track, it requires a 14-kilometre diversion via Baynton Road and Prendergast Lane. Cobaw Ridge is a true, small boutique winery – hand-picked, hand-pruned, handmade. Often described as natural or biodynamic, Cobaw Ridge wines have a particular point of difference and they're very, very good.
Cobaw Ridge is a little off the beaten track but does produce a very tasty drop. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Leaving the wineries behind, you'll soon come to a memorial to a standout moment in Australian aviation history.
On 16th July 1910, pioneer aviator and local farmer John Duigan became the first person to fly an Australian designed and built airplane on the family property 'Spring Plains'.
Spring Plains was the site of the first flight by an Australian designed and built aircraft on 16th July 1910. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
It took John and younger brother, Reginald, a year to build their aircraft using timber, old piano pieces, and steel baling bands. On the first flight, Duigan remained airborne for a distance of 7-metres, equal to the wingspan of the aircraft, but after some modifications subsequent flight distances increased, achieving 180-Meters on 7th October 2010.
John Duigan later flew in combat with the Australian Flying Corps during World War 1. The memorial to him and his brother was unveiled on 16th July 2010 to commemorate the centenary of the first flight.
The memorial commemorates the efforts of pioneer aviator John Duigan who went on to fly with the Australian Flying Corps during WW1. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Thirty-six kilometres from Mustey's Bridge, we arrive at the end of the Burke & Wills Track, where it intersects with the Redesdale – Heathcote Road (C326), at Mia Mia the site of the expeditions 6th campsite.
History buffs might want to turn left here and take a 5-minute drive to where the Heritage Listed Redesdale Bridge crosses the Campaspe River between Mia Mia and Redesdale. Unique in Victoria its unusual appearance is what's known as a 'divided-lane through-truss' design and its construction is a story in itself.
The trusses on the bridge were imported in 1859 and intended for a Yarra River crossing at Hawthorn. The ship carrying the trusses, the Herald of the Morning, caught fire and sank in Hobson's Bay, just off Williamstown. Ten years later, after new trusses had been imported for the Hawthorn bridge, the originals were salvaged and used for the Redesdale Bridge.
The Heritage Listed Redesdale Bridge is a little bit of history just off the Burke & Wills Track. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
A great little story but the real pot of gold at the end of the Burke & Wills Track is undoubtedly Heathcote and its wine and for that, you need to turn right and proceed a further 16-kilometres.
Here a couple of tastings in places like the Wine Hub, Heathcote Winery and Cellar Door or the old Bank building, home to Mitchelton Wines Heathcote Cellar Door and the Ministry of Chocolate Café will make for a perfect end to a day trip along one of Victoria's less travelled roads, the Bourke and Wills Track.
This mural welcomes visitors to the Heathcote Wine Hub and all the delights to be found within. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Getting There …..
Lancefield is 73-kilometres north of Melbourne, about an hour's drive via the M2, C743 and C325.
The Burke & Wills Track runs from Mustey's Bridge, 2-kilometres north of Lancefield to Mia Mia, a distance of just over 36-kilometres. Heathcote is a further 16-Kilometres via the Redesdale – Heathcote Road (C326).