For something a little bit different, I cycled the Bellarine Rail Trail on Monday with a friend who suggested the trip in the first place. Other than a brief sojourn along the Bright – Myrtleford rail trail a few years ago, I had never experienced cycling through the countryside before. After this experience, it’s definitely something that I would like to try again!
South Geelong – Drysdale
The train trip down from Melbourne to South Geelong was very pleasant. The fact that this was the day after New Year’s Day meant that we were about the only people in our carriage for the entire journey.
The Bellarine Rail Trail follows the route of the old railway to Queenscliff. It closed in November 1976 but was partially reopened in 1979 as a tourist railway which still operates between Drysdale and Queenscliff. The shared path along its current and former route starts near South Geelong Railway Station, with a couple of large but graffitied signs marking the way for the first few kilometres through the suburbs of Geelong.
Despite the cold, we made good progress along this first section. It was sealed and the surface was nice, which is especially important for me given the relatively thin width of my tyres. Once you leave Geelong, the asphalt ends and turns into a graded gravel surface.
This is all well and good for a dry day. However, this was soon after the big storms at the end of 2016 so there were quite a few points where the gravel had washed up into dangerously thick mounds across the path.
One of the most interesting parts of this ride was the large sections of old rail infrastructure that have just been left around the countryside. We began to see sections of surprisingly well-preserved railway track in Curlewis, not too far outside of Geelong. There were also interesting signs indicating where old stations were located and signal posts dotted along the trail.
Drysdale – Queenscliff
Drysdale Railway Station is where the Bellarine Tourist Railway begins. The station buildings have been well-preserved.
On another note, this trail also features quite a few road crossings. Most of them were surprisingly good. Those with signalised crossings prioritised pedestrian/cyclist traffic with almost immediate responses to the button being pressed. Some of the unsignalised crossings felt a bit hairy, especially crossing Portalington Road in Drysdale. The crossing is next to a tight bend on a busy road with a 100 km/h speed limit and really isn’t suitable for non-vehicle traffic to cross. Nevertheless, the path has good crossing infrastructure overall.
The path between Drysdale and the next station, Lakers Siding, was fairly uneventful. Most of this section has been recently sealed which makes a huge difference compared to the gravel and dirt sections.
Lakers Siding was close to Yarram Creek which feeds into the sea near this point. This also involved a short on-road section on a quiet country lane leading to a tomato farm. The path then follows the coast up to Queenscliff itself and features some very nice views to the north across the wetlands and water.
The town itself was interesting. It felt like it had a lot of potential as a nice seaside town, but the general planning and design of the area left a lot to be desired. The main problem was the dominance of cars. There was not a single pedestrian-priority crossing in the entire centre (we checked). The only things present were these ridiculous ‘crossings’ where pedestrians had to give way to vehicles.
The bike lanes down the main street were pretty pathetic as well. They travelled for about 200 metres up the main street before inexplicably ending just after the roundabout and had no bike treatments through any of the roundabouts or four-way intersections. This entire area definitely needs to fix itself up and get its priorities right.
Queenscliff – Geelong
The trip back was much the same, although we did get to see one of the trains go past just outside Queenscliff.
As for the trail, it is a relatively flat and well-maintained path that I highly recommend. It is very wide in most places so it’s particularly well suited for group rides or with children.