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.