Bikepacking Wangaratta to Bright on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail

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“STOP!!” I scream, giving my friend Angie such a fright she shrieks and swerves her bike, avoiding crashing into me by mere millimetres. Considering we’re only five minutes into a two day trip bikepacking Wangaratta to Bright via the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, stopping so soon doesn’t appear to be a great start.

Oh, but it actually is. 

A gigantic strange leathery creature had just scampered across the path ahead of me, now frozen in fear due to the commotion, halfway up a tree. A sand goanna – the first goanna Angie and I had ever seen. 

It’s actually our first time bikepacking too. In fact, the four of us are all new to adventuring this way, though all of us bike and camp separately in some capacity, We thought: why not combine the two?

Looking for a beginner-friendly yet somewhat challenging bikepacking route not too far away from Melbourne, we discovered the Wangaratta to Bright rail trail.

It seemed like the ideal route – generally flat, not too remote, campgrounds to stay the night at, and plenty of wineries, food producers and pubs to stop at along the way! Perfect.

So over a long and gloriously sunny November weekend, we set out, curious to see if we’d sink or swim on our first bikepacking adventure…

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Bikepacking Wangaratta to Bright
Weekend bikepacking wangaratta to bright

Day 1: Wangaratta to Myrtleford

Up Before the Birds

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All aboard the V/Line to Wangaratta!

Leaving the house in darkness with our bike panniers loaded up with our gear, we bombed it to Southern Cross station through the empty streets of Melbourne (how good are the new bike lanes along St Kilda Road by the way?!)

We had debated whether to drive or train, but the train tickets were only $7pp (bargain!) and considering the price of petrol these days, we decided the train was best. Besides, it would make the whole trip feel more like an adventure.

So, after grabbing a coffee, we headed right to catch our 7.07am train and meet our mates Josh and Angie. Although bikes are allowed on certain carriages on the V/Line (typically one or two carriages at the front with bike racks), it’s on a first come, first served basis. We arrived on the platform about 25 minutes early to snag our spots as the first in the queue. And I’m glad we did. In addition to our four bikes, there were probably another eight people with the same idea for the weekend as us!

After two hours and 40 minutes of chilling watching country Victoria race by, we arrived in Wangaratta.

… And We’re Off!

We set off to the left, passing the colourful water tower mural, through the centre of town, and joined the official rail trail along the Ovens River, opposite Apex Park. This is actually where we saw the goanna!

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Spot the sand goanna camouflaged in the tree!

Today’s route was going to be the longest part – around 55 km of cycling to Myrtleford, with some pre-planned stops along the way.

The first part from Wangaratta unfolded with remarkable ease, its terrain pretty flat and straight. The surrounding scenery was mainly fields dotted with the odd clusters of gum trees. Every now and again, there were meadows of tall grasses swaying in a silver shimmer, with pops of yellow and pink wildflowers. 

There were quite a lot of road crossings at the start – where main roads with cars being driven at 100km per hour suddenly intercepted the rail trail – meaning you had to stop and start quite a bit. But these soon got fewer and fewer the further away from the towns we got.

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A very important snack break.
couple standing in from of a Murray to Mountains Rail Trail Sign

Looking back, the Wangaratta to Everton section was probably the most tedious part, if you could call it that, mainly because of this notable flatness and no real features aside from the odd shelter, river and rest area beside the trail. Still, it was very pretty nonetheless, and a simply gorgeous day to be out for a cruise on the bike.

Getting Some Fuel in the Tank

Everton Hotel

After around 30 km and just as it was really starting to warm up, we rolled to the door of the Everton Hotel, a pretty classic-style pub on the Great Alpine Road, where we’d planned to refuel. It had a large garden with a covered deck, where we enjoyed chicken burgers (highly recommended apparently), fish & chips, parmas and of course, a refreshing pint.

It was a great meal. The only downside – and it’s not a biggie – was that there weren’t any bike stands. Considering its prime location on a rail trail it was quite surprising, so we just had to leave them propped up outside.

