The Yarra Ranges has always been a driving hotspot for Victorian car enthusiasts, and being from Tasmania, it’s one of the few unique driving experiences on the Australian mainland that remind me of the roads at home. Trust me, that’s a good thing.
The area is well known for its array of Mountain Ash trees – the second tallest tree species in the world – and when the B360 Maroondah Highway was built, knocking them down was clearly not part of the plan.
A short section of it famously known as the Black Spur draws driving enthusiasts and holiday-goers from across Victoria into its tarmac for a distinctive forest experience. It’s a tight and technical road, so we brought along the perfect car for the occasion – the Hyundai Kona N.
A corner carver at its core, Hyundai’s N models are renowned for their class-leading handling and the Kona is no exception. Factor in its 206kW turbocharged four-pot that makes it good for a 5.5-second 0-100km/h spting, and this red threat is an ideal car for the High Country.
Starting the journey just west of Melbourne, the trip took us to the start of the infamous C511 Reefton Spur from Warburton, where we headed through to another scenic but bumpy route – C513 Marysville-Woods Road near the Lake Mountain turnoff, through to Marysville and Narbethong.
However, this isn’t the quickest route. For those that want to approach the Black Spur from Melbourne as quick as possible, we would suggest following the M3 Eastlink out of the city, then transiting to Healesville via the Maroondah Highway.
After Narbethong, we hit some thick fog, which was a perfect precursor to what was to come – an approximate 30km stint through thick woodland, which at its height weaves directly between 70m-tall trees.
There’s a reasonable 80km/h speed limit here, but moderate traffic means those that love corners will find themselves sitting behind slower cars. In all honesty, that isn’t a bad thing as it’s seemingly easy to get some speed on the straights, and the police are very much aware of it.
Unlike Reefton Spur, the Black Spur is great as a slow scenic drive, but all things considered, corner carvers also enjoy the many twists and hairpin turns – traffic permitting of course.
Taking the road southbound, two lanes of narrow tarmac with solid centre lines and corners upon corners, I sat reminiscing about the forest roads of Tasmania. Here, however, it’s smoother, and the forestry is significantly denser than anything I’ve experienced on the island state.
What started as any old mountain pass turns into an incredibly dense and humid rainforest environment, with plantation towering over cars and trees vanishing into the thick fog. Ideally cambered corners, well marked lanes, and everything being clearly signposted makes for a safe but enjoyable drive.
As this is a main road connecting the Yarra Valley to the mountains of the High Country, be prepared for traffic. We occasionally found ourselves driving past the odd truck or caravan. Wet conditions also meant that for us, planting the loud pedal triggered the traction light on occasion, although the Kona N’s limited-slip differential helped mitigate performance loss out of the corners.
In addition to wet roads, we also had to contend with multiple signs denoting oil spills on the road, which kept the flow of traffic rather slow. Point is, don’t expect to get a perfect fast run through here.
However, it’s a great road for a fun car, and a place that is absolutely worth checking out if you’re a car enthusiast and you happen to find yourself making a day trip out of Melbourne and are wanting to take in some of Australia’s most sensational forest views, paired with spine-tingling corners and an experience that’s like nothing else in Australia.
Knock Reefton Spur and Black Spur off the list in one day trip, and you’ll experience some of the best tarmac Victoria has to offer.
A special thanks to Aqiella Azhar for accompanying the author for this journey, and Hyundai Motor Company Australia for providing the vehicle for this trip.