This is a comfortable two-day ridethat is easily reached from Melbourne. The ride has railway stations at both ends. Consequently, you can leave your car at home and enjoy the countryside by bike and train. Note, however, that train services to Melbourne from Stratford are infrequent.
The best time to ride the trail is probably in spring, when the lush Gippsland farming country that the trail passes through is looking its best.The second day of the ride offers the best scenery, with a slowly changing backdrop of the foothills of Victoria’s High Countryoff to the west. All the towns have shops with the best of the regions cheeses and preserved meats on sale.
For more information about the trail see: Rail Trails Victoria.
Food and Accommodation
There is accommodation available at the start of the ride in Traralgon. En route one can stay in Heyfield or Maffra. There is also accommodation in Stratford.
There are cafes and/or general stores in all towns except Cowwarr. There are dinner options in Traralgon, Heyfield, Maffra and Stratford.
The trail is mostly flat, with some gentle climbing on the first day and gentle downhill the second day. There is one short steep hill on the way into Heyfield.
Getting There and Back
There are trains to Traralgon and to Stratford. There is parking at the start of the ride.
Day 1: Traralgon to Hayfield, 40.5km
The ride starts at Traralgon Station.
Ride 4km to get to the start of the trail:
Head to nearby Victory Park and follow the path to the left which goes underneath the M1 highway and brings you up behind “Cold Rock” ice cream.
Follow path towards the large ASIC building immediately in front of you and turn right over the footbridge.
Turn right into Munro St, then 2nd left into Peterkin St, first right into Davidson St and continue to end of Davidson St where it intersects Park Lane.
Turn left in to Park Lane and continue until the T intersection with Marshalls Road.
Turn right and head North on Marshalls Rd to the intersection of the C105 and you will see the start of the trail that is clearly signposted.
Ride 7.5km to Glengarry. At Glengarry the trail crosses Cairnbrook Road and continues straight ahead through Apex Park. The main shopping strip is to the left.
Ride 9km to Toongabbie. The trail crosses Main Street and continues straight ahead. (Ignore the trail to the right.) If you wish to take a break here there is a general store and shaded seating just along Main Street to the left.
Ride 9km to Cowwarr. The main town is to your right. Note that the both the general store and arts centre have closed and the only place for refreshment is the Cricket Club Hotel [http://cowwarrhotel.com.au] (not open every day).
Ride 11km to Heyfield. One section of the trail is closed due to the loss of the rail bridge over the Thomson River. So it is necessary to follow a well-marked detour as follows:
Turn left onto Cowwarr-Heyfield Rd and travel for about 600 metres. Turn right at the Cowwarr-Seaton Rd intersection.
After 1.5km cross the Thomson River crossing. Proceed over the bridge and continue along Cowwarr-Seaton Rd for about another 625 metres
Turn right onto Dawson-Heyfield Rd, and travel about 2 kilometres.
Turn left at the entrance to Dawson Flora Reserve to re-join the trail.
As you near Heyfield there is a very short uphill stretch in a heavily wooded area where you cross the Heyfield-Seaton Road. You will then see piles of timber on your left. Continue on straight ahead until you ride steeply downhill near some houses to Davis Street. Cross Davis Street and continue to Lions Park. The main town is over to your right.
Day 2: Hayfield to Stratford, 28km
From the old station in Lions Park ride 10km to Tinambra. At Tinambra the general store is a couple of hundred metres to your left where the trail crosses the Traralgon-Maffra Road. You can get an early coffee fix here.
Ride 8km to Maffra. This is initially on the south side of the Traralgon-Maffra Road. As you near Maffra there is an old railway bridge to admire. Soon after this you cross the Traralgon-Maffra Road to the north side and eventually cross the Macallister River to enter the town where you will find yourself on the main street – Johnson Street. Use the access lanes to explore this street, which has plenty of sandwich/coffee shops and shady places to have lunch.
Ride 10km to Stratford.
From Johnson Street in Maffra make your way south on Empire Street or Purdy Lane and turn left on Little Johnson Street.
Turn right onto Bundalaguah Road.
Turn left into Railway Place.
Cross the Maffra-Sale Road to continue onto the rail trail.
Just before Stratford the trail meets the Princes Highway and you will follow this highway along a dedicated bike/pedestrian path to the town.
Continue straight ahead and turn right at Dixon Street to find the railway station.
Cowwarr Weir: It is possible to deviate off the rail trail between Toongabbie and Cowwarr to visit the weir. This will add 9km to your journey.
Continue on the rail trail until you meet Hill Street.
Head west on Hill Street towards Victoria Street.
Turn right onto Toongabbie-Cowwarr Rd and follow this until it turns sharp right.
Continue straight ahead onto Weir Rd.
Turn sharp left onto Downings Rd.
Turn left to reach the weir.
Retrace your steps to Toongabbie-Cowwarr Rd and turn left onto this road.
Continue straight ahead onto Traralgon-Maffra Rd. Be cautious for this 1.7km.
Turn left onto Cowwarr-Seaton Rd.
If you wish to avoid the Traralgon-Maffra Road turn left onto Hagues Lane 800m after turning left onto Toongabie-Cowwarr Rd. After 450m turn right. Continue onto O’Briens Rd. You meet the main route at 6a where you turn left onto Cowwarr Seaton Road.