Discovering NE Victoria's rail trail on two wheels

By M.E.Moore

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Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Riding out of Beechworth

Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Riding out of Beechworth [©M E Moore]

Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Lunch at Boyntons
Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Damian Cerini cycling by the Boyntons Vineyards
Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Everton Historic hotel
Rail Trail Cycling Tours - Historic Beechworth Post Office

 

Cycling and walking trips through Tuscany or the Loire Valley are increasingly becoming must-do elements of a ‘complete’ European holiday. A delightful taste of that same salubrious experience can now be had right here on our own doorstep, in north-east Victoria.

A weekend spent on one of Damian Cerini’s Rail Trail Cycling Tours  provides a glimpse of rural paradise that will have visitors wanting to return tp the region again and again.

A nicely sealed cycle path, constructed 1993–2002, connects Beechworth, sitting high on a granite plateau, to Everton and Bright in the Ovens Valley below.

This is undoubtedly the most scenic section of the popular Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail; and historic Beechworth – arguably the most strikingly beautiful of Victoria’s old gold towns – its logical starting point. The town’s heritage precinct has something for everyone – cafés showcasing high-quality local produce, boutique shopping that attracts customers from far and wide, museums to lose yourself in, and a short walk away, a spectacular gorge littered with relics of gold-mining days. If you’ve never visited this area before, it’s well worth setting aside a day or two before or after the cycle tour.

On Saturday morning, once the small group of cyclists tears itself away from Beechworth’s gourmet breakfast offerings, the rail trail itself becomes of immediate interest. Operational as a broad gauge mixed service railway from 1876–1976, construction of the line with its many cuttings and built-up sections clearly involved considerable labour.

The gradient on the descent from Beechworth to Everton is one of Victoria’s longest and steepest, dropping over 300 metres in a little under 17 kilometres – that’s an average of about 1 in 55. A whizz of a downhill ride!

The route passes through natural bush and scenic farmland, and boasts every facility that a traveller could wish for, including cafes, hotels, wineries and produce outlets at regular intervals. It also teems with rustic vistas: old machinery, semi-derelict corrugated iron tobacco kilns and hop sheds, tiny workers’ cottages and early twentieth century farmhouses.

Patchwork crops and mature European shade trees rub shoulders with vast tracts of natural bushland; luxuriously long grasses ripple gently in the breeze along a valley floor that steadily narrows upstream. Beyond Myrtleford, the towering edifice of Mt Buffalo dominates the skyline. It’s an achingly beautiful landscape that will in all likelihood gradually lose the character of its humble hard-working origins, as disused farm buildings disintegrate and larger modern structures take their place.

What a deliciously relaxing weekend! A photographer’s dream, a window on times gone by, a food and wine-lover’s delight and an absolute breeze for any, even vaguely competent, cyclist. Small tour groups run at weekends on demand, providing a guide, accommodation, most meals and backup transport (including luggage transport and collection of purchases of wine and produce made along the way). Late on Sunday afternoon, cyclists, bikes and luggage are transported back up the mountain to Beechworth. Too easy!

Tour details:

Standard of ride: easy, maximum 60-80 km over two days, depending on the abilities and preferences of the customers. Note that some (optional) sections of the route involve riding on quiet back roads.

Bikes and helmets: BYO, or hire can be arranged.

Cost: (including 2 nights' accommodation and most meals) $399.

Contact: Damian Cerini: 0407 229 881 or www.railtrailtours.com.au

Bookings essential!

The writer travelled as a guest of Rail Trail Tours on 7-9 December 2012

Regions

  • North East Victoria (VIC)

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February 15th, 2013
 
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