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O'Keefe Rail Trail - Trail Description

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Trail

O'Keefe Rail Trail

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Type: Rail trail
Location: East of Bendigo, 150km from Melbourne
Start/end: Bendigo (Lake Weeroona)  to Heathcote
Status: Open
Length open: 50km
Surface: Coarse gravel, Fine gravel, Sealed
Terrain: Gentle gradients to flat
Best seasons: All seasons, especially Spring
Public transport: Train, Coach
Contact Region: Northern Victoria
Spring time near Heathcote (2015)
Spring time near Heathcote (2015)
Suitable for walking Suitable for cycling mountain bikes Suitable for cycling touring hybrid bikes
legend

Details

Features

  • Travels through box-ironbark and yellow gum woodland, along with farmland.
  • Trail surface is a mix of asphalt sections (townships) and rolled fine to course gravel in the other areas. For cycling, the trail surface overall is currently most suitable for MTB and hybrid bikes - although flat bar racers with sufficiently wide tyres would be fine.
  • In 2015, the extension from Axedale to Heathcote was opened, resulting in a good quality path of 50 km from Bendigo to Heathcote.

Options

  • There are two alternative return routes. One is along forest tracks through box-ironbark woodland, a main road and the One Tree Hill Regional Park. The second is via Sugarloar Rd, Wellsford State Forest, Pratts Park Rd.
  • There are also many other riding and walking options in the Bendigo area.
  • Refer to the Friends of the Bendigo Kilmore Rail Trail at the links below for more detai on the options.  Also see the videos tab.

Support Services

AxedaleFarm200m 

 Axedale Farm Cottage & Vineyard

 Comfortable 3 bedroom cottage on 50 acre sheep farm and vineyard accommodating up to 7 guests.

 

 

Axedale Tavern Logo webAxedale Tavern

Whether you are looking for a great meal, entertainment or good old fashioned service, the Axedale Tavern enjoys catering to their customers needs.

 

Goldfields logo web

 

Goldfields Bike Tours & Hire

Unique opportunity to experience hybrid or E-bike riding to explore the rail trails and in conjunction with our air conditioned bus and 15-bike trailer.

 

 

 

 

 

Description

Sites of former stations are marked on the map but generally little remains of them  However the Friends of the Bendigo Kilmore Rail Trail have erected replica signs and are recreating sections of the platforms to add to the experience of the rail trail.

There are plenty of wildflowers including orchids in bloom in spring.

Access Points

  • Bendigo - At the north western end of Lake Weeroona, off Weeroona Ave, car parking is available adjacent to Bendigo Rowing Clubrooms. Cafe and other facilities are around the lake area. Bendigo station is 3km to the south on Railway Place.
  • East Bendigo - At Pratts Park Rd (car parking is available on Rifle Range Rd).
  • Junortoun - A rail trail car park is provided off Wikie Rd.
  • Longlea - Park along Longlea Ln.
  • Axedale - Corner of High St (McIvor Hwy) and Mitchell St at the Axedale Public Hall, car parking, playgrounds and public toilets.
  • Knowsley Forest - Near the intersection of Toolleen-Axedale Rd and McIvor Hwy is an entry point for the trail into the Knowsley Forest (near the power line transformer pole. NB - be careful entering and exiting McIvor Hwy.
  • Knowsley - car parking near to where the trail crosses Moorabbee Rd at the adjacent Knowsley Tennis Courts.
  • Derrinal - opposite the former Derrinal Railway station, off Old Bendigo Rd, is a trail rest stop and replica station name board - parking on the side of Old Bendigo Rd is an option.
  • Heathcote - Carpark off Herriot St, at the new iconic rail trail shelter. Heathcote Visitor Information Centre, corner of High St and Barrack St, has car parking and trail information.

