Family Cycling East Gippsland Rail Trail

The East Gippsland Rail Trail is a 97 km long bicycle trail from Bairnsdale to Orbost in Victoria, Australia, following the former railway line. Since railways rarely climb steep hills, we decided this would be a perfect destination for our first attempt at a multi-day family cycling trip

Our original plan was to cycle the entire length, 97 km from Orbost to Bairnsdale. The idea was to leave the car in Orbost, cycle self-supported, with all the camping gear packed for three days, and return to pick up the car on the V-line bus on the last day. However, not everything in life goes as planned. First, of the two sets of bike panniers ordered online, only one set arrived in time for the trip. That should have been a warning sign, but it did not stop us.

We managed to squeeze gear for four into two rear and two front panniers and numerous dry bags. On Saturday around lunchtime, we arrive at the start of the trail in Orbost. We load all the gear, jump on the bikes and… SNAP! Not used to a fully loaded bicycle, I shift to an easier gear, the shift takes a bit longer than normal, and under the load, the chain snaps. The nearest bicycle shop is in Bairnsdale, 90 km away. We unload all the gear and pack up our bikes, with a grand total of 20 meters ridden for the day. By the time we get to the bike shop, it is closed until Monday.

We spend a leisurely Sunday exploring the Bairnsdale – Mitchel River walk and a lovely playground opposite the caravan park keep us entertained for the day. On Monday morning we are packed again, and at 9.00 I greet the bike shop crew as they come to work. A few minutes later I have a new chain link and another 10 minutes later bike is ridable again.

Meanwhile, we decide to change strategies and cycle the trail in single-day rides without the load. While Mum and the kids start riding, Dad drives the car ahead to Bruthen and then cycles back to meet with the rest of the family along the way. We do the same on Tuesday between Bruthen and Nowa Nowa.

Due to the time lost waiting for the bike shop, we ended up only doing two out of the three days, cycling 60 of the 97 kilometres of the trail. Looking back, the delay was a good thing – although the trail was easy to ride, it was just enough of a challenge for our first long-distance ride. After all, two 30km days on a 20-inch wheel bike are a good effort for an 8-year-old boy.

Lessons learnt: If your panniers do not arrive, take the hint and do day rides instead. You will save yourself from breaking your bike for no particular reason. And yes, I do carry a few spare chain links in the tool bag from now on…

The rest of the ride is told in pictures:

Fast facts

WhatA multi-day cycling trip along the East Gippsland Rail Trail
WhereBairnsdale to Nowa Nowa, Victoria, Australia
How far60 km (30 km Bairnsdale to Bruthen, 30 km Bruthen to Nowa Nowa) of the 97 km trail
Kids ageTobias almost 8, and Anika 11 years

Practical tips

Rail Trail info

What was fun for kids

Ice creamAn important stop in Nicholson for the ice cream requires a short detour from trail to village.
Treats after the rideYet another important stop in Bruthen for cakes, juice and iced chocolate in the little shop next to the bakery. Also, a dinner in the hotel followed by apple crumble was appreciated after a long day riding.
Downhill sectionsEasy going down the hill with little to no pedalling sells cycling to kids as a fun thing to do. The final 7 km roll down to Nowa Nowa was enjoyed by all at the end of a second day.

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