O’Keefe Rail Trail, Bendigo
This rail line to link Bendigo and Heathcote was built in 1888 by Andrew O'Keefe, the pioneer who is recognized for his construction of many local railway lines. This line, including 50 bridges, took 21 months to complete, and two derailments in the process. In 1958, trains stopped running.
The first section of the rail trail between Bendigo and Axedale was opened in 1993, and the second stage was constructed and opened in 1999. Finally, the rail trail connecting Bendigo and Heathcote was completed in 2015, with funding from the Victorian Government and the City of Greater Bendigo.
Passionate community group The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail Inc, continue to be instrumental in the development, care and promotion of the trail for the enjoyment of locals and visitors. Today, the recreational trail which is located on the site of the old railway line, offers all riders (and walkers) a journey of approximately 49 kilometers with scenery and experiences along the way.
The trail is generally flat except for two steep climbs at Axedale. It is also a little soft and sandy in sections. In fact, the surface is a mix of asphalt sections (townships) and rolled fine to course gravel in the other areas. It is recommended for MTB and hybrid bikes, but flat bar racers with sufficiently wide tires is fine too.
There are numerous access points for the O’Keefe Rail Trail located along the trail. Below are some of the key access locations.
- From East Bendigo, car parking is available on Rifle Range Road, at Pratts Park Road.
- In Heathcote rider and walkers 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.
From the Bendigo Train Station, riders can ride down to the Bendigo Creek trail to connect with the Lake Weeroona access point.
Food and Drink
Café’s and other facilities are in close proximity to the Lake Weeroona area. Axedale has drinking water, toilet facilities, a general store and the Axedale Tavern. Or you may consider packing your bag for a stopover in either Bendigo or Heathcote, where you are offered superb restaurants, wineries, accommodation and meals. The Axedale region also offers a variety of accommodation offerings, including farmstays.
You can view the trail as three sections. First is from Lake Weeroona to Axedale, then Axedale to Derrinal, and finally Heathcote is the endpoint of the trail.
To start the trail, from Lake Weeroona, just ride north along the Bendigo Creek Trail before meeting a 'T' intersection; after that, turn right to start the O'Keefe Rail Trail. Cross the Napier Street and go through the brick-lined culvert under the Bendigo–Echuca railway line. The Bendigo Bushland Trail crosses the rail trail at Markovitch Lane. Remember to follow signs for the main trail. Carefully crossing the McIvor Hwy next to the Baptist Church at Junortoun. You will see Axe Creek with a bridge and a picnic area. The trail then reaches the Axedale replica Station. Next is an asphalt section connecting to the Axedale township. Keep riding on the urban path down to the Campaspe River frontage, here you will find picnic tables and art installations.
Here commences the second section with some beautiful privately-owned land in view. The path now follows an underpass under McIvor Hwy, passes a rail trail bridge over Campaspe River, and meets the quiet Ingham Road. Keep peddling until you reach the dedicated trail. Crossing the 100kph McIvor Hwy near Toolleen-Axedale Road and onto the Knowsley Forest. Another picnic area awaits you. Head east till you meet Moorabbee Hill Rest Stop, where table-seats and bike racks are provided. Enjoy the vista as well as a snack if you prefer. After that, continue downhill to Lake Eppalock. You can have views of the lake from a causeway there, or you may slow down at a rest stop at Derrinal.
The last section of the trail is from Derrinal, skirting McIvor Hwy and entering One Eye Forest near Hills Road. While ‘rail trail users only’ status of the trail continues from Hills Road to the Mia Mia-Derrinal Road section, you should be absolutely careful in the Mia Mia-Derrinal Road to Burnt Track shared (with motor vehicles) section, especially at several narrow stretches along this alignment section. The last trail bridge is in One Eye Forest. Go ahead to the Heathcote township, a large regional town with numerous facilities for riders.
This trail passes through many bushland, farmland, waterways, and recreation reserves, which is suitable for either a picnic or a sightseeing trip. There are plenty of wildflowers including orchids in bloom in spring. Whether you are wanting a short or long trip on O’Keefe Rail Trail, it is a good decision with plenty attractions and experiences.
49.278 km / 30.62 mi
292 m / 957 ft
255 m / 836 ft
250 m / 819 ft