North Bendigo to Axedale (23km)

  • From Lake Weeroona, follow the Bendigo Creek Trail north to a 'T' intersection and turn right to begin the O'Keefe Rail Trail.  Cross the Midland Highway with care and go through the brick-lined culvert under the Bendigo–Echuca railway line.
  • The Bendigo Bushland Trail crosses the rail trail at Markovitch Lane.
  • At the 4km point a trail branches to the north (to the former Department of Defence ammunition storage facility, 'Rangelea' siding), so follow signs for the main trail.
  • Take care crossing the McIvor Hwy next to the Baptist Church at Junortoun.
  • After 12km is Axe Creek, with its new at-grade bridge and a possible stop for a picnic.
  • The trail passes the former Axedale station before reaching the Axedale Racecourse station.
  • The trail now diverts off the original railway alignment, to follow a newly constructed trail into the Axedale township, via an asphalt section.
  • Continue on the trail's urban asphalt path, within street reserves, down to the River Reserve area on the Campaspe River frontage, where there are picnic tables and art installations.

Bendigo is a major regional city.

Axedale has drinking water, toilet facilities, a general store and the Axedale Tavern.

Axedale to Derrinal (17km)

  • The path follows an underpass under McIvor Hwy and then (north of the highway) crosses a rail trail bridge over the Campaspe River.
  • The path meets Ingham Rd, which is a very quiet road. Follow Ingam Rd up the hill until the dedicated trail is reached.
  • Shortly after take care crossing the 100kph McIvor Hwy near Toollen Axedale Rd. The trail now enters the Knowsley Forest.
  • There is a formal picnic area approximately 300 m north along Smart Track - it is marked on the map and has a dam and table-seats to enable people to rest within the forest.
  • After reaching Smart Track the rail trail returns to the original formation.
  • Further east, after Knowsley, the trail passes the ‘Moorabbee Hill Rest Stop’, where table-seats and bike racks provide an opportunity to relax and enjoy the vista to the south of the Great Dividing Range.
  • The trail continues down hill to the Lake Eppalock area.  The lake came after the railway and flooded some of the track but a purpose built causeway and the 90m Mt Ida Creek bridge allows the trail to stay on the original alignment,. 
  • Another picnic area has been established on the causeway giving views of the lake. Then at Derrinal, another rest stop is provided that allows a view of the former station platform (located on private property) across the McIvor Hwy.

NOTE: Users of the trail should respect all privately owned land. Take care crossing cattle grids between Knowsley Forest and Derrinal.

Derrinal to Heathcote (9km)

  • The trail from Derrinal skirts McIvor Hwy and enters One Eye Forest near Hills Rd.
  • NOTE: While ‘rail trail users only’ status of the trail continues from Hills Rd to the Mia Mia-Derrinal Rd section, extreme care should be taken in the Mia Mia-Derrinal Rd to Burnt Track shared (with motor vehicles) section, especially at several narrow sections along this alignment section.
  • The last new trail bridge in the One Eye Forest is located above a complete section of the original much longer 1888 timber railway bridge.
  • The trail then enters into the Heathcote township.

Heathcote is a large regional town with numerous facilities.

  • Knowsley Forest – Near the intersection of the Toolleen-Axedale Rd and McIvor Hwy, is an entry point for the trail into the Knowsley Forest. A reference point adjacent the highway is the power line transformer pole. Care required exit and entering this 100kph highway speed zone.
  • Knowsley – At the trail intersection with the Moorabbee Rd in Knowsley. Car parking is available at the adjacent Knowsley Tennis Courts.
  • Derrinal – Opposite the former Derrinal Railway Station, off Old Bendigo Rd, there is a trail rest stop and replica station name board. No formal car park is provided, so parking to the side of the Old Bendigo Rd is an option.
  • Heathcote – The Heathcote Visitor Information Centre, corner of High St and Barrack St, provides trail information and car parking facilities. The other trail access points are in Herriott St – Back Kyneton Rd where car parking is provided near the trail, or at the formal end/start point of the trail at Pink Cliffs Rd.

Background Information

This line was built in 1888 by Andrew O'Keefe to link Bendigo and Heathcote.  From here the line continued to Heathcote Junction, near Wallan, on the North Eastern main line. The Heathcote - Bendigo section of that line closed in 1958 (as the construction of Lake Eppalock reservior was taking place)  This lightly-trafficked branch line was then completely closed by 1968.

