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Cycling the Melrose - Wilmington Rail Trail

Home > Melrose > Sport | Outdoor | Escape the City | Cycling | Adventure
by Paul Gould (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer addicted to cycling and coffee.
Published March 11th 2013
Take in the scenery of the Southern Flinders Ranges by bike
Signage marking trail head

Riding through the Southern Flinders Ranges with no cars and only euros (the marsupial not the currency) to watch out for. Sound good? Then throw the bikes on the roof and head north to Melrose. This charming little town lies at the base of Mt. Remarkable in the Southern Flinders Ranges about 3 hours drive north of Adelaide.

Loaded up, ready to roll

Whilst in Melrose we stayed at the Melrose Holiday Units in Whitbey St. These neat and comfortable two bedroom self contained cabins are in walking distance to the pub, general store and most importantly, the bike shop. At around $90 a night for two adults, the cabins are good value.

Melrose Holiday Units

Over the Edge Cycles should be your fist stop in town. This is a very cool mountain bike orientated bike shop which sells a range of very cool bikes, accessories, clothing and most importantly, makes a great latte. Definitely worth a visit as they also have a range of maps and information on riding in the area and current local trail conditions. The tricky bit is not drooling too much over the bikes. Oh, if you don't have suitable bikes or just want to experience a different ride, you can hire a range of very decent bikes from them.

Melrose - Wilmington trail (image from Google maps)

The 22km Melrose - Wilmington cycle and walking track links the towns via the old rail line. The line was opening in 1915 and the last train ran in 1988. Thankfully, the alignment was retained, the line pulled up and this wonderful recreational treasure established.

The trail head is 2.5km north east of Melrose on Creepers Road. Take the main road north toward Wilmington. The Creepers Road (gravel) turn-off is opposite the Orroroo turnoff.

Trail head; You want me to ride how far?

The bike trail is sign posted as Intermediate (IMBA Easy- Green). The trail is unsealed, suited to mountain bikes with some sections a little rough. The trail is not suitable for road bikes. The trail is basically flat to gently undulating with a few rough red gum creek crossings. The riding itself is not technically challenging and suitable for beginners. If you are going to ride out and back you should have a moderate level of fitness as it is about a 50km round trip.

Typical trail conditions

The trail is quite remote so you need to be self sufficient, ensuring you are carrying enough water, food and a basic repair kit. Telling someone your plans and return time is always a good idea. Whilst the trail is open all year, avoid riding this trail in hot weather as the northern section of the trail is quite exposed.

Classic Southern Flinders scenery

This trail rewards the rider with classic Southern Flinders scenery, expansive rural landscapes, oh and no cars. There is plenty of birdlife and the odd grey kangaroo and euro. From Melrose, the first section of the trail hugs the edge of the Mt Remarkable National Park, before opening out on to the plains. The trail crosses many red gum creeks and these make a great spot for a little rest in the shade, a bite to eat and a moment to take in the natural surroundings.

A shady red gum creek makes for a great rest stop. Ruins of old rail bridge visible in back left of shot.

Once in Wilmington you may like to head to the general store in the main street for a cool drink. You could also grab something to eat here or at the pub. Don't enjoy the pub too much though as you still have to pedal home.

Stunning river red gum creek crossing

So, mark a couple of days out of your calendar, soak up that Flinders atmosphere and hit the Melrose - Wilmington trail.

Riding the Melrose - Wilmington trail; carry plenty of water, food and repair kit
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Why? Cycling adventure
Where: Melrose to Wilmington
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Sounds great. I did a group ride near Burra which was fun and will add thisto my next holiday itinerary.
by Kerry (score: 1|11) 3377 days ago
Thanks for the review of this rail trail Paul. My wife and I are keen city commuter cyclists but are mountain biking novices who have never been to Melrose. Based on your article, we decided this was the perfect way to introduce ourselves to the mountain biking capital of Australia and rode the trail over Easter weekend. Everything you said was 100% accurate. We hired a couple of 29” hardtails from “Over the edge Sports” in the main street of Melrose and got fantastic service from Dave & Rich. The fact that they serve coffee & cake and offer lounge chairs mean that people hang-out and talk, giving the place a nice vibe. When we got back from the ride we enjoyed a cold beer at the great spot they’ve got out the front of the shop. The trail itself was an excellent introduction to mountain biking - not too difficult but enough challenges to make it interesting. We saw plenty of kangaroos up close but only encountered one other person using the track, a local from Willmington out on a casual afternoon ride. Although the track itself was well marked and easy to follow, the fact that it starts and finishes out of the main streets of both towns makes access and egress a little difficult. A bit more wayfinding signage would help there. Another heads-up for novices is that you need to expect punctures. We got one and had to do repairs, and locals tell us that this is the norm due to the quantity of thorns on the track. Don’t go out unless you are carrying a good puncture repair kit and know how to use it in the field. We got so inspired that we decided to go back to the bike shop again the next day for the same hire bikes so we could step up and do the REAL mountain bike trails on Mt Remarkable. After all, you couldn’t leave charming Melrose without experiencing the stuff that it’s famous for!
by Kiwi Roller (score: 0|2) 3370 days ago
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