The East Gippsland Rail Trail

Aaron Flanagan — 1 July 2019
The east Victorian 96-kilometre bushland route, closed to all motorised traffic, is a haven for walkers, horseback riders and mountain bikers alike.

In the mid-80s, shoulder pads, spiral perms and ridiculous baggy parachute material tracksuits were the height of fashion. 

It was also in the mid 80s that local officials — probably garbed in fingerless gloves and oversized slogan t-shirts — decided to shut down the Bairnsdale-Orbost railway, first opened in 1916 to serve the agricultural and timber industry, and re-cast it as a green corridor for adventure-seekers. The rail trail’s continuing popularity has defied the ebb and flow of trends. While it may be decades, even centuries, before sheilas once again cram hair salons looking for a perm, the rail trail’s reinvention as an epicentre for adventure looks set to remain an enduring regional fixture.


Like all well-considered and popular infrastructure, the east Gippsland rail trail supports a raft of supporting businesses. Bike hire, food, accomm-odation centres and tour guide ventures abound. 

It’s a monument to inventive and progressive policy formulation in action. 

With its numerous nearby natural features – such as the brilliant Wilsons Promontory, Snowy River, Gippsland Lakes, Croajingolong National Park and Ninety Mile Beach – it fits nicely into the region’s burgeoning reputation as an adventure destination worthy of consideration.

Many of the old logging industry train stations remain, including stops at Nicholson, Bumberrah, Mossiface, Bruthen, Colquhoun, Nowa Nowa, Tostaree, Waygara, and Orbost. As well, the trail crosses many restored railway bridges, including some large trestle bridges. 

Navigating the entire 96 kilometres will take you alongside the Mitchell River and across the Nicholson River, Tambo River and Snowy River, as well as several minor watercourses, before you hit Orbost.


  • A long rail trail, which passes through a variety of forests and farmlands.
  • Ideal for multi-day tours or shorter day trips.
  • Lots of huge old timber bridges, railway cuttings and embankments. Some low-level diversions around bridges, from Bruthen on, are quite steep.
  • Views of the Gippsland Lakes.
  • Rich variety of birds and other wildlife.
  • Many small towns and villages, all providing meals and accommodation options.
  • It's possible to divert onto the Mississippi Tramway leading to Lakes Entrance.


  • Bairnsdale - Howett Park on the eastern edge of town.
  • Nicholson - from Sarsfield Rd.
  • Bruthen - access via pedestrian bridge on the east side of Great Alpine Way.
  • Nowa Nowa - west side of Kingston St, or east side of the Boggy Ck.
  • Newmeralla - at Burns Rd on the edge of the Snowy River flats.
  • Orbost - from Forest Park.


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