The first section of a rail trail between Bendigo and Axedale was opened in 1993 (by former Shire of Strathfieldsaye Council), the second stage constructed and opened in 1999 (by current City of Greater Bendigo Council),  though like its former railway it was basic affair with rough surface and many low level crossings. 

The potential was there though, and in 2009 the Friends of the Bendigo - Kilmore Rail Trail was formed by locals to lobby for the extension of the rail trail and advise the councils.  In 2010, the Bendigo Council and Victorian Government committed to a significant upgrade of the rail trail including installing bridges on the Axedale section, and extending it a further 26 km to Heathcote. This work was completed in 2015.

Possible future developments

A feasibility study commenced in February 2016 that will assess:

  • an extension of the trail from Heathcote to Wallan (connecting with the railway passenger service between Melbourne to Wodonga)
  • a link between Wallan and the Craigieburn Bypass Trail and then to Melbourne’s network of bicycle trails
  • a linking trail between Kilmore to Tallarook and the start of the Great Victorian Rail Trail
  • another linking trail from Heathcote to the developing Murchison-Rushworth (Waranga) Rail Trail.

Links

The trail is managed by the City of Greater Bendigo. Refer to their website (www.bendigo.vic.gov.au) to report any issues. You can also leave feedback about your experience here. (Don't forget to also add a comment at the tab above)

Friends of the Bendigo - Kilmore Rail Trail have been very active in developments on this rail trail and have lots of further information and news on their site.

O'Keefe Rail Trail brochure

O'Keefe Rail Trail A4 map

Other riding and walking options.

Bendigo Tourism website. The Bendigo Visitor Information Centre is located in Pall Mall, Bendigo.

Bendigo TravelSmart map.

Heathcote Visitor Information Centre

Support Services and Attractions

 Goldfields Bike Tours & Hire - Tour the Goldfields District with ease with pre-arranged tours on standard bicycles or eBikes

 Moronis Bikes - With a range of styles and brands to choose from, why not visit us for your next bicycle

 Giant Bendigo - Formerly called Cycle Concepts, now stockists of Giant bicycles and other branded products, plus service

Bike Force Bendigo - Bike sales and service

Bendigo Cycles - Welcome to Bendigo Cycles, we are all about the riding!

Cyclescape Bendigo - Bike sales and service

March 2016

To advertise your rail trail support business on this page, please click here.

Contact Us About This Trail

Email or click here: vic-north@railtrails.org.au.

Photos

Videos

Comments

Comments

11 comments

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02 May , 2016 by Marian

Have just completed the enjoyable cycle Bendigo-Heathcote. Stayed 2 nights in Heathcote then returned to Bendigo. Great trail, Heathcote to Axedale is wide, smooth & a good gradient. Axedale to Bendigo does narrow towards Bendigo but still a pleasant ride, Coffee & tucker @ Axedale Pub is very good but be warned it closes on Mondays. The coffee at the service station is awful. They need a decent bean & some Barista lessons, they need to know, rail trails provide business to good coffee stops. 2 nights in Heathcote with a winery lunch was enjoyed Today, Monday we passed a large number of cyclists, was wonderful to see the trail being so well used. The money recently spent on upgrading the trail has been well spent.

22 April , 2016 by Wenkle

We rode this rail trail on 8th. & 9th. April, with a group and enjoyed it immensely. Oher than a few parts of course gravel, the trail was very good and riding through the Australian bush was a wonderful experience. It was great to see so many others using this trail also - cyclists, walkers and runners, from various places, including a couple from New Zealand. The trail will be a boost to the entire area, as we users of the trail enjoy the hospitality offered at the quaint, old Axedale Tavern, the modern caravan park near the trail, the hotel at Heathcote and the city of Bendigo. The Friends of the Rail Trail are doing an excellent job too. We will be back to explore more of what this trail has to offer in the near future.

