Cycle Victoria, Mountain Bike Ride, O'Keefe Rail Trail Bendigo to Axedale
Travellers have been taking this historic journey from Bendigo to Heathcote since 1888, when the train service was a Victorian Railways timetabled Wallan - Bendigo schedule. Trains stopped running in 1958, and the route lay largely dormant until the first section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail opened in 1993. Today the recreational trail which is located on the site of the old railway line, again allows users to journey the full 49 kilometres, albeit at a slightly slower pace. It’s just as well too, as there’s lots to take in.
This rail trail begins in the heart of Bendigo at Lake Weeroona. It slowly winds its way along the creek, through the inner suburbs until finally heading out to the countryside and into the bushland that surrounds the Bendigo area as you head towards Axedale. The trail offers some exhilarating riding in parts, but much of it is on compacted gravel and lends itself to an enjoyable outing. You may wish to pack some supplies and enjoy a break along the way.
In Bendigo the path is bitumen, but after it crosses the highway it becomes compacted gravel. From here on the rail trail has a variety of surfaces, some requiring thick tyres for stability, making it a great ride for mountain bikes. There are a few short creek crossings that may require you to dismount.
The only trafficked area to be aware of are the two highway crossings. Otherwise you will find yourself out in the bush until you come to the small hamlet of Axedale.
The ride commences at the Lake Weeroona car park opposite the Tennis Centre in Nolan Street. VicRoads Map: 607 T4.
Food and Drink
The lakeside cafe near the start has meals and cakes. There are also facilities including barbeques on the other side of the lake beside the Midland Highway. Axedale has a general store, hotel and barbeque facilities, but there is nothing along the trail.
The trail starts, sharing the Bendigo Creek path and this could be added on as a short detour. You could also head back along the path into central Bendigo.
Beginning at Lake Weeroona you will head off along the creek canal and follow it as it winds its way through the inner city of Bendigo. At 0.5kms you will cross Weeroona Avenue. This is a busy road, so take care. Watch out for the right hand turn on the track at the 1.0km point. Take this turn and it’s just a short ride to the Midland Highway.
Once over the highway follow the creek path until you see the arches of the railway bridge which make an interesting crossing under the train line. The path then twists and turns through the bush following the small creek. The trail passes through a light industrial area well disguised by bushland buffers. Once out of Bendigo don’t be surprised to see kangaroos in amongst the various hobby farm animals or even ahead of you on the path.
At the 5.9km mark you will turn off onto the right hand branch of the track. There is a sign to indicate this. The trail crosses the McIvor Highway at 6.9kms. The trail recommences a little further to the left, behind the bus shelter, once you have crossed the road. At Bennetts Road you will come upon the Bendigo Field Naturalist Club Flora Reserve. A highlight of the trail is the suspension bridge that passes over the Axe Creek. Here you will find picnic seats and shady trees hanging over the tranquil creek. Get off your bike to explore the creek side.
Be sure not to ride too quickly across the bridge because there is a set of steps at the other end that you will need to walk down, unless you are proficient on a mountain bike. The trail deviates down into some small gullies along this part of the track. Watch out for them, as you may need to hop off your bike. Back on the trail the journey continues through to Axedale as you pass behind the historic and surprisingly large cemetery, which is well worth a look.
This is indicative of how large the thriving gold rush town once was. There are a few right-left turns as you follow the red and white signs into town where your journey ends at the general store.
22.214 km / 13.803 mi
130 m / 426 ft
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