Cycling Gippsland Rail Trail – Australia

Bairnsdale – Orbost 96km

This rail trail is an excellent weekend ride in eastern Victoria, Australia. The gravel trail follows an old rail alignment through relatively flat countryside. The main trail is generally easy although it is possible to detour onto some single track in the adjacent forest. The trail can be ridden one way, as a return trip or as a shorter loop to include some of the south coast by road. Plan on two days riding to cover the area.

Riding Notes

The trail commences at Bairnsdale. The cycleway follows an old rail alignment so the grade is relatively flat.

Bairnsdale Train Station – Trailhead 1km
Ride east along Macleod Street and cross the river on the Princess Highway bridge. The rail trail commences on the eastern side of the highway shortly beyond the bridge.

Trailhead – Nicholson 8.5km
The trail heads east across farmland for almost 5km before crossing the A5 highway and continuing to a bridge over the river at Nicholson.

Nicholson – Bruthen 22km
The trail continues east across farmland for a further 10km before turning north for 12km to Bruthen.

Bruthen – Nowa Nowa 25km
The trail enters the forest east of Bruthen and winds through the forest. The trail is less maintained in this section and the gravel can be loose. Shortly before Nowa Nowa there is a large historic rail bridge, unfortunately you cannot cross the bridge but it does make for a good point of interest. In the middle of this section you pass over the highest point in the rail trail.

Nowa Nowa – Orbost 36km
The trail continues eastward passing through alternating farmland and forest before arriving at Orbost.

Planning your trip

Getting there are away

The trailhead at Bairnsdale is about 3hrs drive east of Melbourne.

Trains from Melbourne to Bairnsdale also run regularly. Details on the trains are found here: www.vline.com.au/pdf/timetables/bairnsdale.pdf
The train costs $31.80 each way for an adult off-peak fare.

It is possible to ride the rail trail one way and catch a bike shuttle back from Orbost to Bairnsdale. The shuttle costs $25 per person although it only runs every 3rd Sunday of the month. Details on the shuttle are found here:
perrysbusservice.com.au/railtrail.html

Accommodation

Bairnsdale: There are about a dozen places to stay in Bairnsdale with prices typically ranging around $90-$150/night.

Newmerella (5km before Orbost): Snowy River B&B costs around $170/night
snowyriverhomestead.com.au

Orbost: There are a couple of accommodation options in Orbost from $90-$150/night

Navigation and Facilities

Signage is good and navigation straightforward. There is a good PDF map and excellent resources online here:
www.eastgippslandrailtrail.com
Google maps has the trail included as a route.

The trail is fairly remote and passes through only a handful of towns with amenities. Bring your own water as availability is limited during the ride. There are some tourist facilities including a toilet at the historic bridge before Nowa Nowa.

Safety

Snakes and dehydration are the two main risks on the trail. Expect to be alone for most of the ride so passing help is unlikely in the event of trouble.

Flora and Fauna

Expect to see some wildlife including snakes, goannas and other lizards.

Our Experience

We departed Melbourne on an afternoon train bound for Bairnsdale. After almost 4hrs on the train we alighted and rode to accomodation in Bairnsdale at The Riversleigh.

We set off early in the morning. The first stage of the ride was through the outskirts of towns and was not that exciting. After about an hour we finally farewelled the roads and got into the countryside proper.

There were a few signs of wildlife including trails of big furry caterpillars marching across the path. We didn’t see many other cyclists and it was great to have the place to ourselves. We rode past the occasional old railway siding but there wasnt that much historic stuff to see. The bridge was actually pretty impressive for a structure in the middle of nowhere but unfortunately you can’t cheat death by attempting to ride across.

After chasing a goanna near Nowa Nowa we left the trail and headed south through hiking tracks down to the roads and the waterfront at Lakes Entrance. Lakes Entrance had an abundance of accommodation and it was a nice contrast being at a seaside town. The country roads back to Bairnsdale are quick to ride but not nearly as relaxing as the rail trail itself. We would have loved to ride the full length of the trail but the prospect of a 200km round trip on gravel with a 4hr train ride at either end just wasn’t feasible for a normal weekend.

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