The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail extends 67km from Traralgon to Stratford in Central Gippsland, Victoria.
The unfinished trail passes through high quality dairy country, and offers sweeping views of the Great Dividing Range to the north and is unique as visitors can connect to and travel by train to either end of the trail.
The trail is perfect for weekend short breaks with most townships along its 67km route offering accommodation, but all offering hot food, visitor services and amenities.
Works during 2010 have developed and completed the section of trail from Stratford - Tinamba - Heyfield, where trail users can arrive by train (3 V-Line services daily to Stratford - ( www.vline.com.au ) and then cycle, ride or walk the 18km to Tinamba. Stratford has many unique shops including a turkish rug shop, model railway shop, country style craft shop, lolly shop, as well as antique shop, gallery and theatre, take-away shops/cafes, wine bar, banking (autoteller), chemist, supermarket, hotel and bakery.
The Stratford Trail Head is located at Apex Park in Stratford, adjacent to the Avon River bridge at the entrance to the town. Services at the trail head include toilets, water, bbq, parking, childrens playground, bmx track, the all abilities Avon Heritage trail, caravan park and swimming in the Avon River or in the adjacent municipal swimming pool.
The 10km trail to Maffra is an excellent new & smooth surface, suitable for all bikes and is flat. The journey to Maffra has only one road crossing with the Maffra Trail Head located at the "Gippsland Vehicle Collection". Continue onto the main street and there the trail continues through the CBD of Maffra.
Maffra's visitor attractions include the Gippsland Vehicle Collection, Macalister Park which has toilets and an exciting dairy themed children's playspace, an extensive network of cycling and walking trails, Bellbird Corner riverside reserve, Macalister Wetlands with viewing platforms, bird hides and boardwalks, shady tree lined main street with many shops, including bakeries, cafes, banking (autoteller), bikeshop, medical centre, sports and clothing stores, supermarkets and hotels. Gippslands largest backpacker hostel (Cambrai) is located in the main street (Johnson St) and offers quality budget accommodation for groups. The Maffra Visitor Information Centre hosts the Pino Deriu mineral collection including the unique Pino's Cave where minerals glow in the dark.
Leaving Maffra, the trail rejoins Johnson St at the Macalister River bridge. The trail then passes through a delightful wetland and forest b efore heading to Tinamba (8km) via a new excellent surface. This part of the trail has a number of completed creek crossings where waterbirds can often be seen in billabongs nearby. Tinamba has a bed & breakfast (Happy Days) and also a well provisioned general store with great coffee. The award winning Tinamba Hotel offers quality meals as well as fine dining with good local wines. Nearby the Glenmaggie Winery can be reached by a short "off trail" detour.
From Tinamba, the trail extends on an excellent new gravelsurface of gravel 3 km to McKinnons Rd. The trail then continues directly to Heyfield, a distance of 6.5km on a slightly lesser grade surface, however still quite rideable for all hybrid and mtb bicycles. Heyfield offers the visitor all the services of a small country town, including bakery, cafe, chemist, supermarket, take-away shops, medical centre, Hotels and banking (autoteller). The Heyfield Trail Head is located at the Heyfield Wetlands Centre at the Western entrance to the town. Services on site include bbq, parking, wetlands, toilets and tourist information.
From Heyfield, the trail recommences approx 1km from the Wetlands Centre Trail Head and continues to the Dawson Flora reserve near Cowwarr, however is not fully developed at this time (2010). This section of trail is however quite rideable for mountain bikes and some hybrids, but the surface is gravel with occasional larger stones. From Dawson, a road section along country backroads connects to Cowwarr (5k) where accommodation can be found at the Cricketers Arms Hotel. A general store services visitors with all supplies and the unique Cowwarr Art Space located adjacent to the trail is well worth a look and does great coffee.
The 17 km section from Cowwarr to Glengarry via Toongabbie has also not been fully developed but has had the rocky ballast removed . This section has two creek crossings that can be walked through. The trail reserve has significant remnant stands of native trees, shrubs and grasses en route with good visitor facilities in historic Toongabbie.
This small township is significant for the history of the area being the "gateway to Walhalla" with the discovery of gold at Stringers Creek. The town still retains fully restored historic heritage listed buildings with Toongabbie Mechanics Institute & Free Library (the only two storey timber building of its kind in Australia), Village Green and Federation Grandstand, St Davids church, historic interpretive signage, wetlands, general store/cafe, BBQ, picnic facilities, toilets, skate park, golf course and tennis courts.
Leaving Toongabbie the trail continues approx 7 km to the township of Glengarry and is traversable either by mountain bike or walking. Glengarry boasts a refurbished Historic Rail Station, playgrounds, skatepark, BMX track, toilets, BBQ facilities, general store with food options and hotel. A road section from Glengarry to Traralgon via the C105 is necessary to complete the journey. (11km)
You can continue your journey or return home by train from the Traralgon Railway Station (www.vline.com.au)
Code of conduct
The rail trail can only be used by walkers, cyclists, equestrians and wheelchairs - motor bikes and vehicles are not permitted. Dogs on leads allowed. No camping, no fires. Please keep left.
Everyone: Stay on the trail, take your rubbish home, do not disturb stock and wildlife, keep dogs on leads.
Cyclists: Approach horses with care, alert others to your approach, overtake on the right at reduced speed.
Equestrians: Slow down approaching other users, dismount and lead horses over bridges. In some sections an equestrian trail is separate from the gravel pathway and is suitable only for horses.
Toilets: The rail trail is a great community asset - let's keep it clean and respect the other users and the farms and towns alongside of it - take your rubbish home and please don't use the trail or the bush as a toilet. Presently, there are toilets in the towns at Stratford, Maffra, Tinamba, Heyfield, Cowwarr, Toongabbie, Glengarry and Traralgon.
Signage: To enhance the enjoyment and safety of trail users, comprehensive signage is being progessively installed along the trail.
Origin of the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail
In response to community requests, state government had the abandoned railway lands converted to Crown Land set aside for public ownership - the land is now administered by the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
A Committee of Management made up of community volunteers has responsibility for development, protection, maintenance and improvement of the lands and manage the trail construction and facilities. The Committee of Management is responsible for maintenance, preservation and enhancement of the trail and natural vegetation with valuable assistance from volunteers, clubs and other groups. Funding to build the trail came from a number of Government sources.
The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail Committee of Management hope to have all of the potential 67km trail from Traralgon to Stratford open with a good riding surface in the next few years. For further information about the trail's development contact the Chairperson, Helen Hoppner on 03 5148 9214 or contact Tourism Wellington for tourism, accommodation and general information about visiting and enjoying the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail.