Murray to Mountains Rail Trail – The Ultimate Guide
Make no mistake, the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail - or M2M as it's often referred - is the best multi day rail trail ride in Australia. In fact, we believe it is better than the more famous Otago Rail Trail in New Zealand (find out why on our blog post).
Below we will explore this wonderful cycling adventure and provide all the information you need to tailor the perfect getaway cycling the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail.
What we cover in this guide below:
- Where is the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail
- How to Get There
- Why the name 'Murray to Mountains'?
- What is the Best Bike to Ride?
- Highlights along Australia's Best Rail Trail
- Cycling Tour Options
- Plan Your Visit: Places to Stay, Eat & Drink
- When is the Best Time to Visit
- The New Harrietville Extension
- Sample Cycling Itineraries
- Murray to Mountains Rail Trail Maps
- Need Help?
1. Where is the Murray to Mountains Trail
The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is located in North East Victoria, and runs between Rutherglen all the way down to Bright (at the foot of Mt Hotham).
The M2M includes the towns Rutherglen, Beechworth, Wangaratta, Milawa, Myrtleford, Porepunkah and Bright. The variety across these towns alone should be enough to ignite your interest.
As at June 2023, there are 2 new sections that have extended this amazing cycling trail. The new extensions from Beechworth to Yackandandah, and Bright to Harrietville are now open, making for an extra day or 2 of cycling and well worth exploring if you haven't been back for a while.
Beechworth is the highest point of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, standing at 560 meters above sea level.
This historic town is also an ideal starting point with a variety of accommodation options (see below), places to eat, wine bars, pubs and 2 breweries! Any cycling from here will be downhill.
2. How to Get To The Rail Trail
Access to the region to start and end your cycling trip on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is very easy.
You have the following options
- Drive: Wangaratta or Beechworth are around 3 hours easy drive up the Hume Highway from Melbourne, and both are ideal starting points to explore this rail trail.
- Rail: The Melbourne to Sydney line stops at Wangaratta (3 hrs from Melbourne) and Albury (3.5 hrs) where a Vline bus service will take you to Beechworth and return from Bright. See Vline for timetables and rates
- Fly: Albury is home to a regional airport with regular flights from Melbourne and Sydney. It's a 30 min drive to Beechworth or Rutherglen and 1.5 hrs return from Bright if finishing there (which we recommend). Check the Albury Airport website for more info
3. Why is it called 'Murray to Mountains'?
The 'Murray' part of the title refers to the starting point of the rail trail in Rutherglen, a charming gold mining town located on the Murray River. Rutherglen and surrounds is a mix of traditional cattle farming and historic wine making and a growing food and wine scene.
The 'Mountains' part of the name refers to the Victorian Alps that surrounds you as you ride east toward Bright. This is the 'High Country' part of the rail trail.
The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail has now also been extended to Harrietville, taking you deeper into the valley and the surrounding Alpine scenery.
4. What is the Best Bike To Use?
One of the great things about the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, is that it is paved from start to finish. The old rail line has been pulled up and the Rail Trail follows the old rail route (mainly).
Being a paved surface means just about any bike will do. It isn't a super smooth surface, but more like an old country road, so skinny road tyres might be a touch uncomfortable on a longer more relaxed itinerary.
We recommend a hybrid style bike with 32" tyres if possible, but mountain and/or road bikes will certainly work.
5. Murray to Mountains Rail Trail Highlights
The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is surrounded by things to see and do.
Here's our short list of highlights, but there are many more we could easily add to this list.
Visit Historic Beechworth
This small historic town is a real gem. Walking the cobbled streets is a thrown back in time, and visits to the Old Beechworth Gaol and fully restored Courthouse are worthwhile. There are numerous food and drinking options in this compact town (see below for Places to Stay & Where to Eat & Drink).
Cycling from Myrtleford to Bright
The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail includes a 30km section from Myrtleford to Bright. Ride beneath the gaze of Mt Buffalo, passing wineries, produce farms and the growing hops farm. The trail is flat, lined with poplars, the occasional echidna and beautiful scenery including Feathertop and Hotham in the distance.
The Murray to Mountains Rail trail and the surrounding region lights up in Autumn with an incredible display of colour. See our Bright in Autumn post for images. Visit between April to June for this gorgeous palette of colour.
Indulge in the Food & Wine
The North East Victoria region has become synonymous for quality food and wine. With deep Italian and European heritage, fertile soils and ideal weather patterns, the local produce and wine making is world class and something you really must take advantage of when in the area.
Scroll down for our list of recommended Places to Eat & Drink whilst cycling the trail.
6. Cycling Tours on the Murray to Mountains
Take the hassle out of your visit and let someone else look after the logistics.
