Avid trail runner, freelance writer and a mother of four with a healthy obsession for the great outdoors. Join me in my discoveries along the Mornington Peninsula and further afield by subscribing to my articles.
Trample through the countryside on the Red Hill Rail Trail which runs between Merricks General Wine Store through to the shops at Red Hill. This scenic walk takes you along the former railway line surrounded by vineyards, paddocks with ponies, rows of pine trees with pine needles covering the ground, and dotted with mushrooms and bright red toadstools.
The Red Hill Rail Trail is 6.5 km each way, though I think it isn't interesting enough to go up and back on the same trail, so as an alternative you can quite easily turn it into a circuit by walking the following the map that's available at Bushwalking Victoria. It follows from the Red Hill shops and is made up of horse riding trails beside the road. It's a more interesting circuit but be mindful of motorists when you're near the road, traffic can come up quickly and there isn't much of a shoulder on the road before you go onto the horse trail.
We completed this circuit without any problem. The ground is slippery at the moment though and can be quite uneven and rough as horses use this trail often. As far as the rail trail is concerned, I would suggest it as a horse riding or walking trail. Mountain bikes are fine for this trail, however hybrids could be a little more challenging and some riders report that this trail is too rough and steep. However, I think that may be more of a comparison to other rail trails that are flat gravel pathways.
After you complete the rail trail there are the benefits of being able to sample the local produce at either end. In Merricks the General Wine Store is literally at the end of the trail and the new Epicurean Centre at Red Hill is at the other end. Both of these cafes were packed to the rafters, yet on the walk we only passed a few people, so obviously the open fires and wood fired pizzas were the preferred choice of the day.
History of the Red Hill Rail Trail: In 1912 the estimated population on the Southern Peninsula was only 1500. But with an estimated annual turnover of 12,000 head of stock and 12,000 tons of farm produce and firewood with poor road access, the need for a train became apparent. In 1915 the permits had been granted, however it wasn't until after World War 1 that construction began in July 1920.
On the 2nd of December 1921 the train line was officially opened by Samuel Barnes MP, the Minister of Railways. By 1929 passenger traffic had slowed and the regular train service reverted to a weekly mixed goods train on Mondays. The train line measured 16 km between Bittern and Red Hill and took 1 hour and 20 minutes up to grades of 1 in 30 to Red Hill with the return journey taking approximately one hour. In 1953 the train line was closed and started to be dismantled by 1955. Today it's enjoyed as an equestrian, walking and cycling trail.
Red Hill is located 86km south east of Melbourne, a pleasant one hour 10 min drive. The Red Hill Rail Trail starts behind the Red Hill Epicurean Centre on Red Hill Shoreham Rd. Alternatively you can begin from Merricks where the walk begins between the equine club and the Merricks General Wine Store on Frankston Flinders Rd.