If there’s one thing 2020 taught us, it was that we needed to get out more. Not just out with friends, or out on the town, but out in the open air. If you bought a lockdown bike like half the world’s population, then by now you’re wondering what more you can do with it than just riding your 5km circle. Victoria is home to some choice rail trails, none better than the Great Victorian Rail Trail from Tallarook to Mansfield.
On the offical guide website (which is recommended reading) there are some suggested day rides, with options for out-and-back rides taking in sections of the trail, but with a little planning ahead you can integrate your foodie and wino needs into a most pleasant day on the trail. There are several toilets and rest/picnic facilities on the way (though worth noting these facilities do not necessarily occur together). There are so many spectacular views into the high country and surrounding valleys that it’s an absolute must to take at least a phone camera, but consider taking the best camera you can realistically carry – you won’t regret the extra grams, especially if you’re starting at the sunrise end of the day.
Here’s a few suggestions for a great day on the trail.
An easy arvo:
Start at The Trawool Estate carpark, and ride to Yea for coffee. Finish off your return trip with a spectacular dinner at Trawool Estate. Approx 50km round trip, mostly completely flat. Easy to average 20kph.
A slightly longer morning:
Same as above, but start early at the Tallarook Farmers Market on the first Sunday of the month with a breakfast of gozleme or toasties and great coffee. Head out to Yea, and amble your way back via Sedona Estate Wines, then finish with a later lunch at the newly refurbished and reinvented Tallarook Hotel.
Approx 75km round trip, plus 30km to Sedona Estate and back. Easy riding, with a f about 4-6 hours on the bike.
The Alex Branch:
As a one-way to Mansfield from Alexandra, this route is really something. It’s approximately 120km, and takes in one of the most spectacular views across the highlands, especially at sunrise. Lunch at Mansfield Coffee Merchant is due reward for the steady but relatively gentle climb to a point between Kanumbra and Merton. Shuttling can be managed by leaving a car from your convoy in Mansfield, but worth considering is riding out one day, staying in Mansfield at any of the numerous accomodations overnight, and heading back the next. There’s great coffee at Yarck, and you’re fine to get early espresso at Grant St Grocer in Alexandra.
Alternatively, the out-and-back option from Alex to Yea is worthy of a look. It takes in the Cheviot Tunnel, a spectacular brick tunnel left over from the running of train on this route. Ride this one in reverse to land at Grant St Grocer for lunch. Tell Alan and Lisa we sent you.
Of course, there are any number of smaller carparks where you can kick off your rail trail adventure, making up your own distance and destinations. For riders used to long days in the saddle, the complete out-and-back end to end makes a really satisfying journey. It can be done easily over two days for riders of a bike-packing disposition.
The trail can be ridden on pretty much any bike, by any rider. We would recommend something with wider softer tyres than a pure road-machine – a gravel bike or mountain bike is perfect. The occasional recreational cyclist will enjoy any of the town-to-town segments.