Great Southern Rail Trail: Leongatha to to Port Welshpool

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.

Access

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.

Side Trip

Meeniyan has an attractive main street, eateries and art gallery.

 

Ride Log - Leongatha to Foster

  • 0.0 Start from Horticultural Park, Holt St Leongathav. Trail is at the back of the park.
  • 7.8 Koonwarra village.
  • 8.1 Ride under underpass beneath highway.
  • 8.4 Trail becomes rougher here. A sign advises you can ride out on to highway at this point or continue on rougher trail. If your bike can handle the rougher trail it is better to continue on the trail for another 300m. Mountain bikes will handle this easily and hybrids will cope with care.
  • 8.7 Turn right on path up to highway at advisory sign and then turn left along highway. Take care when riding on the parts with no road shoulder.
  • 11.5 Turn off highway and resume trail opposite Minns Rd.
  • 14.4 Pump house trestle bridge. Picnic reserve with toilets and water.
  • 16.6 Cross road in Meeniyan. For shops turn right off trail and ride up to Meeniyan main street. This is the start point if you decide not to ride the highway section and distances in brackets are cumulative distances from Meeniyan.
  • 18.1 (1.5) Cross South Gippsland Highway and resume trail. Watch for high speed traffic.
  • 27.2 (10.6) Buffalo. General store up road on left. Toilets on right just past road crossing.
  • 31.6 (15.0) Rest shelter up short track on left.
  • 35.1 (18.5) Fish Creek township. Rest area on right. Fish shaped picnic table maintains Fish Creek’s fishyness.
  • 40.3 (23.7) Rest shelter on right.
  • 41.7 (25.1) Lookout on right-hand side track with expansive views to Wilsons Prom.
  • 47.1 (30.5) Old trestle bridge. Toilets and rest shelter on right just past bridge.
  • 47.9 (31.3) Turn left off path and ride along Station Rd into Foster. The trail continues straight on past this point but only for a short distance.
  • 49.1 (32.5) Foster main street. End of ride.
  • Please note a ride extension through to Port Welshpool is available, to complete the entire 72km ride.

    Further information

    https://www.gsrt.com.au/ 

    https://www.visitpromcountry.com.au/walking-cycling/grand-ridge-rail-trail

    https://www.railtrails.org.au/trail?view=trail&id=206

    Trail map

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    Back

    48.565 km / 30.177 mi

    Total Distance

    432 m / 1,417 ft

    Total Ascent

    475 m / 1,559 ft

    Total Descent

    146 m / 478 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Sightseeing
    Commuter
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    EPIC Ride
    Difficulty: Expert (Double Black)
    Ride Duration: 1/2 day
    Fitness Level: Ultra Fit
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Gravel Road
    Mobile Coverage: Limited
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle

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