Best rail trails Australia: Gippsland Plains Rail Trail is flat – and stunning

Did you know that the Gippsland region in Eastern Victoria contains the highest density and accumulation of rail-trails in Australia? Combined, its 10 rail-trails measure 310km, following decommissioned railway lines that once connected timber and farming communities.

The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail is 67km, connecting the towns of Traralgon and Stratford by following the course of a disused railway line that opened in 1883. In 1994, long after the last steel tracks had been removed, locals began agitating for the line to be preserved as a recreational rail trail. A committee was formed in 1996 and work on the first section began in 2004. The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail opened the following year.

The trail is easily ridden across two days, though keen cyclists could do it in one. Some prefer to stretch it over three days so they can stop and sample delicious local produce whenever the chance arises​, or call in for a beer at every pub along the way.

The trail barely rises or dips, despite the Victorian Alps forming a scenic backdrop to the north. Lush dairy pastures surround much of the trail, though mature eucalypts occupy neatly divided grazing fields between Cowwarr and Heyfield. 

Along the way, there are ample opportunities to pause. Information boards at each railway siding include details about that station’s importance in the railway line’s heyday, with photographs illustrating scenes from that time. A cafe now occupies the restored railway station at Glengarry and the Silly Galah coffee caravan in Cowwarr helps break up the journey.

In Maffra, the Gippsland Vehicle Collection and Model World house an impressive collection of vintage cars. There’s also a museum paying homage to the sugar beet industry that once thrived around here. Metal sculptures in Cowwarr reflect the strong dairy and beef cattle industry in the region. Other detours lead to wetlands and weirs, and the trail passes through sleepy towns bypassed by the busy Princes Highway further south.

I’d suggest allowing a full day to ride from Traralgon to Tinamba before overnighting in the quirky Happy Days holiday accommodation, immediately behind the award-winning Tinamba Hotel that has been serving thirsty patrons since 1874. The next day’s ride to Stratford can then be completed in a couple of hours  – in time to catch a train back to Traralgon in the early afternoon. A later train departs Stratford at about 7 pm.

NEED TO KNOW

V/Line trains connect Stratford with Traralgon (and vice versa) several times a day. Tickets can be bought on-board. Storage areas allow for bikes.

Riders can leave their vehicles in the carpark at the start of the trail near Burnets Rd, 4.7km from the Traralgon Railway Station.

Carry one water bottle then refill it in towns along the way.

Rooms at Happy Days in Tinamba start from $125 a night, including breakfast.

Dinner bookings at the Tinamba Hotel are essential. Strict Covid procedures apply.

Mark Daffey travelled with the assistance of Visit Gippsland. This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com

About the author

Ozzie

Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.

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