If you’re looking for a bikepacking adventure near Melbourne then the Great Victorian Rail Trail starting at Tallarook is for you. The serenity will be at an all time high as you wind through the Victorian wilderness over four beautiful days.
- 4 days of relaxed bikepacking through central and northern Victoria
- Great pubs and extremely quiet roads
- Close proximity to Melbourne
- Accessible from suburban Melbourne
- Caravan parks or bush camps to stay at
Beginning Our Bikepacking Adventure
It’s 6.10am on a chilly autumn morning in Melbourne. Our bikes are loaded up for four 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.
Off to Tallarook, we go!
Day 1 – Towards Mansfield
The Great Victorian Rail Trail is a cycling/walking/horse riding trail that winds its way east from Tallarook, finishing up 120km later in Mansfield.
After a quick coffee top-up, we set out amongst the fog and towering gums. This trail is suited to any bike as it’s a compacted gravel surface with gentle grades.
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 120km. 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
We backtracked along the rail trail to Bonnie Doon, following breakfast at one of Mansfield’s many cafes, and picked up the road that would take us up and over Lake Eildon National Park. But we couldn’t resist 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 can be done 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’d encountered in the previous two 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. It holds 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. We did no see one other car! The road is 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 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. We rolled down to Lilydale station after numerous coffee and food stops to prolong our adventure.
We boarded the train to take us home. The train ride back to the inner ‘burbs was spent planning our next two-wheeled adventure. Naturally!
- A bike – Essentially you want to find a bike that 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 – It doesn’t have to be super lightweight 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?
- Bikepacking bags – We used a mixture of bikepacking specific bags and panniers. But a backpack will do the job too.
- Clothing – We each took two 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.
Read more: Essential Gear for Bikepacking Adventures
How To Get There (From Melbourne)
We left from Melbourne and for V-Line trains for Seymour depart Southern Cross daily. Exit the station and head east across the tracks and follow the signs marked ‘Rail Trail.’
Intermediate trip due to the duration.
There’s nothing particularly challenging about this ride that can’t be overcome with basic fitness and ‘saddle time.’
Aany one of the four days can be ridden individually providing you’ve got a mate prepared to drop you off and meet you at the endpoint.
Distance / Elevation / Duration
300km / 2500m / 4 days
This ride is well within reach of the average recreational cyclist or adventurer prepared to spend the time on a bike.