21 January , 2016 by Jarman

We rode this in trail in early November, just a few weeks after the new section had opened. Had a brilliant 2 days. We parked the car at Heathcote. The official start of the trail is at the 'other' end of town, should have parked at the Axedale end - oh well. The track is in good condition and weaves through some beautiful Australian bush. There is a short steep hill down into Axedale where they have obviously lost the original rail line. We ate lunch at the Axedale pub - great food and atmosphere but if you are bringing a picnic lunch, by the river in Axedale is also lovely. The ride into Bendigo winds through the outer suburbs of the city before bringing you into the city proper via the lake. Bendigo is beautiful and well worth a day or two visit, unfortunately we only had the one night before returning to the car the next day. A perfect weekend ride!

19 September , 2015 by Gary

Rode from Heathcote to Axedale and return on Sunday 13 Sep 15. One of the best days for riding for ages. Plenty of other riders also on the trail. A great ride and the surface found to be more than satisfactory. Be sure to dismount and look at the range of culverts under the surface. There are Redgum box and beautiful brick types. Also have a look at the bridge remains at various locations. I found the surface generally flat though two steep climbs at Axedale. One along the River Reserve heading into town and the other leaving heading back to Heathcote. Be prepared for the two climbs. The River Reserve at Axedale was very interesting and a very pleasant ride. I found the many cattle grids little problem as I soon found to hit them fast and that seemed to make them a smooth crossing. One for the Friends of the Trail is that a narrow strip can be placed across the grid and colour coded to indicate the grid is an easy fix. This is common in the NT and WA at cattle grids. A diversion along the Campaspe River at Axedale and behind the Golf course to the original River Crossing would be an interesting side trip. It is a pity that the trail has to divert around the Quarry and skirt the McIver Highway. Overall a great ride especially through the Forest. Enjoyed by this mid sixties bloke.

25 August , 2015 by railtrailsrfun

We both rode from Axedale to Heathcote on the weekend. The trail was great apart from the loose gravel near Axedale, as the bike was slipping on the loose stones. The part I hated was the extremely steep section on the road near Axedale. We had to walk it, this was a disappointment. Motorbike and horses also made deep marks in the soft surface. Overall a very enjoyable ride. L

25 December , 2014 by cascho

I rode this trail yesterday (24th December 2014) – Started in Knowsley forest (parked by the transformer) and rode into Bendigo and back – perfect day. The trail is good quality most of the way, with small rough sections around Peppercorn park – but a hybrid bike will be fine. The scenery is typical Australian bush – there are no impressive vistas. Most of the old stations have been restored as rest stops – which is really good. All in all, a good rail trail – will do again when it gets extended all the way to Heathcote.

28 June , 2014 by GarryL

Comments relating to VinceB 15 April 2014. These RTA web pages for O'Keefe Rail Trail did say "North Bendigo to Axedale 23kms" (to the Campaspe river), i.e. not 27kms. The RTA web pages did state "For cycling, the trail surface overall is currently most suitable for MTB and hybrid bikes." For off-road gravel trails, suggest slick tyres are inappropriate! Within the stated "first 8 or so KM from Axedale", this includes sections of smooth 'hot mix' asphalt surface trail and newly constructed rolled-compacted gravel-clay mix surface. There was one below standard (and quite rough) surface section at 3.4km - 4.2km west from the new Axedale toilets, which the base and drainage have now been fully reconstructed (late May-June) yet is unable to be completed at present due to effects of wet weather. A section at 7.2km - 7.7kms west from Axedale toilets, was being reconstructed prior to late May, and is now 95% completed (except for final surface finish, again due wet weather). Other trail sections closer to Bendigo, in the Junortoun area, were upgraded in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Due to the older Bendigo to Axedale section having had no maintenance done for about 19 years, all sections of this trail have been surveyed. Those deemed below standard have been identified, and the trail's manager (City of Greater Bendigo Council) is progressively addressing these within allocated budget. Trail users are asked to be patient in the short term, while out enjoying this trail, as work is being programmed so that this will be recognised as a high quality rail trail. 2015 will see the trail extension Bendigo to Heathcote, approx 49kms long, finished. The totally new section’s route going through Axedale's 'tunnel', along the natural river environment of the Campaspe River with its platypus, wine growing areas, two additional State forests, a causeway through Lake Eppalock, new bridges, and into famous shiraz wine country. Many will be excited!

