The Ultimate Guide to Cycling the Great Victorian Rail Trail
The Great Victorian Rail Trail is a 134km cycling trail that spans from Tallarook to Mansfield. It's one of Australia's longest rail trails and offers stunning scenery, quaint villages, and historic landmarks along the way. The trail is suitable for riders of all skill levels, with various sections available to cater to different levels of cycling experience.
Ways to Ride the Great Vic Trail
The Great Victorian Rail Trail is a well laid out trail, and relatively easy to follow. So navigation isn't generally a challenge, although the turn off to Alexandra is relatively easy to miss.
The logistics are what need solving and there are a number of ways to go about riding this fantastic trail. Here are some options:
Self-guided Cycling Tour
If you prefer to ride independently but still want support along the way, there are companies that offer support services, including luggage transfers, bike rentals, and emergency assistance. Tour de Vines offers a fully supported self guided package on the Great Victorian Rail Trail ideal for this sort of travel. Choose your dates, cycle at your own pace and all the rest is done for you. Many riders on the trail choose this option to maximise their enjoyment of their ride.
Guided Cycling Tour
If you prefer a more social experience, or perhaps are a solo rider, a guided tour is a great option. A guided tour is normally riding in a small group, with the services and narration of a local guide. All the required elements and logistics are included (accommodation, meals, bikes, luggage, support and return transfers) and often with some bonus extras that are able to be negotiated being a group (eg special wine tastings). However, at the time of writing there are very few bike tour operators offering guided tours on the Great Victorian rail trail. Tour de Vines does have an annual Labour Day Long Weekend small group guided tour that is popular and does fill up quickly.
If you're comfortable planning your own trip, a independent ride is a great option. You can choose your own itinerary, accommodation, and dining options along the way. You'll need to bring your own bike or rent one locally and book accommodation or camp and carry your luggage as you ride. There is a Vline service that can transfer you and your bike back to your vehicle in Mansfield or Tallarook depending on which way you travel (see more info below).
No matter which option you choose, it's important to prepare adequately for your ride. Make sure to bring appropriate clothing and gear, including a helmet, bike lock, and repair kit. It's also a good idea to bring plenty of water and snacks, as well as your phone (for pics and navigation if you do wander off). Finally, be sure to check the weather forecast and plan your route accordingly to avoid extreme temperatures or other hazardous conditions. This rail trail is located in what is known as the High Country region of Victoria, so can experience both very hot and very cool conditions, so be prepared.
How to Get There & Away
Access to the Great Victorian Rail Trail is excellent and can be achieved relatively easily with or without a car.
The most likely option for most, the drive from Melbourne takes about 3 hours to Mansfield. There is ample parking at the Mansfield Information Centre (and toilets to change) and it's right on the start of the trail. You can catch a return Vline service to Mansfield from Tallarook back to your car at the end, but do check timetables.
There is a regular Vline train service to Tallarook from Melbourne (2 hrs+) and also from the north including Sydney (although a long trip on train from Sydney). Getting off at Tallarook you can commence riding from there, or jump on the Vline bus to Mansfield (1 hr) and ride back. The beauty of the later option is you can jump straight back on the train at the end of your ride.
You could also do a mix of public and private transport. Catch the train to Tallarook, jump on a private transfer to Mansfield and ride back to jump on the train. The General Store at Tallarook occasionally offer transfers by prior arrangement. An estimate of cost would be around $50 one way but does vary widely.
There is also the option of booking your ride through a tour operator and they will generally include transfers for one way of your trip as part of their service. The Tour de Vines self guided tour has the option of return transfers to Mansfield when booking.
The Great Victorian Rail Trail is a 134km cycling trail that stretches from Tallarook to Mansfield, or visa versa.
Here is a breakdown of the distances and gradients for each section of the trail:
Tallarook to Trawool (10.5km): This section of the trail is relatively flat, with only a slight gradient.
Trawool to Yea (37km): This section of the trail is also relatively flat, with a few slight inclines and declines.
Yea to Molesworth (18.5km): This section of the trail has a moderate gradient, with a long, gradual uphill section followed by a steep downhill section.
Molesworth to Yarck (12km): This section of the trail is relatively flat, with only a slight gradient.
Yarck to Cathkin (14.5km): This section of the trail has a moderate gradient, with a long, gradual uphill section followed by a steep downhill section.
Cathkin to Alexandra (15km): This section of the trail is relatively flat, with only a slight gradient.
Alexandra to Bonnie Doon (30km): This section of the trail has a moderate gradient, with a long, gradual uphill section followed by a steep downhill section.
Bonnie Doon to Mansfield (16.5km): This section of the trail is relatively flat, with only a slight gradient.
Overall, the Great Victorian Rail Trail is a great option for cyclists of all skill levels. While some sections of the trail can be a little more challenging than others, there are plenty of opportunities to rest and take in the stunning scenery along the way. With the advent of E-bikes cycling this trail is now achievable for even beginner cyclists.