There didn’t seem to be much else to explore in Everton so back on the bikes, we rejoined the trail. This time the scenery got more and more interesting as we went on.

We passed intrigued horses and cows in fields, a car scrap yard and the mountains and hills were now only a couple of kilometres away, offering a stunning and much more interesting backdrop so different to the first half of the ride.

About 7 km from Gapsted Estate, we were met with a gradual hill that slowed us down, especially considering the heat and exposed nature of this section of the rail trail.

But after reaching the top and taking a breather at a shelter at Taylors Gap, we were rewarded with a fun and zoomie downhill ride pretty much right to the gates of Gapsted Estate – barring the uphill driveway to the cellar door that was!

A nice glass of wine would certainly go down a treat right about now.

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Some pretty rail trail scenery.
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A very knackered Angie at the top of Taylors Gap!

A Tipple & Tipsy Ride to Camp

Sweaty and jelly-legged, we stood at the bar for a $5pp tasting. We could choose to try any six wines from their comprehensive wine tasting list.

Considering I am typically more of a red drinker, I was only drawn to the sparkling rose and the chardonnay, and then went onto the pinot, saperavi, shiraz, a sparkling red and a cheeky pour of their 2018 Vintage Touriga (of which we ended up getting a bottle). However to my surprise, it was actually the sparkling rose and chardonnay that stood out the most. The others agreed.

We grabbed a bottle of the sparkling Valley Selection NV Pinot Grigio Rose we had enjoyed so much at the tasting and sat out on the lawn overlooking the vines and the rail trail. An afternoon chilling at a winery is something I will always love about Australia. Can it get any better?

Gapsted Estate Winery

Another bottle (this time chardonnay) and some rolly pollies down the grass slope later, we were (politely) kicked out at closing time. It was a good job to be honest. The alcohol had well and truly kicked in. Luckily we only had a 30 minute, 9 km ride to Ardern’s Caravan Park, our pitching spot for the night. It was probably the fastest we’d ridden all day, despite the fact I couldn’t be totally sure if I’d cycled straight, or zigzagged along the trail..

After setting up our tents, exhausted and a little sunburnt, we rolled back into town for dinner at Myrtleford Pizza and Pasta where we devoured a couple of the largest pizzas on the menu!

It was a good decision to not bring food and cooking equipment on this trip, bar a few snacks for the ride. It saved space, weight on the bike and more to the point, cooking was the last thing on our minds after a long day. Instead we just brought bowls and spoons and shared a box of cereal each morning, treating ourselves to the rest of our meals at cafes and restaurants enroute. 

Day 2: Myrtleford to Bright via Porepunkah

Rolling Under the Watchful Eye of Mt Buffalo

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Cycling past the mountains, hop farms and pretty fields dotted with gum trees and cows.

After a slow start, but a good night’s rest, we were packed and ready to roll. Heading south away from Myrtleford township, we rejoined the tarmacked rail trail, but for only 10 minutes or so – the coffee van at the Happy Valley Hotel was calling. 

We had a delicious coffee and scoffed a still-warm muffin, then jumped back on the bikes to ride the much prettier Myrtleford section of the rail trail, past cow fields, farms and hop seedlings growing in front of the imposing tors and sheer cliffs of stunning Mount Buffalo.

Although we didn’t stop this time, there was also the Pepo Farm Shop just down the road from the pub, selling pumpkin seeds, pumpkin produce and all manner of oils, nuts and pantry produce.

Around Ovens we rode right past attractive derelict tin smoking kilns in a field, presumably for processing locally grown tobacco, which over a century ago was brought to the region by Italian immigrants. 

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Derelict smoking tins which we think were for processing tobacco, once grown locally in the area.

Spring had most definitely sprung in the area – it was a riot of colour, and the smell of honeysuckle, jasmine and citrus blossoms wafted in waves as we rode.

Creeping periwinkles with their dark green leaf and striking purple star-like flowers lined either side of the rail trail, contrasting with bright yellow yam daisies and scaly buttons. There were a couple of sections of the ride that, for a second, transported you to the grassy meadows of the European Alps, instead of the Australian Alps.