15 April , 2014 by VinceB

My wife and I decided to traverse the O'Keefe trail on a sunny day in April. We drove up from Melbourne and so decided to start at Axedale and parked at the public hall where there are very clean toilets. According to this website the trail was 27kms long and so had not planned to do it up and back the whole way. I rode a touring bike and my wife a slick tired hybrid. We found that although we managed ok felt that mountain bikes would have been more appropriate. The first 8 or so KM from Axedale were pretty rough but got significantly better after that. The website said that there was a picnic area near the bridge at 12 kms from Bendigo and so thought that would be 15 kms from Axedale. We asked a local at this point for directions and were surprised that the bridge we had past a few Kms from Axedale was it. The local also said that at 15kms we only had a few to go! At this point we turned around anyway. The actual trail itself is ok if you like dry Aussie scrub. Its not spectacular but the old railway sites are a feature.

10 July , 2013 by Delvin

Over from the UK staying with family in Bendigo. I needed to do some cycling training for an event later in August and saw the O'Keefe trail advertised on Google. Borrowed a mountain bike , found the start point on Google Earth and off to Axedale starting from Bendigo. The sign posting is excellent and makes it very easy to follow the trail. The surface is ideal for a mountain bike, although a hybrid with not so skinny tyres would cope. The gradient is typical of old railway lines so don't expect to either freewheel or struggle up hills. For me from the UK the scenery is typically Australian but I like it! Met some great blokes at the Axedale end of the trail who were working on the new sign, and they took the time to explain the origins of the trail and the work they have been doing. They suggested having a look at the Bendigo Creek Trail when I got back to Bendigo which I did , and enjoyed that, although I only managed a part of that before running out of time, and needed to go back to family matters. The O'Keefe trail seems to me to be ideal for families, children, and anybody else who just wants to get off the beaten track but in a safe and controlled manner. I can thoroughly recommend this route!

20 May , 2013 by GarryL

Updates to comments made by AndiJ (16/12/2012) 1. Referring to the township of Axedale facilities, these are currently the Axedale Tavern (drinks, meals, coffee etc), and Axedale General Store (food etc, plus fuel), plus a new public toilet facility completed next to the rail trail in the Axedale Hall reserve. 2. As of May 2013, the trail starts/end in Axedale River Reserve Campaspe River (access via Williams St), yet this will change soon with the current construction of a new trail bridge over this river plus an underpass under the McIvor Hwy in Axedale River Reserve. There is a new replica railway 'Axedale Racecourse Platform' to be viewed, that has been completed next to the trail. 3. Regarding AndiJ's comments about trail surface being "....rough" and "rocky outcrops", many of these sections that were experienced have now be upgraded in 2013, to "splendid rolled gravel" surfaces, especially in the Junortoun area. More trail maintenance upgrades are planned in 2013-14. 4. Where the trail meets Napier St/ Midland Highway in Bendigo/White Hills, trail users need to cross over this highway to the remainder of the trail (that is directly opposite, now with a sign) rather than using Weeroona Ave as AndiJ mentioned. The remainder of O'Keefe trail's asphalt surface section opposite then connects directly with the Bendigo Creek Trail. NOTE: Crossing the Midland Highway should be carried out with care. An improved cycle/walk crossing at this point has been highlight as an issue (VicRoads). 5. Once on the Bendigo Creek Trail, this will allow access to Lake Weeroona and the city via off road paths. 6. Bennetts Rd crossing mentioned has been completely realigned and upgraded (that sandy section has been bypassed), plus the nearby rocky reef trail surface has completely upgraded with reconstruction works. 7. New trail crossing approaches to the McIvor Highway had been planned, and these are now completed, making this a much safer experience. It is great to hear that riding this trail was "..SO much better than it was in 2005" AndiJ. It is hoped that other users also have a great experience, some of this from the hard work that is currently occurring from efforts by the Greater Bendigo City Council and the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail partnership. The currently funded project, to extend the trail between Axedale and Heathcote, is progressing well. New trail sections in the Heathcote township are now open, and other new rural sections are expected to be opened later in 2013.

