Gembrook is a small picturesque town located roughly 54 km from Melbourne's CBD.
Gembrook is a popular destination for the residents of Melbourne as it is less than 1 hour's drive from the city centre.
Gembrook was settled in 1873 for farming and timber; the surrounding countryside was suitable for both dairy and orchards. Timber provided income while farms were established. The name Gembrook came from the small gems that were found in small creeks and watercourses in the surrounding area.
The Post Office opened on 5 October 1877.
The railway line
The Gembrook railway line
was opened on the 18th December 1900, it was a narrow gauge
line originally from Upper Ferntree Gully. The narrow gauge railway, these days known as "Puffing Billy", brought tourists from Melbourne, and it also enabled timber and local produce, including fruit trees and potatoes, to be taken back to Melbourne. At its peak there were more than 20 timber
mills operating in Gembrook and the surrounding area, with tramways operating between the mills and the railway station. The Ranges hotel which still operates today was built in 1901 to cater for the local population as well as day trippers
. After the devastating fires in 1926 and 1939 which destroyed many of the timber mills, there was talk of closing the line. The line eventually closed on 30th April 1954 after a landslide blocked part of the line the previous year (the line was already in decline because motor traffic had replaced much of the railways patronage). Soon after this time (between 1958 and 1962) the broad gauge line to Upper Ferntree Gully was extended to Belgrave which is less than 18km away from Gembrook. In 1962, the western end of the Gembrook railway line which extended from Belgrave to Menzies Creek was reopened as a heritage tourist railway
. Later extensions to Emerald in 1965, and Lakeside (in Emerald Lake Park) in 1975, were opened and finally the last section to Gembrook in 1998, which saw the complete service resume between Belgrave
and Gembrook. A short section from Gembrook towards Cockatoo was gradually reopened in the early 1990s as restoration work progressed.
Today Gembrook is seen as a suburb of Melbourne as it is within the Melbourne metropolitan area. Gembrook no longer relies on the income generated from farming and lumber but rather from tourism and other professional services. The current population of Gembrook is a little over 1,200. A market which focuses on sustainable living is held once a month at the railway station. It is currently located within the Shire of Cardinia
, and is within the state electoral area of Gembrook, and the federal electorate area of LaTrobe.
Gembrook is served by a 7 day a week bus service (route 695) running from/to Belgrave. A friday evening and Saturday/Sunday service also runs from/to Fountain Gate shopping centre at Narre Warren.
Together with its neighbouring township Cockatoo, Gembrook has an Australian Rules football team (Gembrook Cockatoo) competing in the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League.