When I first moved to Melbourne 10-years ago, people were full of suggestions for things that must be done to kick start life as a Melburnian.
You must go to Seven Seeds for coffee, they’d say.
You must find your way over to Mountain Goat on Friday night for beers and pizza, they’d tell me.
You must have a picnic on the banks of the Yarra near the Botanical Gardens, they’d gush.
It wasn’t until I’d lived in Melbourne for several years though, that I found out about the Main Yarra Trail, a bike path following the Yarra River.
Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? I’d complain to whomever would listen.
The Main Yarra Trail starts near the Westgate Bridge, skirts Southbank, rambles through the inner eastern suburbs, and then rolls all the way to Eltham. This trail is a true Melbourne gem, and I am happy to let you in on the secret if you aren’t already in the know.
I am going to focus on the section of the Trail which runs from Yarra Bend Park all the way to Eltham, because I think it is the portion less travelled, and it shouldn’t be.
The Fairfield Boathouse is where your journey begins. From this location, you can connect to the Merri Creek Trail and head north, or head south on the portion of the path that the Merri Creek Trail shares with the Main Yarra, but those are journeys for another day.
Crossing the aptly named Fairfield Pipe Bridge over the Yarra, you climb away from the river for the moment. The hill is significant but not long, and is far from impossible. Fortunately it is probably the hardest grind on what is a relatively flat ride.
From there, you’ll wind your way through bushland, past wetlands, with glimpses of the Yarra around every bend. You’ll be passing through Kew, Heidelberg, and Templestowe, but the setting is so woodsy and bucolic that you wouldn’t know it.
By the time you’ve reached Westerfolds State Park in Templestowe, you might want to stop for water at one of the taps located there, if you haven’t found another one already. Not to worry, there are bathroom stops located all along the route as well.
Another great thing about heading north on the Main Yarra Trail is that it connects you to so many other great rides. Amongst others, you’ll see the Darebin Creek Trail, which goes north to La Trobe Uni, and also the Koonung Creek Trail, which travels east all the way to Dandenong. But those are adventures for another day.
The flip side to all these great connections is that you must keep your wits about you to ensure you stay on the Main Yarra Trail. The path is well signposted, so keep your eyes open and you should be fine.
If you have your kids with you, just past beyond Westerfold is an epic enclosed kids playground in Eltham Lower Park that is good for a break. Just a bit further up the trail is the legendary Diamond Valley Railway, a miniature train that takes passengers on 2km rides around the park.
The next thing you know, you’ve arrived at Eltham. Having ridden around 22 kilometers, you’re probably ready for a trip to the pub. From there you could catch the train back into town, happy with having had a great day out, or turn around and ride back into town.
Or you could hop onto the Diamond Creek Trail and continue heading north all the way to its namesake suburb. But that too, is a suggestion for another day.
- Thanks to the website We Love Melbourne for the handy map below of the trail. It shows the starting point in Yarra Bend Park at the Fairfield Boathouse.
- From the start in Yarra Bend Park to Eltham the trail is 22km long. The ride will take around 3 to 4 hours one way, allowing for plenty of stops and depending on your speed.
- As an alternative to riding from Yarra Bend to Eltham, you can catch the train via the Hurstbridge Line up to Eltham and ride back into the city. The train ride from the Melbourne CBD takes around an hour.
- If you have young children who are riding on their own and a 22km ride is a bit much for them, we’d recommend finding your way to the sections of the trail around Banyule Flats or Westerfolds Park for some short but sweet sections of the Trail.