Snowy River Cycling

East Gippsland Rail Trail

The East Gippsland Rail Trail is located in the far east of Victoria, Australia, travelling through the low hills between the Great Dividing Range and the coastal lakes which open into Bass Strait at Lakes Entrance.

Map of East Gippsland Rail Trail

The Rail Trail is just under 100 km in length, with a 25 km link to Lakes Entrance via the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail:.

Cyclists, walkers and horse riders are now able to travel along the disused rail line that transported passengers and goods between Bairnsdale and Orbost up until 1987. Now resurfaced with hard packed gravel it offers a chance to see the country side as rail passengers once did, and with no vehicular traffic and very gentle gradients it makes for a superb cycle journey. The scenery is fabulous: rolling farmland, forests and historic railway bridges, while cute and quirky little towns along the way offer great food, drink and a few surprises.

The mild climate of East Gippsland makes for outstanding cycling year round.

The volunteer Committee of Management undertake management and maintenance of the Trail for the benefit of visitors and local communities with a minimal budget. Your support of the trail is welcomed!

Navigation App

The Cyclewayz App provides outstanding navigation and notes for use along the trail: it is designed to work off line once you have downloaded the maps to use less battery and be independant of coverage.

Download the Cyclewayz App and maps for the East Gippsland Rail Trail for free on either Android or Apple.

Trail Terrain

Trail and Terrain

Trail Surface: The trail consists mostly of hard packed gravel, with the 10 km between Bairnsdale and Nicholson sealed with ashphalt. The quality of the surface varies along the route, and can change quickly with weather conditions. Generally, the trail provides a reasonable riding surface for hybrid bikes and mountain bikes. Some sections have some loose stone ( this is most noticable between Nowa Nowa and Orbost) and there are some spots that become soft with wet weather, or sandy with prolonged dry weather. For these reasons, it is not well suited to narrow road bike tyres.

Contact us for an update on current trail conditions.

Terrain. Whilst rarely truly flat, the hills on the rail trail are very gentle. All towns along the trail are just above sea level, so there is no advantage in riding east-west vs west-east. The highest point (130 metres) along the trail is roughly half way between Bruthen and Nowa Nowa where Lakes - Colquhoun Rd crosses the trail. Heading towards this point from both Bruthen and Nowa Nowa therefore means a gradual but constant uphill ride, which is of course rewarded by a downhill to follow.

Wind is not a major consideration along the trail, with tree belts and forest minimising the impact of wind. In winter, a southwesterly is the most common prevailing wind: in summer an southeasterly is more prevalent.

The Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail

The Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail leaves the Rail Trail half way between Bruthen and Nowa Nowa and is 17 km of dedicated trail plus 8 km on road to Lakes Entrance. A rail trail in miniature, it largely following an old tramline down a pretty bush valley towards Lakes Entrance. Returning to the Rail Trail along parallel forestry roads adds an excellent loop ride off the main Trail.

This trail is often a highlight of many riders trip, following a lush valley for much of it's length. It is narrower, more winding and has a looser surface than the Rail Trail. While mostly a very gradual downhill gradient from north to south, there are some short but steep hills (dropping into, then climbing out of the valley) at either end of the trail.

The Discovery Trail is a dedicated cycling / walking path until the intersection of Scriveners and Lakes Colquhoun roads, after which it is an on road route to Lakes Entrance for 8 km. Most of this 8 km is a quiet, sealed local traffic road, with more traffic encountered closer to town. There is a short steep drop into the town when riding south from the trail.

Towns

Towns on the East Gippsland Rail Trail

The trail services page outlines what is available in each town.

At the western end of the trail is the sizable regional centre of Bairnsdale, while at the eastern end is the country town of Orbost on the Snowy River, just 15 kilometres from the sea. In between are the villages of Nicholson, Bruthen and Nowa Nowa, each with it’s own particular character.

Bairnsdale is a large town sitting on Mitchell River. Upstream is the salad bowl Lindenow Flats while downstream is the expanse of the Gippsland Lakes. Bairndale is now the furthest end of the actual railway line, with trains services to Melbourne several times daily.

Nicholson is perched by the river of the same name, it’s broad width crossed by the original rail bridge. The pies at hte General Store are in a league of their own. Not far out of Nicholson a short diversion from the trail takes you to the Nicholson River Winery.

