The Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail is a really fun ride. It can be a done either as a relatively serious day ride or as a relaxed, weekend mini-break. To access the trail you can either drive, or catch the Lilydale train. I prefer catching the train - it makes the trip more of an adventure. If you do drive, park your car at the Mt. Evelyn, can park and ride from there.
The return ride from Lilydale to Warburton is the best part of 80kms (just over 60kms if you ride from the Mt. Evelyn car park), so unless you are fit (and prepared to get up quite early!) I would advise doing the trip over two days.
Day one begins by meeting up with fellow adventurers at Flinders St Station to catch the Lilydale train to Lilydale station. Once at Lilydale, set off uphill up the Maroondah Highway and you will see the entrance to the trail on your right. Don't take risks crossing the highway – you've got all day so take the time to use the lights to cross the road (a bridge will be finished soon).
The rail trail is a well-maintained, well sign posted trail with an easy gradient along the whole distance. There are minimal road crossings however you are sure to encounter other walkers, cyclists and horse riders – especially during weekends in the warmer months.
Rated as one of the best "rail trails" in Australia, there is no shortage of cafes, restaurants, wineries and picnic spots dotted along the rail trail and throughout the cute, little towns it passes through. The best advice is to follow your nose (or your stomach!) and simply stop when the notion takes you. Alternatively, you may like to pack a picnic lunch for the first day.
There are plenty of things to see and do in the towns that you pass. You may like to plan your trip to include visits to one (or some!) of the many wineries in the area. (Be warned: too many wines can temper your enjoyment of cycling). Launching Place's Home Hotel Hotel won the 2008 Victorian Country Hotel of the Year Award. Finally, if your ride coincides with the 2nd or 4th Sunday of the month then you may like to pop into the Upper Yarra Community Market.
On arrival in the lovely, little town of Warburton, situated on the banks of the Yarra you will have plenty of accommodation options – but I would still advise booking ahead.
If looking for something to do in Warburton you can stretch your legs by walking through the Mountain Ash & Myrtle Rainforest that surround the town. The walk to La La Falls (access the walking track via the Old Warburton Rd) is just under 4KMs return. If that sounds a bit too active then you might like to just lay by the river, or sit back and watch the world go by from one of Warburton's numerous eating and drinking places – such as the Polish Jester or the cleverly named Wild Thyme Cafe.
The next day you get to do it all again, retracing your steps along the rail trail to catch the train back to Melbourne, and back to reality – until next weekend anyway!