Friday, 29 January 2016

The East Gippsland Rail Trail


Location  Bairnsdale to Orbost, East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
Distance - 95.5 km (one way)
Terrain - Sealed between Bairnsdale and Nicholson then gravel and compacted earth to Orbost.
Difficulty - Easy to moderate.
Highlights - The views across undulating farmland along the Nicholson to Bruthen section.
Website and map - Click here (map) and here (detailed trail notes).


The East Gippsland Rail Trail, runs for almost 100km through south-eastern Victoria, connecting the regional centre of Bairnsdale at its western end with the outskirts of Orbost in the east. One of the best things about this trail is that it can be divided into separate rides. Unless you are super-fit, don't feel any compulsion to ride the whole length in a single day. Stay in one of the regional towns, load the bikes on the car each morning and drive to the beginning of each section. Or better yet do what we have done and stay in the heart of the East Gippsland Lakes, one of the most picturesque regions in eastern Australia. My favourite town by far is Paynesville (click here for my blog post on Paynesville), just across from Raymond Island and its large colony of koalas (click here for my blog post on Raymond Island).


Bairnsdale to Nicholson - 9km (one way)


Look for the start of the trail at Howitt Park, McEacharn St. The trail is sealed and almost flat for the full distance to Nicholson. If you haven't ridden a bike for a while or you've got the family with you this section is a great introduction to rail trail cycling.


East Gippsland Rail Trail, Bairnsdale
The start of the trail at Howitt Park



As you leave Bairnsdale you'll notice a few small gardens on the right-hand side of the track where local residents have made use of the reserve to grow vegetables. After the gardens the trail enters open farmland. Cycling across the old railway bridge at Nicholson is a highlight of this section. A short detour just before the bridge leads into Nicholson and down to the Nicholson River - a great spot for a picnic lunch.




The old railway bridge at Nicholson, East Gippsland Rail Trail
The old railway bridge at Nicholson





The Nicholson River - a perfect spot for a picnic


Nicholson to Bruthen - 21.5km (one way)


The Nicholson to Bruthen section continues as an easy cycle even though the sealed trail runs out quickly and becomes compacted earth. 

The last time David and I cycled this trail we came across a young man engaged in rabbit control on behalf of the local rural Land Board. We stopped to say hello and got into a long conversation about local wildlife and rabbit control. He was the source of amazing knowledge and told us that there were once 10 billion rabbits in Australia. (Yes - you read that right - '10 billion'.) Although the rabbit epidemic has eased a lot since then, I couldn't help thinking how futile his efforts seemed. One guy with a truck and a smoke machine just didn't look to me like it was going to help much.


Bruthen General Store, East Gippsland Rail Trail
Bruthen General Store

About half way between Nicholson and Bruthen the trail passes the site of the old Bumberrah Station. Sadly, there is nothing left of the station now but the shelter and information board has come in handy a couple of times when we have been caught in the rain. A turn-off not far from the shelter leads to a blueberry farm which sells chutneys, jams, liqueurs and other blueberry products. The lady who runs the cellar door shop is just lovely but much as we both enjoy fresh blueberries it turns out that they don't make great chutneys and liqueurs. 

The short detour into Bruthen is well worth it to admire the town's heritage architecture. Bruthen's fifteen minutes of fame arrived on 27 November 1958 when Flt Lt Ralph Oborn became the first pilot to eject safely from an aeroplane in Australia. His jet aircraft 'flamed out' over Bruthen at 40,000ft. He managed to avoid crashing into the built up area of the town before ejecting at 500ft. It was the first time he had ever used a parachute. All that remained of his plane, the nose cone, is on display in the centre of town.  


Aircraft nose cone, Bruthen, East Gippsland Rail Trail
All that is left of the aircraft whose pilot was the first person to safely eject from an aircraft in Australia.


Bruthen to Nowa Nowa - 27 km (one way)


This section of the trail has an isolated, 'alone in the world' feel to it as it passes through the Colquhoun State Forest. If you like getting away from everything this is the ride for you. Of course, the lack of people makes the occasional sight of fellow cyclists that much more welcome. 

