Review: GABCY South East – Victoria and Luke

Victoria and Luke rode from Bendigo to Nagambie, about 135km, in March 2022. Their route included the O’Keefe Rail Trail, and parts of Reap the Red Ridge, Golden Black Track, Ghostown Gambol, and Nagambie Meander

Day 1 – Bendigo to Heathcote – 56km

We arrived in Bendigo by train at 11.20am, and it was already hot and meant to get hotter. Earlier in the week it had promised 22-23 degrees, but now it was saying 29, and similar for tomorrow. It was going to be a tough ride…

It was easy to navigate our way through the few small turns to the start of the O’Keefe Rail Trail, and we were quickly on our way, cruising along manicured bike paths similar to Melbourne. Pretty soon we were out onto beautifully graded gravel alongside the road, and watching a lot of cyclists coming the other way who had clearly been smart enough to start early in the morning.

Signs announcing the sites of the old railway stations rolled past quickly on the easy riding gravel, and we soon arrived in Axedale, taking well sign-posted streets to the Axedale Tavern for lunch.

The tavern has a beautiful big courtyard with lots of tables under umbrellas, and live music on a Sunday afternoon. The food was good and the portions were plentiful, leaving us actually a little too full to ride comfortably in the heat of the afternoon… be warned.

Leaving Axedale, and a quick steep hill later, we were quickly in the countryside proper – alternating patches of shady gum trees and blazing hot fields of flat yellow farmland. Heads down, we powered through the heat, cheered on by screeching sulphur-crested cockatoos, and suddenly popped out beside Lake Eppalock. A beautiful, but strange sight, coated in bright green plant matter and flooding bare, reaching trees.

We carried on, pushing through the last of the crunching gravel to finally arrive in Heathcote. It was a while between the welcome to Heathcote sign and the accommodation itself, and it took every ounce of will we had to keep going.

Finally, we arrived at the Heathcote Queen Meadow Caravan park, showering and collapsing for a rest. It was lovely and quiet and comfortable in the cabin, and our bikes fit well at one end to keep them safe.

Later, we wandered down through the town to Palling Bros Brewery for dinner. They had a special coconut, lime and pineapple beer on tap which was absolutely delicious – I wish they sold it elsewhere!

A few nibbles down the hatch, and it was back to the campsite for a solid night’s sleep.


Day 2 – Heathcote to Nagambie – 80km

We pedalled out at 8am, stopping at a cute antique store and café with a beautiful vine-covered courtyard (Fetching Treasures). A friendly chat with a couple of elderly locals, and some buttery fruit toast and orange juice, filled our stomachs and souls before we headed off onto the back roads of Heathcote.

A group of kangaroos hopped along side us at the golf course, unfortunately just out of range of the GoPro affixed to the handlebars…

The first part of the backroads were slow going – deep chunky gravel that had me worried for the pace of the rest of the day, but soon enough we were into Heathcote-Graytown National Park, and great fast-flowing gravel and deep beautiful bush. These forest roads would become our absolute highlight of the journey – great riding, flocks of birds, bounding kangaroos, rolling hills, and only one car to be seen the entire time.

Eventually though, all good things must come to an end, and it was a quick zip along the main road and back into the bush to head along a slightly rougher track up toward the Graytown historic area.

Navigating our way around big black puddles and more rocky terrain, we came to the peaceful Graytown Cemetery. It was hard to believe, with nothing for miles, that this area had around 18,000 residents in the late 19th century.

It was clear from the information board that many of those residents died young, horrible deaths, including many Chinese immigrants hoping to support their families through gold-mining.

We stopped here for lunch (supplies we had picked up at the Heathcote IGA the night before), enjoying the serenity and pretty surroundings.

It was another highlight, and I would have loved to have stayed longer, but the heat was climbing again, and we knew we still had another 40-odd kilometres to go.

After getting slightly lost in the bush, and winding through the foundation remains of WWII POW camp, we took a slight dog leg around the back of Graytown (where a few farm houses still remain), then popped back onto the main road for a bit. This small 2km stretch was where we saw the most cars all day (still only about 10), and they were all very well behaved, giving us plenty of room.

At the top of a hill we found Delaney Road, and once again were back onto gravel backcountry to cut across to the Goulburn River. This section was far more hilly than we at first thought, but the gravel was still smooth riding, and there were a few more trees here to stay shaded.

As we came to the white gravel, with far more posh fencing along the side, I knew we were closing in on our destination. Nagambie is horse-breeding and wine country – so signs of money were definitely signs of being in the right area. More and more signs of life appeared – campgrounds, farms, and the sounds of firing from the military base taking up the right hand side of the road.

We stopped briefly at one of the campsites to wet our heads with cool water and stretch, and I made a mental note to come back here one day, as it was so pretty.

Crossing the Goulburn river, we hit the tarmac, and fields of vines began appearing.

We were running low on water at this point, so we decided to stop at one of the wineries that I knew was coming up to be able to grab something cold to drink and fill our bottles.

The first to pass was Mitchelton Winery with its iconic tower, but I knew that our planned route would take us past the historic winery Tahbilk, so we pressed on, back onto the gravel roads.

It was almost another 10km to Tahbilk, and once we were on the property the gravel was slippery and hard going, and the trees disappeared, leaving us in the blazing hot afternoon sun.

Finally, exhausted, we arrived at the winery restaurant and took a picnic table out the front where we could lean our bikes.

At this point, a big shout out to the staff at Tahbilk, who completely ignored the fact that we were dusty, stinky, sweaty and in bike clothes – as well as not wanting to drink wine – and still treated us like absolutely valued customers.

We grabbed a couple of bottled lemon lime and bitters, and the staff brought us glasses and a big bottle of water (which was finished off in about two seconds….). We ordered a coffee and grabbed another bottle of water, and enjoyed the view over the wetlands and some well-deserved rest and stretches. The staff were more than happy to fill our bottles with cold water from the fridge before we left, and we pushed on through the slippery gravel, knowing we only had around 10km to go.

Once we left the grounds of Tahbilk behind, it was back onto free-flowing farmland gravel, with hay bales piled high on either side of the road. We were quickly spat out onto the main road into Nagambie, feeling joyous as we rode up the service road suddenly surrounded by cars again after such a quiet day.

Reaching the lakefront, we pulled into a park and leaned our bikes against a bench, and collapsed onto the ground to await our train back to Melbourne.


For more ride reports from the GABCY Network see – Ride Reports


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