Location: Tallarook, Yea, Cathkin, Bonnie Doon, Mansfield
Surface: Mostly gravel with some sections of compacted earth or sealed
Open: No seasonal closures
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
More information: greatvictorianrailtrail.com.au
Conquer Australia's longest rail trail, winding your way through the idyllic countryside between Tallarook and Mansfield in the foothills of the Victorian Alps. Along the way, the trail takes you from the banks of the beautiful Goulburn River and up the Goulburn Valley, past granite-boulder strewn hillsides and through numerous small towns where you can stop for food and drink. Pass some impressive infrastructure, including the long, dark Cheviot Tunnel and the Bonnie Doon Bridge over Lake Eildon, and then on through rich farmland brimming with birdlife and scattered with magnificent stands of ancient red gums. The final destination is Mansfield, which is packed with eating and drinking options.
Most people start from Tallarook and finish at Mansfield, though you can tackle the trail in any direction. In this direction the route gradually climbs, though the gradient is never more than gentle. The wonderfully-maintained trail is easily broken into shorter sections, with parking and access points in many places plus excellent signage and regular amenities.
From the banks of the river to the historic Cheviot Tunnel
Starting in Tallarook riders weave between sparse eucalypts and red gums along the banks of the broad Goulburn River. On the other side of the valley rise steep hillsides littered with granite boulders that are poised like giant marbles. The impressive railway station heralds your arrival in Yea, where rich history, varied restaurants and accommodation make for a fine spot to spend an evening.
Slow your pace as you set off from Yea into the darkness of the long Cheviot Tunnel, a marvel that was completed in 1889 from an estimated 675,000 hand-made bricks. Keep your eyes on the growing pinprick of light that signals the other end. This is an immersive experience not to be missed.
A detour into Alexandra
North of the tunnel, the trail passes through the small towns of Molesworth and Cathkin, where a junction branches off from the main rail trail for Alexandra. The 13-kilometre Alexandra leg includes the moderate climb of Eglinton Cutting, however it is not too difficult and riders are well rewarded with sweeping views of the Cathedral Range.
Lake Eildon to the Victorian Alps
Back on the main trail you arrive at Yarck and continue on through rich farmland to the shores of Lake Eildon. Pass the lakeside town of Bonnie Doon, where you cross the long rail trail bridge across the broad waters. Once threatened with very low water levels the lake is brimming again. Then it’s back out into the paddocks populated with majestic red gums, cruising along level trails until you arrive at the gateway to the Victorian Alps, Mansfield, where you can celebrate with a coffee and bite to eat at one of the many cafes, or celebrate with something stronger at a local pub.
Suggested shorter options
Kerrisdale to Molesworth, 44km one way
Start beside the clear waters of the Goulburn River in the small hamlet of Trawool, and follow the river through stands of magnificent gnarled river red gums. Leave the banks of the river shortly after Kerrisdale and head southeast to Yea, where you can stop for refreshments and provisions. Enjoy the rural sights of the Goulburn Valley as you make your way into the long, dark Cheviot Tunnel, finishing shortly afterwards in the settlement of Molesworth.
Suggested wheelchair accessible options
Many sections of the full trail are suitable for wheelchairs and most toilets along the way are accessible.
The Mansfield Mullum Wetlands 1.5km return
Strike out on the Mansfield Mullum Wetlands walking trail, leaving from the Mansfield Information Centre. The trail takes in many replanting sites along a 1.5-kilometre (return) walk suitable for wheelchairs, although sections of the trail can get a little soft after rain.