Melbourne, Yarra Valley, Geelong, Bellarine & Mornington Peninsulas
Wineries, galleries, peaceful rural and sea views and fine beaches combine to make this a great trail for a day trip or weekend visit. The bottom section from Merricks is popular with horse riders and partly does not follow the original alignment - so it's steeper than a typical rail trail. The trail is managed by the Mornington Peninsula shire.
Cycle or walk up the trail from Merricks and return on-road visiting wineries, galleries or beaches on the way back.
Continue towards Arthurs Seat, following more off-road bike path.
The start of the trail at Merricks is to the north side of the Station Ground Recreation Reserve outside the parking area which is 230m along Merricks Rd. Follow the cyclone fenced pathway / narrow track in the roadside reserve to the start of the trail proper. Beware of mud in winter.
The trail climbs steadily for 2km providing good views over Western Port to Philip Island the Nobbies.
After a sharp right turn, the trail continues down the steep hill and through a horse jump to the end of Tonkins Rd. The trail continues to the left.
The trail is now on the original railways easement and ascends more gently to Red Hill, first through pine trees (look for colourful fungi in autumn), then two small cuttings.
At Red Hill look for the plaque at the former station site just before the first shop. This commemorates the 75th anniversary of the railway opening. The trail continues to Point Leo Rd behind the shops. Explore the shops (including a bakery) then return via the trail or other local roads. Frankston-Flinders Rd carries a lot of very fast traffic, so take care.
Like so many other Victorian railways, the line to Red Hill was built after a long campaign by local people, beginning in the 1880s. Opened in 1912 as a branch from Bittern on the Stony Point line, it mainly carried fruit such as apples, pears and strawberries to market in Melbourne. Six hundred people gathered to greet the first steam train climbing the steep 1 in 30 gradient to Red Hill.
However, as roads were improved, the train timetable was soon reduced to one train a week. The line was closed in 1953 after only 32 years of operation. The rest of the former railway land between Bittern and Merricks is now in private ownership but may perhaps be restored to public access one day.
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