The Ot-way

 old beechy rail trail cycling

Where: the Otway Ranges—south-west Victoria

Length: 144km

Difficulty: moderate/hard

Terrain: hilly

Surface: about 50/50 sealed/unsealed. Generally well made surfaces, occasional steep/rough sections. Gravel-type bike recommended. 

What: stunning temperate rainforest, good climbs, fun descents, beaches, waterfalls, food, wine, beer, cider, raspberries. 

THE RIDE

This ride takes in the lush farmland and temperate rainforest of the Otways, with a visit to the coastal town of Lorne. It's roughly a third each of sealed, well-made gravel and rail-trail, and while not high mileage if taken over three days (which I'd recommend), it's very hilly, with two major climbs, two great descents and a lot of undulations in between.

The first third of the ride is on the main road between Birregurra and Lorne, and although there will be some traffic, outside of peak tourist times it shouldn't be too heavy. It is on this section you will encounter the first major climb and descent. This ascent isn't severe, but the downhill into Lorne is long, windy and fun. 

The hardest climb comes after Lorne on Erskine Falls Road. This one is reasonably big and pretty steep in parts, and will get the heart rate up. This takes you onto Mt Sabine road, an undulating gravel road with very little traffic that more-or-less follows the spine of the ranges. After about 25km you will reach Forrest-Apollo Bay Road where you will turn left, and after a few kilometres turn right onto Turtons Track, a single-lane sealed road, again with little traffic.

Turtons Track is one of the prettiest stretches of bitumen I have cycled, a narrow ribbon of black-top that winds through an area of tall, wet eucalypt forest. Eventually it widens and takes you to the hamlet of Beech Forest, from where you will join the Old Beechy Rail Trail for the remainder of the journey to Colac. The start of the trail is well marked on the right-hand side of the road, shortly after the Beechy Hotel.  

The Old Beechy has some steep and gravelly sections early on, but soon settles into a more relaxed mood with a long, gradual, winding descent into Gellibrand. It's a very charming trail, a narrow-gauge line that, again, takes you through very beautiful forest.

ATTRACTIONS

  • The region itself is a world famous attraction thanks to its wild and scenic coastline, beautiful beaches and the stunning rainforest that carpet its ranges. The forest is lush, containing tree ferns and mountain ash-a tall, majestic eucalypt that is the tallest flowering plant in the world.

  • There are three waterfalls en-route-Erskine Falls (km46), Sabine Falls (km74), and Beauchamp Falls (km97, where you can also camp).

  • You can swim at the beach in Lorne, and check out the things to see and do in town.

  • Culinary attractions include wineries, breweries, berry farms, cafes and restaurants. Take a look at the Otway Harvest Trail for more info.

  • Interesting settlement and logging history, particularly along the Old Beechy Rail Trail.

WHEN

During peak tourist season (from about christmas until the end of January) the roads are busy and the place is pretty overrun by visitors. Accommodation and camping is often full and traders jack up their prices to make the most of it. Winter is much quieter but the weather is often very woolly, with cold winds and rain blowing off the southern ocean. Outside of these times you can enjoy quieter roads and more reasonable weather. 

GETTING THERE

Both the start and end point of this ride are on the Warrnambool train line. V-line runs three services a day in both directions on this line. 

MAPS

LINKS

OTHER RIDES LIKE THIS ONE

 

Disclaimer: should you choose to cycle this route, you do so at your own risk. Although all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure its accuracy at the time of writing, Adventure Cycling Victoria cannot guarantee that the information herein is 100% correct. The information published is meant as a guide only, and should be combined with your own due diligence and planning. Adventure Cycling Victoria and its contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following this route.