Tour de Vines offers a range of cycling tours on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, from a 1 day tour from Beechworth to a comprehensive 7 day trip covering the length of the rail trail.
Choose from Guided or Self Guided, all fully supported and all designed to have you experiencing the best of the region.
The only small group tour on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, 2 days/2 nights with a guide, exclusive food & wine tastings, bikes, scenery and great fun. Select weekend dates in season.Find Out More
Self guided 2N/3D package Beechworth to Bright. Discover the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail in style with an all inclusive tour: 4 star accomm, wine tastings, gourmet food, support & all transport, great valueFind Out More
Cycling Tour Beechworth to Bright – Self Guided. A 3 night cycling tour from Beechworth to Bright on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. Choose any day or date that suits, fully supported, all inclusive.Find Out More
Self guided 4N/5D cycling tour from Beechworth to Bright via Milawa. Easy cycling on Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, gourmet meals, wine tastings, 4 star accomm, full supportFind Out More
A 6N/7D small group guided cycling tour from Rutherglen to Bright. Ride the full length of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. Quality accomm, fully guided, taste world class food & wineFind Out More
7. Plan Your Murray to Mountains Trip
Places to Stay
There are many places to stay in the towns that the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail travels through.
Here's our short list of favourties.
Tulleries by De Bortoli: Art gallery, wine tasting, restaurant on site. Great location, parking.
Armour Motor Inn: Perfect location, great hosts, good value stay.
Beechworth on Bridge: Touch out of town, quiet, cooked breakfast handy.
Freeman on Ford: Amazing building, very central, wonderful hosts, touch of luxury.
Lancemore Lindenwarrah Resort: Luxury appointed large resort, wonderful restaurant, ideal end of trail location.
Motel on Alpine: Ideal locaiton on the trail, clean, comfortable, wonderful hosts.
Panoramia Villas: Beautifully appointed villas, incredible views, slightly out of town.
Bright on Track: Located right on the rail trail, pool, cooked breakfast.
Colonial Motel: new mid range, great location, caters to cyclists
Bright Bliss: Luxury homes, central location.
Centenary Peaks Apartments: Luxury style apartments, great location.
Bright Velo: Newly refurbished, stunning 'Heritage' rooms are amazing, on site restaurant and all in the heart of town.
Places to Eat
The north east region of Victoria is fast becoming a gourmet destination in its own right.
Multiple chef hatted restaurants, some of Australia's best wine makers, no less than 6 breweries, award winning cheese making, iconic cafes and bakeries (think Beechworth Bakery) are just a few of the food and drink delights on offer. And all these are within easy reach whilst on a cycling trip on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail.
Here's a short list of just a few of the venues we recommend to visit
Tulleries Restaurant: superb meals in an ambient restaurant setting. Great wine list.
Parker Pies: seriously the best pies in Victoria. Just try them.
All Saints Terrace Restaurant: Chef Hatted fine dining in the gorgeous winery surrounds. A must visit.
Ox & Hound Bistro: Lovely small restaurant in the heart of Beechworth.
Provenance: Chef Hatted fine dining Japanese style with a corresponding price tag in the beautiful Old Bank building.
Milawa Cheese Company: Great lunch destination and of course award winning cheese!
Henleys Wine Bar & Kitchen: Delightful setting conveniently located in Milawa and also a cellar door for RedBank Wines with the bonus of servicing superb lunches including wood fired pizza.
Muscat Restaurant: White table cloth dining inside the Lancemore Lindenwarrah Resort.
Brown Brothers Epicurean Restaurant: Wonderful lunch venue inside the impressive Brown Brothers winery complex.
Tu Vietnamese Street Food: Charming local, good food and BYO!
Cafe Chakra: Best coffee in the region with amazing breakfasts and curries.
Dr Mauve Bar & Lounge: Fun, interesting menu, bar drinks list including cocktails and great vibe for dinner.
Tomahawks Bar & Eatery: Popular, small casual dining known for incredible burgers.
Elm Dining: Fine dining in the heart of Bright, superb menu and accompanying wine list. Has separate El fresco section for more casual dining.
Places to Drink
James & Co: Fantastic cellar door tasting experience on the main street. The Sangiovese is special.
Bridge Rd Brewery: The original brewery in the region and many say the best. Fantastic range of locally made beers, and the best pizza in the region.
Billsons Brewery: Relative newcomer producing beer but also gin and other interesting spirits. Stunning original building.
Cellar Door Wine Store: Wonderful main street cellar door tasting room, fantastic array of local and imported wines.
Pennyweights, Cellar Door Wine Store in Beechworth,
RedBank Cellar Door (Milawa Providore see above Places to Eat)
Woodpark Wines: Cellar door outlet located at Milawa Cheese Company, well worth a tasting for Italian varietals.
Brown Brothers: Well known & often heavily frequented, large cellar door with restaurant (see above).
