O’Keefe Rail Trail

posted in: Victorian Rail Trails | 0

Bendigo to Heathcote (with extension to Seymour)

Written by Caroline

Leading up to a beautiful spring September weekend the weather was looking fabulous so we scrounged together a few people to rope in for another rail trail – this time the O’Keefe rail trail from Bendigo to Heathcote.

Julia, Vanessa, Jon and I were the lucky participants this time round. Julia and I got the 12.19 train at Southern Cross, with a plan for Vanessa and Jon to get on at Footscray 10 minutes later. Much to our dismay, we were greeted by a grumpy conductor who wasn’t too interested in helping us find space for our bikes on the train. He told us over and over how priority needed to be given to a lady’s mobility walker which was to be stored in the bike/luggage storage area. We assured him we definitely understood the importance of the mobility walker, so moved it out of the way so our bikes would fit and the mobility walker also fitted (mind you there were plenty of other spaces the mobility walker could be stored on the near-empty train).

This didn’t bode too well for Vanessa and Jon getting on the train at Footscray so we texted them to get their best sad faces ready… Alas this  did not  improve the situation, and to our disgust the conductor flat out refused  to let Vanessa and Jon on the train with their bikes despite our insistence that we would find a safe place to store the mobility walker. He was not interested in a compromise so we shouted out to Vanessa and Jon to  get the next train to Bendigo and we settled down to enjoy the journey as much as we could, though had to  witness the grumpy conductor terrorising other passengers throughout the trip. We also felt guilty as we realised we had the bread part of the team sandwich lunch, so Vanessa and Jon spent some time in Footscray finding new bread and enjoying lunch, while Julia and I continued on to Bendigo.

With an hour and a quarter to kill in Bendigo, Julia and I headed to the closest bike shop for some new pedals for Julia and a long talk with a knowledgeable employee who  told us not to attempt cycling on the “possible rail trail” from Heathcote to Tooborac as we had planned, as it is a planned continuation of the trail that has not yet been completed. We then figured we’d either:

  1. cycle from Bendigo to Heathcote on Saturday then back again the next day
  2. cycle to Heathcote on Saturday then continue on to Seymour on Sunday via some not too dangerous back roads, in order to take the train back from Seymour.

We bought ice cream and chilled out by Lake Weeroona while we waited for Jon and Vanessa.

IMG_1482 DSCF1859

Finally we started the trail. Because of our late start (it was maybe 3.30pm by this stage) we decided to do a shorter day 1 and a longer day 2.

Yay – finally all together and ready to start!

Despite our previous thoughts about this trail (for some reason we all had it in our heads that it would be kinda boring) we were rewarded with a fairly easy trail through beautiful bush and, because it was spring, gorgeous wattle everywhere – no complaints there.


We had a few very enjoyable hours cycling and decided to set up camp in a gorgeous flat spot in the Knowsley Forest.

Hubba hubba, sweet camping spot and lovely sunset
Hubba hubba, sweet camping spot and lovely sunset

We watched the sunset from the top of a pile of logs.

Julia and the sunset
Julia and the sunset

We had a delicious three course dinner – soup for entree, dehydrated… something (OK, I forget) for main, and chocolate for dessert (if you go anywhere with Julia you can pretty much expect her to bring chocolate). I was lucky enough to test out Julia’s new MSR Hubba Hubba tent which proved as amazing as she said – we even managed to fit all four of us in there for games before bed.

At our sweet campsite, ready to set out on Day 2
At our sweet campsite, ready to set out on Day 2

We set off on Day 2 and cycled to Heathcote which was the official end of the rail trail. There are plans for the trail to continue to Kilmore East one day but it hasn’t been finished yet, so we were now stuck with the challenge of getting to Seymour, the closest train station, from Heathcote. It was about another 50km from there (and we’d cycled about 20km from the Knowsley Forest to Heathcote). We mapped what we thought was a great route on Jon’s quickly dying phone, then took some screenshots so we wouldn’t need to use the internet anymore.

A stop-in at the Heathcote Tourist Information unravelled those plans though… as we found out that the route Google had picked for us went straight through the middle of the high security Military base at Porepunkah – no chance of getting through those fences and gates. Luckily the helpful tourist info people had another route in mind, albeit a bit longer, but the weather was stunning and we were all feeling fabulous so off we went.

Road cycling in hi-vis
Road cycling in hi-vis

A big bonus of the cycle back was a chance for me to have a sneaky swim, which I love to try to fit in on every trip. The others pooh-poohed the less than ideal water but I was pretty into it and felt super refreshed afterwards. We had just enough time for ice creams in Seymour before taking the train back to Melbourne from there much earlier than anticipated. 🙂

Trip summary

O’Keefe Rail Trail official trail
Total Ascending: 738m
Total Descending: 583m
Total Distance: 113km