The East Gippsland Rail Trail is a 96-km-long (60 mi) track for walking, cycling or horseriding. It passes through a variety of forest and farmland landscapes with occasional views of the Gippsland Lakes. from Bairnsdale to Orbost in East Gippsland, in Victoria.
The trail follows the route of the former Bairnsdale-Orbost railway. It was opened in 1916 to serve the agricultural and timber industry, and required numerous substantial bridges because of the nature of the terrain. Due to the decline in traffic and heavy operating costs, the line was closed in 1987 and the track infrastructure removed in 1994.
Motorised vehicles are prohibited.
Parts of the trail are accessible to any bicycle, but significant sections are suitable only for mountain bikes or sturdy hybrid bikes.
There are large destination and distance signboards at key major road crossings and along the trail at some minor roads. At Bumberrah (between Nicholson and Mossiface) there is a shelter with a notice board with information about the trail.
There are also kilometre distance markers and name boards at bridges, tunnels and minor road crossing points.
Bairnsdale is on the Princes Hwy ( ) approximately 3.5 hours east of Melbourne, and has a V line train service and flights from Melbourne.
Orbost is also the Princes Highway, 4-5 hours east of Melbourne. Orbost is accessible from Bairnsdale, Sydney and Canberra by coach, but not by train.
Commencing from Bairnsdale, the track commences just east of the Mitchell River in Bairnsdale Park. You can see the old railway bridge across the Mitchell River, but it is only half standing and clearly unsuitable for traffic. The track starts just east of it. There is plenty of parking, and across the Princes Highway there are toilets and water fountains for filling water bottles etc. There are no facilities along the track for 10 km. The first section of track from Bairnsdale to Nicholson is paved.
The track continues across mostly agricultural land for the first few kilometres, until it crosses the Princes Highway. At the point of crossing, about 200 m to the left of the junction along the highway there is a mini-golf and archery centre. The mini-golf is quite unique, and they sell ice-creams, and drinks there.
Continuing on across the highway, the trail crosses some small creeks largely on the original rail bridges before coming into Nicholson. The trail crosses the Nicholson River on the original high level rail bridge, and is really quite spectacular. Cycle down just prior to the bridge along the river to a park and play area by the river. There are electric barbecues here. Across the road there is a pub, and 50 m back away from the river there is a general store, selling hot food, drinks and ice-creams. There is water and toilets available in the park.
After the Nicholson River Bridge the track is no longer paved, but is a nice fine gravel well suited for cycling, but a hybrid or mountain bike would be best. The track continues another 12 km onto towards Bruthen, leaving the alignment of the Princes Highway. At Bruthen the track goes through an original rail tunnel, and then crosses the original rail bridge over the Tambo River, another spectacular crossing. It is a short signposted diversion from the trail into Bruthen, the park in the centre strip of the road has toilets, water, and there is also a take-away store and a cafe on the main strip.
After Bruthen the track starts to go through the Colquhoun State Forest. It is a steady uphill gradient for the first 5 km or so (or a very nice cruise into Bruthen, depending on your direction). The next section into Nowa Nowa continues through the forest, now on a gradual downhill. If cycling you can have a 2- to 3-km stretch here with no pedalling required. The track passes a large trestle bridge over Stony Creek before Nowa Nowa - possibly one of the largest trestle bridges in Australia. Nowa Nowa has a general store and a cafe.
From Nowa Nowa the trail runs through the Waygara State Forest to Newmerella. There is a service station in Newmerella. The trail follows by the side of the road and across the bridge the final 5 km into Orbost.
Take the usual precautions when cycling, and don't forget to wear a helmet (by law, it's a must). The track may be slippery after rainy days so watch out. Wildlife shouldn't be too much of a problem.
- Head west and onto the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail from Stratford to Traralgon