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Romance of the ride: Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail

Alia Parker's picture
Stop at the Beechworth Provender on the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail. Cycle Traveller

Everywhere I look, there are cyclists; casual cruisers, Lycra-clad road warriors, husbands and wives out for a morning ride, parents with kids, retirees, mates on mountain bikes – everywhere. No special event has drawn them here, there's nothing out of the ordinary; for Bright in Victoria's glorious High Country, this is just an average autumn Sunday morning.

The picturesque town is one of the most cycle-friendly in Australia and its location and at one end of the Murray to the Mountains Rail Rrail has made it an even bigger cycling holiday destination.

The Murray to the Mountains would have to be the country's most well-known rail trail, alluring cyclists with the romance of the ride, a pleasant amble between one of Australia's most important river systems – the Murray River – and the lower slopes of some of the country's highest mountains. With over 100km of paved trail winding along the valley floor, passing lush bush and whispering farmlands, it is a safe and relaxing place to explore by bike.

The rail trail is a rather simple asphalt path that runs between Bright and Wangaratta with offshoots to superb little gems like Beechworth. The path follows the old railway tracks that serviced the area for over a century. The Beechworth line was one of the oldest in Australia, being built in 1875.

Family cycling on the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail in Victoria. Cycle TravellerThe lines around Beechworth and Bright closed gradually during the 1970s and 1980s and the line was converted to a rail trail in the 1990s, turning the disused corridor into a popular tourist attraction that continues to transport people through the stations of old. The slow gradients of the line's ups and downs make for pleasant riding and easily accessible to riders of all abilities.

The towns along the way are as much a part of the attraction as the trail itself, with an abundance of cafes, fresh produce, wine and craft beers, as well as doting country B&Bs.

What makes these towns even more attractive aside from their stunning locations, is their rich history. The High Country of Victoria's north-east was Gold Rush country and the intricate building facades and grand architecture remain as visually splendid reminders of the region's wealthy past.

I'm particularly enamoured with Beechworth. We arrive just as the town is bathed in the radiant glow of the late afternoon sun, accenting the golden granite stone buildings of the historic precinct. Among them sits the courthouse where Ned Kelly was famously tried, as well as the cells in which he and his mother were held. Beechworth is said to be the country's finest Gold Rush town and it is hard to argue otherwise. Its architecture has been beautifully maintained on an extensive level.

The Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail and its surrounding towns make for a perfect getaway. Visitors can bring their own bicycles, hire a bike (have a chat to the Information Centres in the towns) or join a bike tour with a shuttle bus to bring you home at the end of the ride.

Images from top: 1. Provender at Beechworth (Copyright Visions Victoria). 2. Family on the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail.

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