Hurdle Creek Gin: the gin revolution has reached north east Victoria, and this place is worth visiting. Rustic style tasting room adjoining the production facility that's intoxicating (pun intended).
Gapsted Winery: Popular cellar door, sweeping views, fantastic food and great list of quality wines.
Billy Button & Bush Track Cellar Door: New cellar door outlet for these wonderful wines is charming. Cheese & wine tasting recommended after a day cycling on the Rail Trail. Outlet also in Bright if you miss out here.
Feathertop Winery: Check open times as can vary, but lovely stop right on the Rail Trail between Myrtleford & Bright. Great wines, even better views!
Ringer Reef Winery: The perfect stop whilst cycling the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail to Bright. Great wines, beautiful views, platter lunch available also.
Bright Brewery: On a warm afternoon sitting on the deck alongside the Ovens River with some live music in the background doesn't get much better. Range of locally brewed beers, award winning venue.
Reed & Co Distillery: Iconic distillery, bar & restaurant. Must visit for unique gin tasting.
8. Best Time of Year to Visit?
The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is located in north east Victoria in what is know as the 'High Country'. Surrounded by Alpine peaks and part of the Snowy Mountains Range, means the region does have a unique weather pattern.
Whilst the weather is certainly changing and is harder to predict, traditionally the region experiences hot summers and cold winters, with snow visible on the distant peaks (this also explains why the area makes such good wines!). This results in a wide ranging average temperature chart!
The most popular, and busiest time, to travel to the region is autumn, and this includes the wonderful show of colour usually from April through to the end of May.
For cycling, there are 2 main seasons that are ideal:
- Spring and early summer. October to December and into early January. Some cool days, some hot days, but increasing sunshine, warming days and lush green conditions.
- Late summer and Autumn. March through to end of May. Cooling days, stunning autumn colours, and warm sunny days.
But be warned, the seasons above are also the busiest, so finding accommodation, rooms in restaurants and wineries and other services can be a challenge.
Cycling outside of the above 2 time ranges is certainly possible, and many do, but gear and preparation becomes more important particularly for the winter months with temperatures getting down to zero and not leaving single figures during the day.
9. The New Harrietville Extension
Opened in October 2021, there is a new trail extending from Bright to Harrietville, which is referred to as the Great Valley Bike Path.
This new 27km sealed extension is well worth riding on any Murray to Mountains cycling trip. Following the Ovens River, this largely flat smooth trail meanders through forrest, farm land and cute bridge crossings making its way slowly to Harrietville. Grade as easy, the ride is achievable for most levels of riders, and a great option for families.
Tour de Vines can arrange for a Harrietville pick up on any of our Murray to Mountains cycling tour itineraries, the perfect way to end your journey with a celebratory lunch at the well loved Harrietville Pub.
10. Sample Cycling Itineraries
What is the best way to experience the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail ride? Of course this entirely depends on what you like, and the options are limitless, from 1 day to many days. So we have broken it down into the following categories:
Easy Cycling (73kms)
Day 1: Start in Beechworth rolling 16kms downhill to Everton. Over Taylors Gap & roll into Myrtleford. Total 43kms
Day 2: A flat ride from Myrtleford to Bright. Mountain scenery and vineyards. Total 30kms.
Day 3 (optional): A delightful and flat ride to gorgeous Wandiligong for lunch and back. Total 12kms.
Easy/Moderate Cycling (105kms)
Day 1: Start in Beechworth, riding to Milawa (some sections on quiet country roads). All downhill and flat. Total around 35kms.
Day 2: Ride from Milawa, up over Taylors Gap on the rail trail, to Myrtleford. Approx 40kms.
Day 3: Enjoy the flat scenic ride from Myrtleford to Bright. Total 30kms.
Moderate/Challenging Cycling (208kms)
Day 1: Start in Wangaratta and ride via Milawa uphill to Beechworth. Approx 60kms and 450m ascent.
Day 2: Roll out of Beechworth staying on the trail through Myrtleford and onto Bright. Total 73kms.
Day 3: Ride from Bright all the way back to Wangaratta. Approx 75kms.
Extended Cycling Tour*
Day 1: Start in Rutherglen and ride the Murray section of the rail trail. It's a flat easy loop ride around 30kms.
Day 2: Transfer to Beechworth and ride to Yackandandah. About 35kms
Day 3: Ride from Beechworth to Milawa overnight at lux Lancemore. About 35kms.
Day 4: Ride to Myrtleford. 35kms.
Day 5: Ride to Bright. Scenic. 30kms.
Optional Day 6: ride the new Harrietville extension and another night in lovely Bright. 25kms.
*See our Tour de North East Active which follows the above itinerary
12. Contact Us
Let us know if we can assist with any of your plans to cycle the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail.