4 Day Bikepacking Trip // Great Victorian Rail Trail (Vic)

The Great Victorian Rail Trail starting at Tallarook, winds through Victorian wilderness for 4 days. How’s the serenity?!


Highlights

  • 4 Days of relaxed cycling through Central & Northern Victoria
  • Great pubs & impossibly quiet roads
  • Serenity of Bonnie Doon
  • Accessible from suburban Melbourne
  • Caravan Parks or bush camps

The Lowdown

It’s 6.10am on a chilly autumn morning, our bikes are loaded up for 4 days of adventure and our train doesn’t arrive. Literally, just does not turn up.

Jumping aboard the next one and crossing everything from our fingers to our panniers, we clickety-clack through Southern Cross Station in our cycling shoes and jump aboard the waiting V-Line train moments before departure. Destination: Tallarook.

Day 1 – To Mansfield

This is our first day of riding along the Great Victorian Rail Trail – a cycling/walking/horse riding trail that winds its way east from Tallarook, finishing up 120kms later in Mansfield.

After a quick coffee top up, we set out amongst the fog, surrounded by towering gums. With a compacted gravel surface and gentle grades, this trail is suited to any bike that you’re comfortable on.

Taking in the Cheviot Tunnel and Lake Eildon Bridge this trail can be attacked in different sections if you’re not up for the full 120kms. Upon reaching Mansfield, a beer and feed in the Delatite Hotel were required before settling into our tent, content with the fact that our longest day of riding was done.

Day 2 – Lake Eildon National Park

Following breakfast at one of Mansfield’s many cafes, we backtracked along the rail trail to Bonnie Doon and picked up the road that would take us up and over Lake Eildon National Park, but not before stopping for a photo at Australia’s most famous kit home, complete with jousting sticks and Trading Post signs.

Ahhhhh, the serenity!

The climb through the National Park is achievable by anyone with a moderate fitness level and the view of the lake from the top is only surpassed by the descent into Alexandra. We whittled away the afternoon reading and relaxing in the sun before supporting the local economy with another pub dinner.

Day 3 – The Acheron Way

Another country cafe supplied us with breakfast before heading out for day three. The morning was spent heading south along the Maroondah Highway, and while traffic was heavier than what we had encountered in the previous 2 days, we found most drivers to be more than generous with the room they gave us.

The Cathedral Ranges on our left made for a stunning vista as we ambled towards our turn-off point – the Acheron Way. The Acheron Way is a logging road shared by tourists that snakes its way gracefully over the Great Dividing Range at a gentle climbing gradient before plunging through the shadows of Mt. Donna Buang into the village of Warburton.

For over 30km we had the road to ourselves – not one car! It’s lined with trees of imposing height and offers a true sense of isolation. It’s a must ride for any adventurous cyclist!

Day 4 – Home time…

Waking up for our fourth and final day was bittersweet – we felt like we could keep on riding for days and days but other commitments were calling us back home. With our feet fresh from a soaking in the head of the Yarra River, we packed up camp and set off on the final 40km of our journey.

Taking the Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail ensured our final day was worry free, and we rolled down to Lilydale station after numerous coffee and food stops to prolong our adventure.

Myki’s touched on, we boarded the train back that would take us home. Naturally, the train ride back to the inner ‘burbs was spent planning for our next two wheeled adventure. Naturally!

Essential Gear

  • A bike – essentially whatever you’re comfortable on. We used a road bike on 25mm tyres and a cyclocross bike and both were fine. Being capable of basic repairs (punctures etc) is important due to distances between towns.
  • Camping gear – doesn’t have to be super light weight but it does need to be carryable on your bike. You can really save weight and space here – do you really need a pillow, or will a jumper in a stuff-sack do the job?
  • Bags – for this trip we used a mixture of bikepacking specific bags and panniers, but in a pinch a back pack can suffice.
  • Clothing – we each took 2 sets of riding gear plus a set of lightweight casual clothes for the pub. Try to use cycling shoes that can double as casuals, or in summer take flip flops.
  • Navigation – for this trip, Google Maps will be fine but there are plenty of bike-specific GPS units available.
  • Food & Water – we chose to eat in cafes and pubs for this trip but carried snacks for riding. Muesli bars, trail mix and snakes for the energy kick. We topped up our water wherever possible, but unless you’re tackling this in the middle of summer 2 bottles should suffice for most days.

How To Get There

V-Line trains for Seymour depart Southern Cross daily. From the station head east across the tracks and follow the signs marked “Rail Trail”.

Activities

Apart from the obvious cycling and camping, there is no shortage of opportunities for photography along the way – the Cheviot Tunnel, old farm buildings and ‘skyscraper-esque’ trees on the Acheron Way just to name a few.

Skill Level

There is nothing particularly challenging about this ride that can’t be overcome with basic fitness and “saddle time”. I’d rate it as a good intermediate trip due to the duration. Keep in mind that anyone of the 4 days can be ridden individually providing you’ve got a mate prepared to drop you off and meet you at the end point.

Distance / Elevation / Duration

With a distance of 300km and an elevation total of just 2500m, this ride is well within reach of the average recreational cyclist or adventurer prepared to spend the time on a bike. We took 4 days for this trip.


More pieces about bikepacking…

ESSENTIAL GEAR FOR BIKEPACKING ADVENTURES

HOW TO: PLAN YOUR FIRST OVERNIGHT BIKE TRIP

BIKE AND HIKE TO SPLENDOUR ROCK (NSW)

FAT BIKING THE MAIN RANGE, SNOWY MOUNTAINS