One of Australia’s best cycle routes, the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is both very accessible and easy to ride. The flight from Sydney, with a choice of airline, is only one hour 20 to Albury, followed by a 45-minute transfer to Beechworth or Wangaratta. You can also fly from Melbourne although it is only a three-hour drive.
The paved trail was converted in the 1990’s from the former railway line and extends for 80km from Wangaratta to Bright, with a 15km spur to Beechworth. Food and accommodation are readily available along the way so you can easily do this independently, however one way to do it in style is on a Tour de Vines guided tour.
The weekend tour starts in Beechworth with a group welcome dinner of excellent pizza and a craft beer tasting. This is Friday evening and it is well worth arriving a bit early to spend some additional time in this delightful heritage town.
A full cooked breakfast is on offer the next morning after checking out of the hotel – from where luggage is collected. The ride starts at a civilized 10am from the old railway station. After less than two kilometres it’s time for the first winery stop of the day. It doesn’t even occur to anyone than it’s a bit early to start drinking – holiday mode has well and truly started.
The next 14km stage to meet the trail from Wangaratta, is a nice easy and picturesque descent. The day is warming up and although much of the trail is flat there is an uphill section to be tackled before lunch. However as it was designed for 19th century trains, the gradient wasn’t too steep.
Lunch is at the gorgeous Gapsted Winery. After a delicious meal, plus another wine tasting session, we are duly refreshed and set off for the final ride to Myrtleford – an easy 8km. The first stop in town is of course, another excellent winery. Not to give the impression that this is a boozy tour, these are on (highly tempting) wine tastings, and we drink a lot of water throughout the day . This is much more a gourmet experience than a pub-crawl!
Although the day’s riding was by no means difficult, the second day is even easier and shorter at 30km. The food side of gourmet comes into play with the first stop being at an artisan pumpkin seed factory. It is fascinating, with surprisingly tasty products – particularly the dark chocolate-coated seeds!
Next, less than an easy hour’s ride along the trail, is the Bright Berry Farm for delicious fresh berry and ice cream combinations – as well as awesome mountain views. The cycling in between the stops makes the treats so much more enjoyable and free of guilt!
A final winery stop is where we have lunch. The location is stunning, with amazing views to Mt Buffalo across the valley. As with yesterday, the support van is best used for picking up various purchases and does not need to be called for any other reason – but it’s nice to know that it’s only a call away.
Our tour finishes in Bright with options of the chocolate makers or another craft brewery. Cycling finished, we just fall into a transfer van that brings us and the bikes back to Beechworth.
Not having to think about where to visit, eat or stay or indeed about the logistics of transfers of riders, bikes or luggage, certainly makes this a highly relaxing weekend. Relaxing but active – the 75km covered over two days, under your own power, closes off the weekend with a great sense of achievement and time well spent.
The author was a guest of Tour de Vines who operate a guided tour most weekends and a self-guided option that can be taken at any time. There is also an amazing five day guided gourmet tour. More details can be found at www.cycletoursglobal.com/Tour-de-Murray-to-Mountains and www.murraytomountains.com.au.
WHEN TO GO
The rail trail is open year round but to avoid the most extreme hot or cold weather, spring and autumn are the best times to ride.
Beechworth is a three-hour drive from Melbourne or seven hours from Sydney. You can also take a train to Wangaratta or fly into Albury and transfer with Wangaratta Coach Lines or Border Shuttle Services .