19 December , 2012 by AndiJ

We cycled this trail December 2012. A bit rough in places for a hybrid bike, but a very enjoyable ride through attractive Bendigo scrub and bush. We started at Axedale; partly because Axedale is nearly 30 metres higher than the other end (there are rises & falls all along, none too extreme), and partly as our midway point was the Lake Weeroona café (lovely iced coffee). So far as I could ascertain, Axedale has a general store (“cold drinks and sandwiches” we were told) but no café. In Axedale we left the car under a tree by the CFA shed, and set off on an excellent new bitumen track, which took us out of town. The bitumen gave way to an splendid rolled gravel & dirt surface, which lasted until after we met the old rail formation (nearly 1km SW of the McIvor Highway). From here the surface varied from quite good gravel, through bloody rough, to rocky outcrops. Most of the old stations are marked by attractive replica rail signs, and the bridges are a special delight to anyone who cycled this path a few years back. On arriving at the Bendigo rail track, the O’Keefe track does not join it… cyclists are whisked sideways and down through a pipe, emerging in Bobs St. Here a path takes one through to Napier St, aka the Midland Highway. To get to Lake Weeroona, cross this, then follow Weeroona Avenue, and 100m after crossing that railway line, go left onto the path going round Lake Weeroona. This trail is SO much better than it was in 2005!! even the worst surface (East of the remains of Junortoun station) is not so bad as the rutted and eroded parts used to be; especially where there was no bridge, and one had to lug the bike down off the formation then back up again. And that unspeakable Swing Bridge is gone, replaced by a simply lovely bridge on which to swoop over the Axe Creek. WARNINGS: Bowles Rd - riding back up off the road to the gate leading back to the rail trial is tricky. Bennets Rd - just to the east is a very nasty fine sand section. Crossing the McIvor Highway needs attention, the rail trail DOES continue, a little to the left of whichever point you leave it; look for the white railway crossing sign. Do not cycle along the track by the McIvor. Coming from Bendigo, be sure to turn Right at the Rangelea Station sign.

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News

News

More History Recreated on the O'Keefe Rail Trail (Vic)

(Posted: 23/04/16)

The volunteers from the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail have finished recreating replica "mile posts" and railway station signs.

More...

Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail Feasibility Study Begins

(Posted: 13/03/16)

A feasibility study into extending the O'Keefe Rail Trail from Heathcote to Kilmore and Wallan has begun.

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail Developments (northern Victoria)

(Posted: 11/10/15)

With the exension now open to Heathcote all parties involved are not resting on their laurels.

More...

Unofficial Opening of O'Keefe Rail Trail Extension (Northern Victoria)

(Posted: 21/08/15)

The Friends of the Bendigo Kilmore Rail Trail celebrate the extension to Heathcote.

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail Now Open to Heathcote

(Posted: 27/06/15)

The O'Keefe Rail Trail in northern Victoria is now continuours from Bendigo to Heathcote.

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail Extension Updates (Northern Victoria)

(Posted: 23/11/14)

Works to extend the O'Keefe Rail Trail from Axedale to Heathcote are progressing well and hopes are high for a study to look at a further extension.

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail Upgrade Continues (Vic)

(Posted: 13/07/14)

Construction of the extension of the O'Keefe Rail Trail continues at a rapid pace to beat rising waters on Lake Eppalock.

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail Improvements Continue

(Posted: 26/11/12)

Improvements and developments on the O'Keefe Rail Trail in Northern Victoria continue.

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail funding bears fruit (VIC)

(Posted: 01/11/10)

Progress on bridge construction on O'Keefe Rail Trail.

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail Receives Funding for Extension (VIC)

(Posted: 28/06/10)

$3.2 Million committed for the trail extension to Heathcote. More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail (Victoria) Community Ride

(Posted: 20/08/09)

A community ride along the O'Keefe Rail Trail will be held on Saturday 5th September 2009 as part of the Spring in the Bendigo Bush program

More...

O'Keefe Rail Trail (Vic) Community Meeting

(Posted: 05/07/09)

The Friends of the Bendigo - Kilmore Rail Trail Group has organised a meeting on this trail for Monday 13 July 2009

More...