The Ultimate Guide to the Great Southern Rail Trail
The Great Southern Rail Trail is a recreational trail in Victoria, Australia, that follows the disused railway corridor between Leongatha (and now Nyora) and Yarram in the Gippsland region. The trail is approximately 109kms in length and offers a unique and scenic experience for cyclists, hikers, and horse riders.
A new 36-kilometre extension from Korumburra to Nyora has just been completed with an additional 21 kms onwards from Welshpool to Alberton has commenced.
The trail follows what was once the Great Southern Railway, which was opened in 1892 but was closed in 1993. The trail has benefited from a new lease of life in recent years, with additional investment in signage and reconditioning of the old railway stations. Some of the smaller towns are also experiencing a surge in popularity post COVID, with the disbursement of city population and the development of new and interesting cafes, restaurants and other services worth visiting.
Along the trail, visitors can enjoy views of rolling hills, farmland, forests, and the picturesque Tarra River. The trail also passes through several small towns, offering the opportunity to stop and explore local shops, cafes, and attractions.
The Great Southern Rail Trail is a well-maintained trail, with a hard-packed surface suitable for all types of bikes and horses. There are several accommodation options available along the trail, including campsites, caravan parks, and bed and breakfast establishments, making it a popular destination for multi-day bike rides and horse treks.
If you are planning a visit to the Great Southern Rail Trail, it is important to plan ahead, bring adequate supplies, and follow the trail rules and regulations. This can include respecting local wildlife, staying on the designated trail, and being mindful of other trail users.
Towns on the Great Southern Rail Trail
Rolling through the unique and some quirky towns along the Great Southern Rail Trail is a highlight of this adventure.
Leongatha is the start town for most visitors, being closest to Melbourne and having a fairly good choice of accommodation.
Meeniyan, in local Aboriginal language transaltes to "moon behind the trees over the water", is a delight. The vibe is artisan meets artist, very welcoming, with a relaxed approach. It's the perfect stop for lunch.
A further 16km along the rail trail from Meehiyan is the quirky Fish Creek. A small town, with a larger than life local pub in unmissable white, and a number of craft and art shops Alison Lester Gallery. The town is a short, accessible distance from remarkable beaches including Sandy Point, Waratah Bay and the historic lime kilns at Walkerville.
Fish Creek is the ideal place to stop for the night, either taking up a room at the Fish Creek Pub or find a cosy cottage like Alkira Fish Creek Studios.
A little over 12kms along the trail is Foster which is the main commercial precinct for the coastal communities of Corner Inlet and Wilsons Promontory National Park. The town centre is a little off the trail (1.5km) but worth a visit, in particular for the Foster Museum. It's also the ideal stop for lunch with a selection of eateries, as well as shops and art spaces.
A little over 10kms down the trail is the town of Toora located at the foot of Mount Best. Great views of beautiful Wilsons Promontory can be enjoyed from here. An internationally recognised wetlands site, featuring a bird hide for observing the variety of migratory birds, is also just a short journey from town.
Many of Toora's historic buildings still remain and can be visited by following the trail markers to the Royal Standard Hotel, The Bank of Victoria Limited, The Union Bank of Australia and The Great Southern Cooperative.
A little more than 15kms gets you to Port Welshpool, the current end of the Great Southern Rail Trail. The jetty is long and spectacular and can be walked or ridden it's entire 800 meter length (see pic). A largely commercial fishing town, there is limited accommodation or dining options here and so it's the ideal place to admire the views, replenish the fluids and make arrangements for your collection and return to your start point.
Tours on the Great Southern Rail Trail
Tour de Vines offers a 2 night package that makes cycling the Great Southern Rail Trail easy.
- The package includes
- 2 nights accommodation
- Luggage transfers
- Return transfer from Port Welshpool back to Leongatha
- On call support
- Bike hire is available (extra supp) or BYO