Victoria on two wheels: five great regional bike rides
Make a bike trip part of your next holiday and see a new side to the state.
If you’re an urban cyclist eager to take your bicycle on new adventures or just keen to enjoy the slower road, exploring Victoria on two wheels is one of the best ways to really get to know the state.
Experienced riders can tackle mountain peaks, off-road challenges and road traffic, but If you’re a new rider or just a bit hesitant to hit the open road, there are more than 40 Victorian rail trails listed on Rail Trails Australia, each offering a smooth, safe ride on flat, offroad bike paths through some of the state’s prettiest scenery, whether you’re looking for quiet country back roads, coastal trails, mountain scenery or native forests.
Sign up for a group ride or a major cycling event (see below) or combine your cycling itinerary with a local wine and food trail. With bike hire widely available, you don’t even need to bring your own gear.
Cyclists take in golden hues as they pedal past Feathertop Wines in Porepunkah; one of the myriad high country charmers along the Great Victorian Rail Trail.
Great Victorian Rail Trail
The Great Victorian Rail Trail, formerly known as the High Country Rail Trail, is the longest rail trail in Victoria. It meanders through beautiful river, lake and mountain countryside, offering lovely views and plenty of native bird, echidna, wallaby and kangaroo sightings.
Starts: Tallarook, 98 kilometres north of Melbourne.
Distance: 134 kilometres.
Level of difficulty: Suitable for all riders, the trail is mostly flat with a few short, steep climbs for variety.
Highlights: The 201-metre Cheviot Tunnel between Yea and Molesworth is so long that the light at the end of the tunnel is just a pinprick. Spook yourself with a ride in the dark, testing the echo effect as you go.
Stop: The beautiful landscape of the Trawool Valley has been classified by the National Trust. Take your time to enjoy the scenery with a picnic along the way.
More: The trail passes over the 385-metre Bonnie Doon Bridge, a great place to stop and take photographs and observe activity on Lake Eildon.
Best for: A leisurely exploration of the region over a long weekend, discovering the area’s history and enjoying regional food and hospitality.
Bass Coast Rail Trail
There’s a little bit of everything on this Gippsland trail, the only coastal rail trail in Victoria. You’ll find the pretty farmland the region is famous for, enjoy a glimpse of the area’s coalmining history, spot interesting landmarks and admire panoramic ocean views on an easy day trail that’s accessible to all.
Starts: Anderson, around 130 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, near Phillip Island.
Ends: Wonthaggi, about 20 minutes’ drive from RACV Inverloch Resort.
Distance: 17 kilometres.
Level of difficulty: Easy riding on mostly flat gravel trails with a couple of climbs.
Highlights: Have your camera ready for the spectacular ocean views as you ride into Kilcunda.
Stop: Take a break just before the end of your ride to walk the 2.2-kilometre boardwalk loop of the Wonthaggi Wetlands for superb nature and birdwatching.
More: The rail trail links to the George Bass Coastal Walk at Kilcunda, a cliff-top trail that stretches to San Remo, near Phillip Island.
Best for: Families will love the easy riding, picnic spots and roo spotting.
The Goldfields Track stretches across central Victoria taking in state parks, pretty regional towns, and a wealth of gold rush history.
Starts: Mount Buninyong, 20 kilometres southeast of Ballarat.
Distance: 210 kilometres.
Level of difficulty: An ungraded cross-country track suited to mountain bikes.
Highlights: The track passes through the the Castlemaine Diggings National Park, Australia’s first National Heritage Park, where you can find amazing original gold-rush structures including the Garfield Water Wheel and the intricate Coliban Water System.
Stop: Park your bike at the RACV Goldfields Resort (with on-site bike storage) in Creswick or stop in at Daylesford or Castlemaine and Creswick for cosy accommodation and good food for post-ride rest and relaxation.
More: The track is broken into three sections, the 90-kilometre Wallaby Track from Mount Buninyong to Daylesford; the 61-kilometre Dry Diggings Track from Daylesford to Castlemaine; and the 58-kilometre Leanganook Track from Castlemaine to Bendigo. Tackle them in one stretch or break up your visit with a longer stay exploring the region. “The goldfields is a great family destination and mountain biking is one of those activities that everyone can participate in,” says RACV Goldfields Resort manager Martin Zumstein.
Best for: Two-wheeled adventurers of all ages.
Bellarine Rail Trail
A peaceful, bucolic ride through farmland to the picturesque town of Queenscliff on sleepy Swan Bay.
Starts: South Geelong, 97.3 kilometres from Melbourne.
Distance: 32.5 kilometres.
Level of difficulty: Easy – a small climb after Drysdale is rewarded with a downhill journey all the way to Queenscliff.
Highlights: If you’re tuckered out from the ride, make your return journey on the Bellarine Peninsula Tourist Railway (they take bikes).
Stop: A wander around Queenscliff’s pretty, historic streets followed by a traditional afternoon tea and a walk on the pier to check out the fishing.
More: Plan a side trip to Portarlington to eat the local mussels.
Best for: A fun weekend adventure with the family.
The Victorian Alps make for a stunning backdrop along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail.
Murray to Mountains
With the Victorian Alps as a backdrop, a smooth trail, and pretty towns to explore, it’s not surprising this is one of Victoria’s all-time favourite rail trails.
Starts: Wangaratta, 251 kilometres north from Melbourne.
Distance: 116 kilometres.
Level of difficulty: Easy riding on a sealed path.
Highlights: Beautiful in any season, the region’s autumn foliage is truly breathtaking. Have your camera handy to capture the colours.
Stop: North-east Victoria is rightly famous for its wine and produce. Stop in at a cellar door for lunch by the vines or time your journey for one of the local food and wine festivals.
More: Detours to Beechworth and Milawa take in more wine and food country and Victorian gold rush history. Leave time in your schedule for a stop at the Beechworth Bakery for a classic pie or vanilla slice.
Best for: Channelling your inner Julie Andrews – chances are you’ll be humming Climb Every Mountain as you pedal.