Great Southern Rail Trail, Leongatha to Foster and Port Welshpool
You ride through a mix of lush farmland and leafy forests. The agricultural land is the result of extensive land clearing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the small towns along the way which originate from that period can be explored easily by bike. A further reward is the view across to Wilsons Prom as you get nearer to Foster. The tranquility and quality of the trail make for very pleasant cycling. Doing the ride in two parts to avoid the highway section adds to the relaxed feeling.
The rail line on which the trail is based was built in the late 1800s, was most successful in the early 20th century hauling produce to Melbourne and then declined in the second half of the century as road transport took over. There are picnic and sheltered rest areas all along the trail, giving ample good places to take a break.
From Leongatha to Koonwarra there is a slight descent through open dairy country. Several cattle crossings have signs requesting you give way to cattle, but there are no warnings about the deposits the cows leave as they stroll across. Koonwarra Store and Café is a good coffee and cake stop if you can justify this after only 8km. On the way to Meeniyan you cross a new bridge running alongside and giving a view of an old trestle bridge. After that it is worthwhile diverting into Meeniyan to check out the main street, have a bite to eat at one of the cafés or look at the art gallery (closed Tuesdays).
From Meeniyan the trail passes through bushland. You ride past Buffalo (blink and you’ll miss it) and begin a gradual climb and then descent to Fish Creek where there are several places to eat, including the Promontory Hotel and a picnic spot. The scenery is pleasant and you may see kangaroos or wallabies, although my experience was of bunnies out in great numbers. From there you begin the gradual ascent of the Hoddle Ranges. Mostly you only know you are climbing by your heavier breathing and the lower speed on the bike computer.
The lookout at the top of the climb is a good place to stop for a breather and to take in the impressive view. Then it is mostly downhill with another trestle bridge and bushland scenery to take in and the thought of a re-charge awaiting you at Foster spurring you on. Andos Bakery in the main street is good if you need a boost for the return ride.
If you stay overnight there is a choice of accommodation in the town including a backpackers which you pass on Station Road and a caravan park (you will see the signs to it on Station Road). Great Southern Bicycles is on the right-hand side as you enter Leongatha and Glenn’s Sports at 19 Main Street Foster also sells bicycle parts.
From Melbourne follow Monash Freeway then South Gippsland Highway to Leongatha. Turn right at the end of the main street opposite the BP service station and then left into Holt Street. Park beside Horticultural Park on the left. To start from Meeniyan continue on the South Gippsland Highway. Turn left into Hanily Street in Meeniyan and park beside the trail about 200 metres from the turn. RACV VicRoads State Directory map references are 96 H9 for Leongatha and 103 A3 for Meeniyan.
Food and Drink
Koonwarra Store, Meeniyan, Fish Creek and Foster all have places for refreshments or a meal. There are many good places to picnic on the trail, especially the Hoddle Ranges lookout.
Meeniyan has an attractive main street, eateries and art gallery.
Ride Log - Leongatha to Foster
Please note a ride extension through to Port Welshpool is available, to complete the entire 72km ride.
48.565 km / 30.177 mi
432 m / 1,417 ft
475 m / 1,559 ft
146 m / 478 ft