Where to Stay
Accommodation options along the trail vary from small towns with a few options to larger towns with a variety of choices.
Here are some of the best places to stay in each town:
Tallarook: While there are no accommodation options in Tallarook itself, nearby Seymour has several options, including the Seymour Motel and the Comfort Inn Coach and Bushmans.
Yea: The Yea Peppercorn Hotel offers comfortable rooms and a bistro serving traditional pub fare, while the Yea Riverside Caravan Park offers cabins and campsites along the banks of the Yea River. The Country House Retreat offers self-contained apartments in a peaceful setting.
Alexandra: The Alexandra Tourist Park is a popular choice, offering cabins and campsites in a peaceful bush setting. The Rubicon Hotel Motel offers comfortable rooms and a restaurant serving pub-style meals, while the Drom Aluinn B&B offers luxurious rooms in a historic homestead.
Bonnie Doon: The Bonnie Doon Hotel Motel offers comfortable rooms and a restaurant serving traditional pub meals. The Bonnie Doon Caravan Park offers cabins and campsites in a picturesque setting, and the Lake Eildon Holiday Park is a great option for those looking for a lakeside getaway.
Mansfield: The Mansfield Country Resort offers self-contained apartments, an indoor pool, and tennis courts. The Mansfield Motel offers comfortable rooms and a continental breakfast, while the Alzburg Resort offers a range of accommodation options, including apartments and motel rooms.
Just a few of the highlights while cycling the Great Victorian Rail Trail include:
Stunning Scenery: The trail winds its way through the beautiful Victorian countryside, with stunning views of farmland, bushland, and mountains. At its' highest point the trail is 700+ meters above sea level, so there are wonderful views across the Yarra Ranges to the south along sections of the trail.
Historic Railway Stations: The trail passes through several historic railway stations, including the restored Yea Station and the historic Alexandra Station.
Local Wildlife: Keep an eye out for local wildlife, including kangaroos, wallabies, and a variety of bird species. There is also the Mansfield Zoo well worth a visit and ideal for families.
Lake Eildon: A large and picturesque Lake Eildon is a popular spot for fishing, boating, and other water activities. The Rail Trail crosses directly over the lake on a separated section of the Bonnie doon bridge and is a must stop for photos.
Country Towns: The trail passes through several charming country towns, including Yea, Alexandra, and Mansfield. These towns offer a range of accommodation, dining, and sightseeing options.
Cycling Challenge: The trail provides a cycling challenge with its mix of flat, uphill and downhill sections, making it a great option for cyclists looking for a bit of a challenge.
Wineries and Local Produce: The trail passes through several wine regions and local produce areas, providing opportunities to stop and sample some of the best local wines, cheeses, and other food items.
Historic Landmarks: The trail passes by several historic landmarks, including the Cheviot Tunnel, which was built in the 1880s and is an impressive engineering feat.
New Trail Art Installations. Local artists along with volunteers and councils have installed 7 x stunning art pieces along the Great Victorian Rail Trail. These alone are worth the visit. Read more about this wonderful improvement.
Where to Eat
There are a number of charming venues on the Great Victorian Rail Trail that cater to hungry cyclists. Here are some of our suggestions:
Alexandra Hotel Restaurant: Charming restaurant in an historic building serving quality chef prepared meals.
Grant St Grocer: The place for breakfast or lunch in Alexandra, great coffee too!
Marmalade Cafe in Yea: Delightful lunch or breakfast cafe in central Yea.
Peppercorn Restaurant: Quality restaurant (and accommodation) in historic building with great service and extensive drinks list.
Trawool Estate: Perfect lunch stop right on the trail as you ride to Tallarook. Wood fired pizza is a highlight.
Other great places to eat along the trail include the Flour Mill Bakery in Yea, the Terminus Hotel in Alexandra, the Bonnie Bar in Bonnie Doon, and the Produce Store in Mansfield.
The Great Victorian Rail Trail passes through several wine regions, including the Goulburn Valley and the Strathbogie Ranges. Here are some wineries that can be visited along the trail:
Tallarook Wines: Located just off the trail near Tallarook, this winery offers tastings of its award-winning wines and beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
Fowles Wine: This winery, located near Avenel, offers a range of cool-climate wines and a unique dining experience at its onsite restaurant, The Wine Shed.
Sedona Estate: Located near Murrindindi, this family-owned winery offers a range of award-winning wines and stunning views of the surrounding hills.
Murrindindi Vineyards: Located near Yarck, this winery produces a range of handcrafted wines using traditional methods.
Delatite Wines: Located near Mansfield, this winery offers a range of cool-climate wines and a beautiful cellar door set among the vines.
These are just a few of the many wineries that can be visited along the Great Victorian Rail Trail. There are plenty of opportunities to sample the best local wines and produce while exploring the beauty of Victoria's countryside.