There is no water at all on this part of the trail so take an adequate supply with you. The high point of the trail is at Colquhoun, just a name on a map really, not too far past the midway point between Bruthen and Nowa Nowa.


The East Gippsland Rail Trail
This part of the trail has an 'alone in the world' feel to it.

About 10 km east of Bruthen, the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail leads down to Lakes Entrance. See the heading Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail below. 


Nowa Nowa to Orbost - 38 km (one way)


I have included this part of the trail for completeness. David and I have not cycled this section ourselves but from the descriptions I have read, it sounds the least scenic and interesting part of the trail. I welcome comments from anyone who has first hand knowledge of the Nowa Nowa to Orbost section.


The Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail - 17 km (one way) 


The Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail is a detour from the main trail which leads through the forest down to Lakes Entrance. It begins at Seaton Track, 11 kms east of Bruthen.  The cycling is very different to the main part of the East Gippsland Rail Trail. The track is much narrower, rougher and quite steep in parts. For much of its length, it follows the route of an old tramway built in the early 1900s to move granite to Lakes Entrance. There is a short signposted detour leading to the old quarry. If you have even a passing interest in history and old artefacts the detour is well worth taking.

Old quarry on the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail
Stopping for a rest at the old quarry


If you start this trail from Lakes Entrance you will find the first part of the ride, quite a climb - or so we were told. D and I cheated by beginning at Log Crossing Picnic Area. It isn't easy to find but it is marked on the map in the Department of Sustainability and Environment PDF brochure of the trail - click here. There is plenty of parking and it is a lovely spot for a forest picnic.


The Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail
The Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail


Even if you skip the first/last few kilometres into Lakes Entrance this is not an easy ride. I wouldn't recommend it for beginner cyclists. However if a sense of achievement is your motivation then go for it. The scenery through the forest is lovely and there are lots of interesting little bridges and creek crossings. 

We have only cycled this track once and on the day we did a recent storm had brought down a large gum.  It was lying lengthwise along the track and with no way around it we literally had to climb through branches and foliage for 30-35metres carrying our bikes before we could continue.


Fallen tree on the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail, East Gippsland
David - ever the gentleman - lifting my bike through the fallen tree.

Fallen tree on the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail
This gives you an idea just how difficult getting through the tree was.

Facilities on the East Gippsland Rail Trail


Between Bairnsdale and Nicholson a local volunteer group, sorry I can't remember their name, have installed some very welcome water fountains. Apart from that, there are no facilities on the track at all. If you want lunch then plan to divert to one of the nearby towns. It is only a short ride into any of them.


46 comments:

  1. It is interesting how diverse the different parts of the trail are - river, farmland and forest. That nose cone is very interesting, good to hear that the pilot survived.

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    1. The different landscapes is one of the most interesting things about this trail.

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  2. It looks daunting trying to drive that bike on any stretch of this area except for the trail. I don't believe I'd try "off-roading" here!
    Hope you'll come link up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/01/eat-your-greens-fruity-ones.html

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    1. It was a lot of fun though - especially getting through the tree.

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  3. So much variety on the one trail - thanks for taking us along with you and sharing some wonderful knowledge.

    Sharing snapshots at Captured By Jade

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  4. It's a breathtaking view along the trail where you can pass by farmland and river even you going thru the difficulties of tree but yet both of you managed to deal with it....thanks for sharing with us your experience looking forward to your next journey story....


    Cheers,
    Tina from Malaysia
    www.mymediatravels.com

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  5. Looks like a beautiful trail with much variety of scenery. I'm sure it was a great ride.

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    1. We have done some parts of the trail more than once. It is a great ride and the surrounding countryside is magical - especially Raymond Island.

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  6. This looks like a great one to do, although I must confess I'm not great on bikes. I do enjoy a ride on a tricycle as I discovered in Berlin this year... though somehow I don't think a trike would make it down all of these paths!

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    1. A trike wouldn't work very well on the detour down to Lakes Entrance but the first part of the trail from Bairnsdale to Nicholson would suit a trike really well. We cycle a lot and see an enormous variety of bicycles, tricycles and just plain weird, pedal-powered machines.

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  7. It has been so long since I have been on my bike. I must dust it off and hit the tracks! Looks like a great little ride.

