Cycling the High Country
No wheels? No worries! Victoria’s compact nature lends itself to easy escapes without the hassle of holiday traffic or quibbling over who plays designated driver. Here is a round up of car free tips for exploring regional Victoria.
Regional getaways by train and bus
Victoria’s network of V/Line trains and buses offer easy access to all regions of the state to those who would rather relax and let someone else do the driving.
Many Victorian destinations have train stations in the centre, giving easy access to attractions, art galleries and food experiences, as well as self guided walking routes and local bike hire. The Art Gallery of Ballarat, for example, is just 200m from the railway station, offering an easy day trip from Melbourne and other regions to enjoy exhibitions such as the 2016 Archibald Prize. In Warrnambool, the station is just a short walk from attractions such as Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, the Middle Island penguins and an easy bike ride to whale watching platforms at Logan’s Beach. Similarly, the Marilyn Monroe Exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery is just a short walk from the train, offering a great day trip option.
Those seeking an escape to warmer climes this winter season can take a V/Line train to Murray gateway town, Echuca Moama, as little as three hours by train from Melbourne (around $55 off peak return) and less from regional cities such as Bendigo (around one hour 40 minutes and $12 off peak return). Whether day tripping or overnighting, visitors can spend the day exploring the historic port area, visit the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre, take a paddlesteamer ride and enjoy lunch at The American Hotel.
Some of Victoria’s national parks are also accessible without a car. The Grampians National Park, for example, is served by V/Line buses to and from Halls Gap, which is the starting point for many stunning hiking trails, teeming with wildlife and full of accommodation options.
Some attractions also offer shuttle services straight from the station, such as Sovereign Hill which picks up V/Line passengers at Ballarat Station with the Goldrush Service and takes them to Sovereign Hill in just ten minutes. V/Line passengers also enjoy special discounts at regional attractions such as the National Wool Museum (Geelong), Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (Ballarat), Sovereign Hill (Ballarat), Puffing Billy (Belgrave) and the Central Deborah Goldmine (Bendigo).
Bike trails with connecting V/Lines
Victoria is home to Australia’s most developed network of bike trails, with many historic timber rail lines now converted into safe, easy bike paths. These are ideal for exploring local wineries, farm gates experiences and country villages. Bike trails such as the Murray to Mountain, Great Victorian Rail Trail and Lilydale to Warburton are all available either for day tripping or as part of a cycling trips with overnight stays. Visit here for a round up of these and other tourism bike trails across Victoria.
Visitors can bring their own bikes on V/Line trains and, since April 2016, a one year trial of bike racks on selected coach routes has been launched. Alternatively, bike hire is commonly available at many regional destinations.
From Flinders Street Station to fern filled forests
Melbourne’s Metropolitan train network offers day trippers great entry points into surrounding regions, only an hour or so by train but far from the hustle and bustle of city life. Upper Ferntree Gully Station is the entry point to Fern Tree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, offering walking trails through 600 hectres of forest, including the Kokoda Trail Memorial Walk, Ramblers’ Trail Loop (1.5km), Living Bush Nature Walk (2.5km) and Lyrebird Loop (4km).
Belgrave Station is a short walk from Sherbrooke Forest, also part of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, offering a further 800 hectares of lush woodland hills and trails to ramble through. Belgrave is also the starting point for the historic Puffing Billy steam train which takes visitors on day trips through the Dandenong Ranges.
Alternatively, head to Woodend Station with a bike to access network of quiet country roads, challenging hill climbs and regional forests around the Macedon Ranges.