Forged over a century ago by Victoria’s rail pioneers, the O’Keefe Rail Trail takes you on a 49-kilometer journey through superb native bushland, rich farming areas and past picturesque waterways including the spectacular Lake Eppalock.
Travelers have been using this historic route since 1888, when the rail link between Bendigo and Heathcote was built by railway pioneer Andrew O'Keefe. The line, including 50 bridges, took 21 months to complete, but after the trains stopped running in 1958, the route lay largely dormant until 1993 when the first section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail opened.
Today we can follow the old railway line to explore the wonderful sights this fascinating region offers, albeit at a slightly slower clip than which the old-timers would have traveled by train. It’s just as well too, as there’s plenty to take in along the way, from rolling pastures and untouched Eucalypt forests, to boutique wineries, gourmet restaurants, and character-filled country pubs.
Located at the halfway mark of the journey, the village of Axedale is the perfect place for a rest stop. Enjoy a pleasant picnic by the Campaspe River where you might be lucky enough to spot a platypus, or visit the village for a hearty country meal. Consider packing your bag for a stopover at a farm stay here in Axedale, or at either end of the trail in Bendigo or Heathcote, where superb restaurants, charming cafés, and a variety of accommodation options are on offer. Delve deeper into the palate-pleasing offerings of the Heathcote Wine Region and explore the absorbing laneways and rich gold mining history that Bendigo proudly puts on show.
If you are pressed for time, or only want an easy afternoon of fresh air, why not explore one of the shorter sections of the trail. Access points offering ample car parking are dotted along the journey.
The trail is generally flat except for two steep climbs at Axedale. The trail is also a little soft and sandy in sections. The surface is a mix of asphalt sections, mostly in the townships and rolled fine to course gravel in the other areas. It is recommended for mountain bikes and hybrids. Road bikes are not recommended.
You can begin your O’Keefe Rail Trail adventure from numerous access points throughout the region. Each has ample parking available, while riders arriving by train can connect with the O’Keefe Rail Trail at Lake Weeroona by following the Bendigo Creek Trail. Below are some of the key access locations.
- From Bendigo Station exit the platform at the northern end under the Mitchell Street bridge, turning left at Williamson Street, continue until traveling past the Bendigo Visitor Centre (Historic Post Office) turning right in Rosalind Park after crossing the Bendigo Creek bridge, and following the Bendigo Creek Trail to Lake Weeroona.
- In Bendigo, there is car parking adjacent to Bendigo Rowing Clubrooms, at the northwestern end of Lake Weeroona. Otherwise, join at any point along the Bendigo Creek Trail and connect with the O’Keefe Rail Trail just north of Lake Weeroona.
- At East Bendigo, car parking is available on Rifle Range Road, at Pratts Park Road.
- Car parking is available at the Wilkie Road Car Park, just off the McIvor Highway in Junortoun.
- Axedale is the O'Keefe Rail Trail’s halfway point. Parking is available at the Axedale Hall Reserve Car Park, corner of McIvor Highway and Mitchell Street or at the Axedale Tavern. Follow trail signs within the township area.
- Riders wishing to do the final section of the trail can join at Knowsley, where car parking is available at the tennis courts near the trail’s intersection with Moorabbee Road. Starting only 15 kilometers from Heathcote, this section of the trail provides great views over Lake Eppalock and is suitable for an easy return ride with lunch at one of Heathcote’s fantastic cellar doors, cafés or restaurants.
- In Heathcote, riders can park at the Heathcote Trail Shelter (Trail Head) on Herriot Street in Heathcote.
- The Heathcote Visitor Information Centre, corner of High Street and Barrack Street, has car parking and trail information available.
Food and Drink
At either end of the trail, in Bendigo and Heathcote, you will be spoilt for choice of meals, snacks or places to grab a hot or cold beverage. Cafés and other facilities including water bottle refilling and toilets can be found at the starting point of Lake Weeroona. Axedale offers drinking water, toilet facilities, a general store and the Axedale Tavern and Café which is open from 10.30am every day except Mondays.
Whichever direction you are traveling; you can view the trail as three sections. Starting in Bendigo, the first is from Lake Weeroona to Axedale, then Axedale to Derrinal, and finally Heathcote is the endpoint of the trail. Whether you are wanting a short or long trip on O’Keefe Rail Trail, both are offered with plenty of attractions and experiences among all sections of the trail and multiple access points with ample parking along the way.
This trail passes through native bushland, farmland, and recreation reserves, and is suitable for either a picnic or a sightseeing trip. There are plenty of wildflowers including orchids in bloom in spring. The O’Keefe Rail Trail is complemented by a variety of experiences and activities for the whole family to enjoy. These are located just off the trail and are only a short ride or walk away and include farm stays, wineries, country pubs, regional provedores, fantastic cafés, and restaurants as well as a wealth of nature-based experiences.
49.278 km / 30.62 mi
292 m / 957 ft
255 m / 836 ft
250 m / 819 ft