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    1. Dusting off my bike a few years ago was one of the best things I have ever done - you won't regret it.

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  8. No sure if I would be able to bike this route in one day but I will pick a section of it. The old bridge is very pretty. Like the parts were you bike surrounded by trees.

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    1. You would have to be super-fit (or a total idiot) to bike this in a day but doing it section by section is a lot of fun.

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  9. You guys are very impressive and see some of the most amazing things when you ride.

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    1. I am not sure if I have ever written it up but Wollongong has a terrific cycle path by the sea.

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  10. This looks like a lot of fun. We love to do bike rides in summer and also rail trails, so I am sure if I were back in Melbourne I'd give this a try.

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    1. You can get to Bairnsdale from Melbourne in about three hours but Melbourne itself has some fantastic bike rides right in the city. There is also the Bellarine Rail Trail from Geelong to Queenscliffe. I will be writing about that one soon.

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  11. What a lovely (and very thorough) post. We are just getting into long distance biking. I'd love to do the whole thing over the course of a couple of weeks.

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    1. I checked out your Google+ profile and it says you are from the U.S. There is a brilliant website for bike trails there called TrailLink.com. It takes a little playing around with but once you get the hang of it it is fantastic for planning rides.

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  12. Another fabulous ride for you Lyn. I think I'd have to work my way up to riding this far at once. Your photos capture the scenery so well. Glad to see you didn't let some fallen trees stop you! :-)

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    1. David and I started by ride on the flat for about 35 minutes. The distance we used to do feels ridiculously small now but you have to start somewhere.

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  13. Thanks for taking me back to a beautiful part of Australia Lyn. I lived in Gippsland (Yarragon) for 2 years and miss the area.

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    1. My pleasure. It is a lovely part of the world.

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  14. Wow, this is an interesting trail, so diverse. Never been to Australia, hopefully one day :)

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  15. Replies
    1. Come to Australia. We will take you cycling.

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  16. I would love to try that trail! I used to do biking vacations but haven't in years but could at least do one trail (probably).

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    1. Haha - start with a short trail. My husband, David, hates the idea of multi-day cycling trips because he says you stay in awful accommodation and can't take a day off even if it rains but we both love bike trails. So we take a car with bike racks and just cycle a bit each day. There are some brilliant trails around.

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  17. I've never done a cycling tour but your stories are making me reconsider. It might be a good way to get in shape!

    That would be a wonderful route to cycle; I really like the variety of landscapes along the way.

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    1. It is a good idea to start close to home and work up a bit of fitness first. You don't need much. Also check whether the trail is roughly flat if you haven't cycled for a long time. There is nothing worse than struggling up a huge hill you didn't expect - and that is usually when it rains.

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  18. Thanks for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/02/abstractions.html

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  19. Somehow, even though fallen trees do happen, one never thinks of packing a chainsaw when going cycling.

    That's another nice trail; most importantly, the unmade bits in your photos don't look rutted. In mild temperatures (upper teens) and a light wind, it seems like a good day's amble (even if you'd want to be packing about 5l of hydration on general principles).

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    1. I know what you mean about the chainsaw. One would come in very handy at times and you are right about the lack of ruts. It is a great ride.

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  20. I love the way places repurpose unused railways to make biking trails. There's a similar one in Quebec and it's lovely.

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    1. There are lots of them around the world now. It is so much better than just letting the land become overgrown and unusable.

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  21. I love trail like this! It gives you a chance to see more "rural" areas, and you usually meet great people along the way!

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    1. I agree. One of the best things about cycling rail trails is the people you meet.

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  22. The stretch between Bruthen and Nowa Nowa seemed most peaceful, made me imagine myself there, pedaling forever. An impossibility, of course, and so I'm asking . . . about how many hours do/can you typically cycle in one day?

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    1. It depends a lot on how tough the track is and how often we stop. With a flat, sealed track David and I can cycle for four or five hours without too much difficulty. If we stop halfway for lunch we often get a second wind. At home we regularly cycle about two hours a day about three times a week.

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  23. Looks like a great walk, though that small part of the airplan is a bit sad, things that were so impressive once!

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    1. Fortunately the pilot survived the crash otherwise I would agree with you about it being sad.

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