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One of the best ways for a family to explore is by bicycle. Thankfully, Australia is packed full of great family bike rides, with each state offering multiple options for two-wheeled adventures for your clan. In part two of our Best Family Bike Rides series, we check out some memorable rides in Victoria. With its many (excellent) rail trails, high country routes, and some lesser-known city-based rides, the cycling family is very well catered for in Victoria.

Bass Coast Rail Trail

Distance: 17km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Any

Victoria’s only coastal rail trail is a 90-minute drive from Melbourne and combines mild and wild coastal views with one of the country’s most spectacular trestle bridges and the ghosts of the coal-mining days that spawned the railway and the towns along it.

This spectacular trestle bridge above Kilcunda beach on the Bass Coast Rail Trail offers brilliant views across the coast. Andrew Bain

The ride connects Wonthaggi to the bus interchange at Anderson (there are plans to extend the trail to Woolamai) and can be cycled in either direction – most cyclists will end up riding it both ways, returning to their car, making a half-day of it; this ride is one of many family bike rides with potential for a packed picnic lunch along the way. At the Anderson end, it threads through the old Kilcunda coal-mining area – said to be among the oldest coal mines in Victoria – before reaching the coast at Kilcunda. It stays on the shores only briefly, but spectacularly. 

Standing high above Bourne Creek, as it flows out onto Kilcunda Surf Beach, is a 91m-long trestle bridge that is one of the most striking structures along any of Victoria’s rail trails. To get perspective on the bridge, park your bike and head down onto the beach.

The trail veers inland again beyond the bridge, passing behind the coastal dunes and the six turbines of the Wonthaggi Wind Farm. A corridor of bush encloses the trail as it cuts through farmland and crosses another small trestle bridge, before passing the abandoned McBride tunnel entrance, another reminder of the area’s mining past. It’s just a few metres off the trail, and worth a look.

The trail – hard-rolled earth until now – turns sealed as it makes the final approach into Wonthaggi, finishing beside the old railway station, built in 1912 and now reconfigured as the town museum.

Main Yarra Trail

Distance: 22km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Any

Here’s proof you don’t need to pack your bike up and travel hours into the countryside to get in some off-road riding. Melbourne’s Main Yarra Trail starts – or finishes depending on your perspective – at Southbank in the CBD and meanders alongside the river it is named after, through the Victorian capital’s north-eastern suburbs.

In the middle of one of Australia’s biggest cities, you can enjoy some sublime cycling with the family. Visit Victoria/Roberto Seba

The other end of the trail is widely judged to be Westerfolds Park in Eltham, partially because it is a logical place to park a car. But it is possible to ride further east toward Warrandyte. The surface can vary from gravel singletrack to concrete walkway and the level of traffic on foot and two wheels can reflect the fact it navigates through the heart of one of our greatest cities.

Despite its urban location, it is certainly possible to feel you’re far from the madding crowd on the Yarra Trail. On an isolated section, I once disturbed a large snake that then surfed away over the surrounding bushes to escape me – not that I wanted to chase it! There is another section where you meander through trees on singletrack immediately below the Eastern Freeway. For all that, the good news is that being so close to civilisation means coffee and a feed is never far away!

Falls Creek Gravel

Distance: Varies  Grade: Easy to Intermediate  Bike: Gravel

This iconic Victorian ski resort is now equally famous for its bike riding, with not only its lauded mountain bike trail network to keep riders occupied but also plenty of gravel riding routes, along the many multi-use trails branching out from and surrounding the village.

Falls Creek is surrounded by numerous spectacular gravel bike routes. Matt Rousu/Falls Creek

For instance, the Pretty Valley Lake Return is a 19km round trip on gravel roads perfectly suited to families and beginners. It will take around about 90 minutes unless you choose to stop for a picnic – and why wouldn’t you! 

From there, the challenges escalate, with the famous Tour of the Top worth a day’s ride, whether you’re a gravel beginner or more serious touring rider. At ‘only’ 16.1km it still tests your climbing legs as you grind your way up from the village centre to the turn-around (and highest) point of the ride, Mt McKay, at 1833m. Here, you are rewarded with memorable views across valleys to other mountains and alpine ridgelines. Then, you have the fun of the return leg, which is primarily downhill, back to the village start point. It’s a great way to get your bearings if you’re staying in the village and an even greater way to get those legs and lungs warmed up for more trails. 

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail

Distance: 39km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Any

Skimming the edge of the Yarra Valley wine region and setting out from the eastern terminus of Melbourne’s suburban train network, this popular rail trail is a gentle journey from the city to the fringe of the High Country. The trail’s climbs are few, and the primary one is at the beginning as the trail departs Lilydale, ascending without any ferocity to Mt Evelyn, 130 vertical metres above Lilydale.

Cutting through a hill on the Lilydale–Warburton Rail Trail. Robert Blackburn/Visit Victoria

The scenery is rural rather than Riesling – the Yarra Valley’s vineyards are all but out of sight – and there are towns every few kilometres along the trail past Wandin North, though only Yarra Junction sits directly on its path (Seville, Seville East and Woori Yallock are reached on short detours), creating an unexpected sense of removal and space so near to Australia’s second-largest city.

The approach into Warburton, as the trail skirts the High Country foothills, is like a date with the valley’s creator. Here, the Yarra River flows beside the trail, looking like anything but the wide brown waterway of Melbourne lore as it pushes out of the hills.

East Gippsland Rail Trail

Distance: 97km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Gravel/MTB

Gippsland is the patriarch of rail trails in Australia, with almost a dozen of these converted railways zipping across the lush region. Prime among them is this ride between Bairnsdale and Orbost, following a century-old railway line through the forests and farmland that define this eastern end of Victoria. The railway remains a true presence along the ride, with a number of historic trestle bridges keeping the trail company.

Plenty of bridges, plenty of cool stops for the little’uns to check out the views on the hugely popular East Gippsland Trail. Jessica Shapiro/Destination Gippsland

From Howitt Park, on the bank of the Mitchell River at Bairnsdale’s edge, the trail (colloquially known as the Easy Gippy Rail Trail) sets out across the floodplain, running sealed to Nicholson (and unsealed for the rest of the trail beyond), with occasional views south to the Gippsland Lakes.

Leaving Nicholson across the old railway bridge over the Nicholson River, the East Gippsland Rail Trail takes a sudden turn north, heading into Bruthen. Thirty kilometres from Bairnsdale, Bruthen makes the perfect lunch stop.

Another railway bridge leads over the Tambo River, where the trail begins climbing towards its highest point (129m above sea level) at Colquhoun. Just before reaching the apex, there’s a junction with the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail, a secondary rail trail that detours 25km south into Lakes Entrance – if you want to add the lakes to the Gippsland cycling experience, head away here.

The descent from Colquhoun bottoms out at Stony Creek, beside the trail’s signature feature – the 276m-long, 19m-high Stony Creek Trestle Bridge. With its 27 spans, it’s the longest bridge of its type to be found in Victoria. There are more trestle bridges ahead, including the curved O’Grady’s Bridge at Wairewa (which was badly burned in bushfires in 2020).

Related: The best family bike rides in NSW and the ACT