Two of Australia’s best rail trails – the Murray to Mountains and the the Riesling Trail – are in different states and on different terrain (or terroir), but which is better for cycling? Or more importantly perhaps, which is better for a weekend cycling tour?
We here at Tour de Vines are always looking for rail trails to explore, so we asked ourselves this very question, and after some analysis, coffee and discussion, here is our response!
Murray to Mountains Rail Trail
Held up as the hero of rail trails and off road cycling paths in Australia, and rightly so. An exceptionally well maintained path, covering a wide variety of terrain with great views, lots of stops and places to stay and cutting through some of Australia’s best wine and food country.
Here’s some facts about the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail.
Location: Australia, North east Victoria, 3 hrs drive from Melbourne
Length: 132 kms of sealed path
Surface: Fully sealed, loose stone edges, any bike suitable.
Max gradient: Beechworth is 538m above sea level, so that’s a big hill up or even better, down.
Towns visited: Wangarratta, Milawa, Rutherglen, Beechworth, Gapsted, Myrtelford & Bright.
Cellar Doors: Approximately 15 wineries within riding distance from the trail
Things to see: Majestic Mt Buffalo; historic Beechworth (see our post about this lovely town); autumn colours of Bright; the flowing Ovens River; the old tobacco farm kilns; open stretches of farmland
Murray to Mountains Image Gallery
The Riesling Rail Trail
Certainly not as well known as the Murray to Mountains Trail, but perhaps not rightly so. A stunning path up the Clare Valley, within day trip distance of Adelaide, well sign posted and an intense congregation of cellar doors.
Location: Australia, South Australia, Clare Valley 1 hour and a bit drive from Adelaide
Length: 35 kms one way, plus add on loops of varying lengths up to 16 kms, total possible 51 kms (worth noting there is a new extension from Auburn to Riverton of 19 kms called the Rattler Trail which would extend total possible length to 70 kms)
Surface: Smoothed & compacted gravel, not really suitable for thin tyre road bikes.
Max gradient: The Riesling Rail Trail itself is gradual gradient uphill to Clare from Auburn, there is steep section off the main trail on the loops that are very short and possibly need to be walked by non regular riders.
Towns: Auburn, Clare, Sevenhill, Leasingham, Watervale, Penwortham, and within striking distance to the Barossa Valley.
Cellar Doors: Over 30 wineries immediately or very closely accessible from the rail trail
Things to see: Historic Sevenhill Cellars (home to some of Australia’s oldest vines); Rows & rows of vineyards in real wine country; the historic town of Auburn; story boards and information posted along the rail trail including local indigenous history; award wining restaurants and cellar doors.
The Riesling Rail Trail Image Gallery
So there’s the facts on 2 of Australia’s best rail trails.
Which is the Better Rail Trail?
We are a little divided, but the bottom line is if you are setting out for a longer ride, and prefer smooth paths, a variety of views, with places to see and stay overnight, then the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail hits the mark. But for a shorter, more wine and cellar door focussed ride, within day trip distance of the city, or part of broader trip to the Barossa and Clare region, then the Riesling Rail Trail is perfect.
Both rail trails are fantastic pieces of public infrastructure that should be applauded.
Have you ridden either of these rail trails? We’d love to hear your thoughts.