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After a stop at Eurobin where we met the incredibly cute fluffy bikepacking dog called Taro, and watched some cows taking a cooling dip in a pond, we continued past the berry farm (sadly closed) and to the gates of Feathertop Estate.

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Hey Taro! The cute bikepacking dog we met at Eurobin.
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The old station platform at Eurobin – a rest stop with water, shelter and toilets.

A Very VIP tasting 

To our dismay, the grand gates to the estate were firmly closed with a sign saying by appointment only. We decided to try our luck and give them a call!

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Disaster! Feathertop Estate gates closed to the general public.

Turns out that JD just so happened to share a membership with his dad (if you can call stealing a few of the best bottles that), so they kindly accommodated us. It’s worth noting that it’s a private estate these days and so if you’re not a member, or related to one, they probably won’t let you in!

After years of admiring Feathertop Estate on the way from Melbourne to the snow, I was chuffed to finally have an opportunity to visit their attractive vineyard.

Stepping foot through the stone arched gateway onto their alfresco Tuscany-inspired terrace, we were instantly transported to Italy; red roses bloomed in front of a low stone wall with striking Italian Cypress conifers edging the driveway in front of the vines. To be the only people sitting under the dappled shade of a tree on this secluded private terrace, was beyond special.

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The stunning Italian-inspired terrace at Feathertop Estate vineyard where we had our leisurely tasting.

I lost count of how many wines we tried. It was a very relaxed tasting – each time numerous bottles were left on the table, our host popping back every now and again in between doing jobs around the estate to give us a generous pour. It was a real highlight to just sit and enjoy the atmosphere without feeling rushed.

Following the call of our rumbling stomachs we hopped back on the bikes to cycle another 4 km to lunch in pretty Porepunkah.

There are plenty of great cafes, pubs and restaurants in Porepunkah and many bike racks to park up. We decided to stop at the Rail Trail Cafe, a Mexican-inspired cafe with a cute coffee/drink van, daily specials boards and outdoor seating. I had a delicious veggie quesadilla with salsa, sour cream, hot sauce and guacamole, and the others a massive chicken wrap. They also have repair kits and free air and sunscreen if you need it.

I’d never been to Porepunkah before and it had such a nice vibe. If you’re bikepacking the Wangaratta to Bright rail trail yourself and don’t already know it, I’d recommend stopping In Porepunkah for a lunch break, or a little look around.

The Final Push to Bright

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With only 7 kms to go until we reached our campground, it really was the final push!

We meandered past the wide open greens of the Porepunkah Golf Club, past the Bright Porepunkah Plantations and across the Ovens River Rail Trail Bridge into the proudly self proclaimed beautiful Bright. 

There was one section in Bright where we rolled through a park lined with stunning trees blooming with lilac-coloured flowers (possibly jacaranda’s, though I’m no gardener!). It was a gorgeous spring-like scene to end the day.

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There are a variety of camping facilities in Bright to stay the night. As we left booking quite late on a long public holiday weekend, we ended up staying at Crusty’s as it was the only place free (but we had an awful stay). If you’re looking at doing this trip yourself, I would recommend booking early at somewhere like Bright Riverside Holiday Park or the Big4 Caravan Park instead.

Alternatively, if you have a little bit more power in the legs and want to save some cash, there’s a great free bush campground in Smoko I’ve stayed at a few times on the way to Harrietville called Smoko Camp Reserve. However this will add on another 18km (about one hour) of extra riding to get to and there are obviously no shower facilities. 

Four Bikes, One Coach

The next morning, we explored Bright, enjoying a leisurely stroll around the sunday market, having a coffee and noseying at all the pretty houses and holiday homes along the backstreets. We grabbed a couple of pies from the famous Gum Tree Pies for an early lunch, which we scoffed outside the Alpine Hotel – the bus stop for the 11.54am V/Line coach back to Wangaratta.