Bruthen sits atop a hill surrounded by rich farmland with the Tambo river threading its way past.It has several fantastic cafes and a number of galleries, retro and craft shops. Choose between the local pub and a craft brewery for rehydration.

Nowa Nowa sits at the junction of ‘mingling waters’ (the meaning of its aboriginal name) as a freshwater river emerges from its little rocky gorge to meet a quiet arm of Lake Tyers. Take a walk along the water’s edge and visit the outstanding wood collection at Mingling Waters (and sample their excellent food), and local hand made works at The Depot.

Tostaree is a ‘locality’ 10 km past Nowa Nowa, offering farmstay accommodation.

Orbost is a classic little country town with a wide main street and a pub at each end. It is on the wide and fertile floodplain of the Snowy River, and just 15 km from where the river flows into the sea at the little town of Marlo.

Lakes Entrance is reached from the rail trail via the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail. A seaside town with seagulls, fish and chips, fishing boats and mini golf.

Weather

Weather in East Gippsland

East Gippsland has excellent weather for cycling year round, with one of the mildest climates in Victoria. With the tempering effects of the sea, and in particular the Pacific Ocean to the east, compared to Melbourne and inland areas it tends to be cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

The rolling green hills owe their colour to a year round rainfall with no one month a stand out for increased likelihood of rain.

The prevailing wind in winter is most likely to be a south westerly: in summer a south easterly dominates, especially in the afternoons.

Victoria as a whole does have extremely changable weather, with big weather systems coming off both the inland deserts of Australia and the icy Southern Ocean causing major temperature swings in the space of hours, at any time of year. ALWAYS pack a rain jacket, warm jumper, and the sunscreen!

For current weather forecasts for Orbost have a look at the Bureau of Meteorology website.

Nature

Natural Features

The trail passes through a mix of forest and farmland, with the western end of the trail mostly farmland, and the eastern end of the trail mostly forested.

The forests of East Gippsland are renowned both as a rich timber source and for the controversy that has surrounded logging in some areas of forest. The Rail Trail passes through an everchanging panorama of forests. In the west it is on the edge of the Red Gum Plains; bluegums, redbox, casuarina and stringybark forests dominate the hills interspersed with fern filled moist gullies. At the eastern end huge southern mahoganys dominate the banks of the Snowy River, whose banks are being revegetated with the original temperate rainforest that once covered them. The forest is home to a huge variety of birds whose cries, chirps, screeches and songs resound through the trees, while wombats, wallabies and kangaroos can sometimes be seen grazing beside the trail.

East Gippsland is also fertile farming country: dairy cattle on the river flats and beef cattle on the hillier country are the most common sights. There are also many specialty small farms and vineyards, with berry and stonefruit farms in particular between Bruthen and Bairnsdale as well as several vineyards.

History

Historic Features

Building the trail in the early 1900's was a huge engineering feat, with 4 major rivers (or their flood plains), dense forest and numerous gullies to cross. Huge timber trestle bridges remain a feature of this trail, although their number has been reduced by fire, dismantling, and replacement of some bridge with earth infill. Reminders of the trail’s historic past are all around - cuttings through hillsides, two short tunnels and features like Costicks Weir, built as a water supply for the steam engines. The major bridges are shown below.

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Nicholson River Bridge

Location: 10 km east of Bairnsdale at township of Nicholson.

Status: rehabilitated for use as the cycling route across the Nicholson River.

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Tambo River Bridge

Location: Bruthen, 30 km east of Bairnsdale

Status: in use as cycle / walking route

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Stony Creek Trestle Bridge

Location: 54 km east of Bairnsdale, 6 km west of Nowa Nowa

Status: not in use due to soundness.

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O'Gradys Bridge

Location: 57 km east of Bairnsdale, 7 km east of Nowa Nowa.

Status: Not in use. A report commissioned by Friends of the East Gippsland Rail Trail indicated the bridge was not suited to restoration for use as the cycling / walking route.

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Snowy River Floodplain Bridge

Location: 96 km east of Bairnsdale, 2 km west of Orbost.

Status:Not in use, however an engineers report commissioned by the Friends of East Gippsland Rail Trail indicates that this bridge is in good condition other than some sunken trestles. As of 2017, the Friends group is developing a campaign to have the bridge restored to become the cycling / walking route. Currently, a link path connects the end of the rail trail with the town of Orbost, replacing bridge for this section.