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Published January 28th 2017
The Best Things in Life are Pedalled
Cycling to Penguin Parade (by Visit Phillip Island)
Cycling in Melbourne, either to beat the daily commute or as a healthy escape into the countryside, is easier than ever with over 130kms of cycling trails in Melbourne City. Whether you're riding solo, with friends and family or in a passionate sporting group, you can ride your own bicycle or rent using the bike share program, an inspiration from Europe.
Once you're ready to ride (lycra optional), try these trails to experience the best of Melbourne and its surrounds by bike:
Bayside Cycling Trail - Melbourne City
Distance: one-way = 19km over smooth, flat surfaces. Plan for 2 hours Explore Port Philip Bay on the Bayside Cycling Trail, beginning at the Baths and dog friendly beach in Brighton, minutes from the North Brighton and Middle Brighton tram stops. Cycle north past Elwood Park, Luna Park and the St Kilda Botanical Gardens.
At Catani Gardens in St Kilda West, continue hugging the coastline, veering to north-west with Albert Park on your right, open to cycle unless the Formula One racers are in town, then east past the Port Melbourne Pier. Turn right into the Westgate Park and onto the Bay Trail. You can enjoy a detour on this trail which covers the whole park, including the Salt Water Lake and adjoining Melbourne International Kart Raceway and Melbourne International Shooting Club. Continue north-west to cross the Westgate Bridge over the Yarra, keeping the water at your left shoulder as you turn south to pass Scienceworks and the Pumping Station planetarium in Spotswood. Further south in Newport, you'll pass The Warmies, another dog friendly park. Now in the final leg, you'll pass the Prince Albert Hotel in Williamstown, pause for a photo at HMAS Castlemaine before finishing at Point Gellibrand Coastal Heritage Park.
A return trip is nice but you can also cut through the park to catch a tram at the Williamstown stop. You can download a map or app of the trail at the Bayside Council.
Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail - 115km north-west of Melbourne
Distance: one-way = 51km over gravel, timber and tarmac. Plan for 5 hours (longer for sightseeing) Beginning near Ballarat Train Station, an 80-minute drive or train ride from Melbourne, explore the legacy of our gold mining country via the old train line linking the golden industries flowing from Ballarat and Skipton, causing both towns to bloom. As the mines were abandoned along the Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail, the frantic drilling has been replaced with serene birdsong and the sweet fragrance of native wildflowers stretching through farmlands lining your journey.
The remnants of the miner's efforts remain, with remnants of Nintingbool's Chinese settlement beside the popular vineyard producing cool climate wine and wooden bridges now carrying day-trippers over the region's creeks.
Great Southern Rail Trail - 130kms south-east from Melbourne
Distance: one-way = 70km on smooth gravel
Begin just south of Leongatha Station, driving either 90 minutes or 2 hours by train to reach the start of the Great Southern Rail Trail. Head south, enjoying forest and farmlands, mountains and valleys as you cycle parallel with the South Gippsland Hwy until crossing through the former Koonwarra railway station, operating for over 100 years for oil transport from Bass Strait.
Cycle 115 million years into the past at the Koonwarra Fish Beds Geological Reserve where ancient fossils of spiders, fish and birds have been discovered. As the trail veers east, you'll ride across timber trestle bridges and over small creeks and the Tarwin River, entering Meeniyan, the setting for Bed of Roses, an ABC comedy drama series starring Kerry Armstrong and Charles 'Bud' Tingwell in his final television role.
Ride south-east to reach Stony Creek, with a nature reserve, go karts and racecourse.
Southward, you'll cross Buffalo Creek, turning east for lunch at Fish Creek Hotel before spotting native birds and wallabies alongside wind turbines at Foster, Bennison and Toora, where you can detour left to relax at Agnes Falls before cycling 15kms to Port Welshpool.
Penguin Parade to the Nobbies - 140kms south from Melbourne
Distance: loop = 8km circuit on smooth tarmac and gravel
After 2 hours driving from Melbourne City to Phillip Island, begin at Penguin Parade, home to one of our largest penguin colonies. Cycle south then west along St Helens Rd and The Boulevard to reach Nobbies Centre to spot seals along the rocky outcrops leading to Round Island.
On the return trip north-east, you can swim at Cowrie or Shelley Beach before turning right onto St Helens Rd to complete your journey by sunset, watching the waddling black and white wildlife at Penguin Parade.
Two Towns Trail - Warragul to Drouin - 100km south-east from Melbourne
Distance: one-way = 8km on a smooth shared cycle and walking trail (with 5 road crossings)
Begin at Warragul via a 75-minute drive from Melbourne or an hour's train ride from Dandenong.
Beside the train station, you can explore Logan and Civic Park, Hazel Creek and ride the Discovery Trail, featuring Booker Park's wetland plants and the town's Indigenous murals and mosaic art.
Begin the Two Towns Trail to Drouin by heading north-west through Rotary and Western Parks and onto the trail running parallel to the M1 Princes Freeway.
To your right, you'll see Camp Hill and the region's famous Baw Baw Ranges while the southern horizon is lined with the Strzelecki Ranges, perhaps named after Sharon from Kath and Kim, and the Mt Worth State Park, home to a 300-year-old Mountain Ash, surrounded by giant ferns and inviting exploration on the short walking tracks.
As you cycle into Drouin, you can take a refreshing swim in the pool at Tarago River, have a picnic at Robin Hood Reserve (wealthy visitors shouldn't be frightened - there are no merry men roaming the countryside or robbing the rich).
After lunch, you can cycle back to Warragul or take a train from Drouin Station.
Cycling in the sun (by Mabel Amber / Public Domain)
Which cycle trail do you choose to introduce friends to Melbourne? Please let us know with a comment.