In case you hadn't noticed global cycle tourism, and in particular e-bike tourism is on the rise. Australia has been playing catch up, but the overwhelming social, economic, and health benefits associated with redeveloping abandoned railway infrastructure have led to significant upgrades in recent years.
With new investment and continued support from local communities, the resultant rail trails, shared-use paths recycled from abandoned railway corridors used for cycling, walking and horse riding, are slowly being opened up to the public across the country.
Many of the trails link big and small country towns and meander through scenic countryside just as the railways did when they were constructed in the mid to late 19th Century.
The routes cut through hills, under roads, over embankments and across gullies and creeks and, importantly, are totally motorised traffic free.
In the main most trails have gravel or dirt surfaces, some are sealed and yet others are works in progress, but most importantly all are suitable for touring e-bikers keen to discover our wonderful countryside.
Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of rail trails only extend for a few kilometres, making for a very short electric bike ride, but rest assured there are also many that are long enough to provide a fantastic touring option for one, two or three days.
Given the wide variety of rail trail e-bike cycle touring options available in Australia, the following is a rundown of a number of the more prominent trails that are perfect for e-bike enthusiasts of all ages and fitness levels.
So start researching your planned ride, pre-book suitable accommodation options, dial in ‘Eco’ or ‘Tour’ e-assist and head off on your own Aussie rail trail adventure. You are guaranteed to have a great time.
The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail – Victoria - 116 km over 3 Stages
The subject of a previous blog, the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is arguably Australia’s number one rail trail.
Stretching for 116 kms from Wangaratta to Bright with a separate branch line to Beechworth, the fully sealed rail trail passes through some of the most picturesque parts of the Victorian High Country.
Along the way there are many beautiful country towns to explore such as Myrtleford, Bright, Rutherglen, Porepunkah, Wandiligong and, if you are keen to test both yourself and your electric bike, you can also ride to the top of Mt Buffalo.
For more detailed information about the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail go to murraytomountains.com.au
The Great Victorian Rail Trail – Victoria – 134 km
Given that the Victorian Government is the most proactive in Australia in regards to funding rail trail infrastructure, it is no surprise that arguably the next best rail trail in the country is also in Victoria – the Great Victorian Rail Trail.
Stretching for 134 kilometres through the undulating hills of the Great Dividing Range from Mansfield to Tallarook, the trail is currently the longest continuous rail trail in Australia.
Along the way the trail passes through the towns of Tallarook, Trawool, Kerrisdale, Homewood, Yea, Molesworth, Yarck, Kanumbra, Merton, Bonnie Doon, Maindample and Mansfield and also has a branch line to Alexandra.
Highlights include the 200-metre Cheviot Tunnel near Yea, views of the Goulburn River, the Heritage listed Trawool Valley and a former rail bridge over Lake Eildon near Bonnie Doon.
For more detailed information about the Great Victorian Rail Trail go to greatvictorianrailtrail.com.au
Brisbane Valley Rail Trail – South-East Queensland – 161 km (when completed)
Following recent announcements from the Federal and Queensland Governments of long-awaited funding to complete the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, the trail over the next couple of years will take over the crown as the longest continuous rail trail in Australia at 161km.
The rail trail follows the disused Brisbane Valley rail line that commenced construction at Wulkuraka near Ipswich in 1884 and was completed at Yarraman in 1913. The trail travels through the Somerset, South Burnett, Toowoomba Regional and Ipswich City local government areas and links the towns Wulkuraka (Ipswich), Fernvale, Lowood, Coominya, Esk, Toogoolawah, Harlin, Moore, Linville, Benarkin, Blackbutt and Yarraman.
As the trail winds its way up the Brisbane Valley it traverses farmland, forests, picturesque rural settings and country towns and is definitely a ‘must-do” ride for anyone contemplating an e-bike touring adventure.
Along the way there are ample accommodation options from campgrounds through to hotels and B&Bs.
For more detailed information about the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail go to https://tinyurl.com/yanx5ssh
Mt Garnet to Lappa Junction – 190 km West of Cairns – 55 km
The Mt Garnet to Lappa Junction railway line was privately built in 1902 and was taken over by the Queensland Railways in 1914 and closed in 1960.
Given the remote location of the rail trail it is a must-do for anyone keen to get off the well-worn tourist track.
The trail goes through magnificent ranges with sweeping views of the isolated Atherton Tablelands countryside. Along the way ancient frangipani and mango trees mark the site of old abandoned cattle stations and homesteads.
The trail also features heritage narrow rock cuttings, old hand-built stone bridges and features a course gravel surface.
The best way to enjoy the trail is in conjunction with a car which you can leave at the small town of Mt Garnet before heading off on the trail.
One word of warning: The trail is only suitable for cycling during the dry season and given that there are no services along the way make sure you bring your own water and food.
More information is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Riesling and Spring Gully Loop Rail Trails – South Australia – 54 km
These two trails join to make for a very enjoyable ride through the Clare Valley, one of Australia's best known wine regions.
Starting in Riverton, 130km north of Adelaide, the Spring Gully Loop Trail goes for 19 km through the rolling farmland of the Gilbert Valley before joining the aptly named Riesling Trail at Auburn for the remainder of the journey to Clare.
From Clare wine buffs can continue on to visit any number of local wineries by e-biking on quiet country roads past farmlands and vineyards. Along the way there are plenty of opportunities to sample the famous specialty of the region: Riesling wine.
Extra options include the 9 km John Horrocks Loop, the 10 km Father Rogalski Loop, the 16 km Spring Gully Loop and the massive 800 kilometre Mawson Trail.
The Mawson Trail is a cycle trail running from just north of Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges which mostly follows country roads and forest trails as well as the rail trail from Auburn to Riverton.
For more detailed information about the Reisling and Spring Gully Loop Rail Trails go to: www.southaustraliantrails.com/trails/riesling-trail/ and www.southaustraliantrails.com/trails/spring-gully-loop/
The Railway Reserves Heritage Trail, Perth Hills – West Australia – 59 km
The Railway Reserves Heritage Trail follows the route of the old Eastern Railway and is unique in that it provides a 41 kilometre loop entirely on railway formations.
This rail trail passes through a number of quaint communities in the Perth Hills including Darlington, Parkerville and Mundaring and covers a wide range of terrains with scenic views and numerous points of historical and natural significance.
Attractions include the old railway line and tunnel in John Forrest National Park along with great views and waterfalls (particularly in winter/spring). Other features include the Mundaring Sculpture Park, the Goldfields pipeline, wineries and local tea-rooms and cafes.
The trail goes from Bellevue to Wooroloo in the Perth Hills and can be joined at numerous access points along its length. Many of the reserves are now community parks providing picnic tables, toilets and other facilities. Local pubs, cafes and accommodation options are abundant in the area and well worth the stop.
For more detailed information about the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail go to: trailswa.com.au/trails/railway-reserves-heritage-trail/print
Other rail trails worth investigating include:
- The Great Southern Rail Trail in Victoria – more info com.au
- The High Country Rail Trail in Victoria – more info org.au
- The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail in Victoria – 67km – more info com.au
- The Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail in Victoria – 54km – more info com/
- The Denmark to Nornalup (including Wilsons Inlet) Rail Trail in West Australia – 54 km - more info railtrails.org.au