We’d read online and had confirmation over the phone that the Bright to Wangaratta coaches take bikes on a first come, first served basis. Considering that there were four of us with four bikes, we were a bit nervous about a) there being enough space and b) being at the mercy of the driver’s temperament!

We were at the coach stop about 45 minutes early hanging out, just to ensure we were first in line again.

Fortunately, the driver was pleasant and let us put the bikes in the hold underneath so long as we did it and not him so he wasn’t liable for any damage. Some rubber straps came in very handy with securing the bikes so they wouldn’t slide around.

Relieved, we chilled on the 1 hour 40 minute journey back to Wangaratta, to then catch the train back to Melbourne, wrapping up a very awesome and moderately challenging weekend of bikepacking from Wangaratta to Bright.


FAQs on Cycling the Wangaratta to Bright Rail Trail:

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How long is the Wangaratta to Bright Rail Trail?

This picturesque trail follows the old railway line through the beautiful Ovens Valley. The distance from Wangaratta to Bright is approximately 83 kilometres (about 52 miles) if you follow the rail trail directly.

How long does it take to cycle from Wangaratta to Bright?

The time it takes to cycle from Wangaratta to Bright on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail depends on a number of factors, including the cyclist’s average speed, the number of stops made along the way, and the level of fitness of the rider. It could take anywhere from between four to six hours of actual riding.

For us, we took a leisurely pace over two days, stopping overnight at Myrtleford to break up the journey. Cycling the Wangaratta to Myrtleford section took us four hours, and Myrtleford to Bright took two hours.

Is cycling Wangaratta to Bright difficult?

The bike ride from Wangaratta to Bright is relatively straightforward and beginner-friendly if you have an average level of fitness. The rail trail is well tarmacked, quite flat (the total elevation gain is around 300m) and clearly signposted. There are however quite a few busy road crossings. 

It’s a very good idea to break the route up with a night in Myrtleford so you can take your time and visit vineyards and other points of interest along the way.

Do you need to bring food and cooking equipment bikepacking Wangaratta to Bright?

The route between Wangaratta and Bright is not remote and there are plenty of towns you will ride through with supermarkets or good cafes, pubs and restaurants. You won’t need to bring food with you (other than snacks) or any cooking equipment, unless you’d like to. 

Can you bring bikes on the V/Line from Melbourne to Wangaratta?

Yes, bikes can be brought on the V/Line so long as you put them in the dedicated bike coaches, indicated by a bike icon by the door. However, spaces in these train bike racks are simply on a first come, first served basis, and so get on the platform early so you can be at the front of the queue.

Can you bring bikes on the V/Line coach from Bright to Wangaratta?

Foldable bikes can be brought into the vehicle with you, however other bikes can go in the hold underneath, on a first come first served basis. It really depends on how busy the coach service is, how full the storage is underneath, and how accommodating the driver is.

Over a long public weekend, we managed to get four bikes onboard, though luckily we were the only ones with bikes, otherwise we may have had to split up onto different coaches. 

Heading to Victoria soon? Don’t forget these essentials!

Flights: compare and search for the cheapest flights using Skyscanner

Accommodation: hotels to hostels, glamping to apartments, I always use Booking.com

Tours: to find the best group tours and activities worldwide (with up to 20% off), use Viator

Guide books: Lonely Planet’s guide to Australia or Lonely Planet’s guide to Melbourne and Victoria

Visa: don’t forget to check the entry requirements for the passport you are travelling with

Inspiration: to kick-start your next adventure, how about Lonely Planet’s Guide to the World?

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4 thoughts on “Bikepacking Wangaratta to Bright on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail”

  1. How fun! Love this guide to bikepacking Wangaratta to Bright via the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. It’s a beautiful trail and now I’m gonna have to look up what a goanna looks like!

    Reply
  2. What a great adventure! Loved hearing about the activities and diversions along the way! Like you, I’ve biked..and camped but not combined the two. Now I just might!

    Reply
  3. This looks like a fun adventure! And a fantastic combination of working hard and stopping to enjoy things along the way. And I’ve learned a new word–bikepacking! Great post

    Reply

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