What's better than feeling the wind through your hair as you explore the Yarra Valley by bike?
Having some extra power behind you as you cycle your way along the winding, scenic rail trail from Lilydale to Warburton.
Cycling is a great way to enjoy the trail, but if you think you won't have the energy to ride it - it is 38km one way - think again.
Yarra Valley Cycles hires out standard and mountain bikes, but there’s also an electric variety proving popular with recreational riders. It’s not hard to see why.
You still need to pedal, but it takes a lot less effort, especially uphill!
Even after riding in temperatures around 30C, I was hardly out of breath.
The electric bikes are powered by lithium ion battery and run for six to eight hours. We rode about 40km and only used about a fifth of the battery.
You can choose where to pick up and drop off the bikes, but a central and popular place to start is Launching Place, and the Home Hotel, which has plenty of parking and is an easy spot to find Andrew from Yarra Valley Cycles to pick up your wheels.
Setting off, you can ride just under 7km back towards Lilydale to Woori Yallock on the flat, gravel path.
There are plenty of picturesque spots for a photo opportunity as you cross restored bridges and admire greenery and rolling hills. There’s even deer grazing in paddocks!
Take the five-minute walk into Woori Yallock township, or just stop at the picnic tables to refill your water bottle before heading back along the trail.
From Launching Place, it’s only 2.4km to Yarra Junction, a town steeped in history.
It’s home to the Upper Yarra Museum, which is run by volunteers and has a big collection of artefacts that detail life in the valley from as far back as a century ago.
Everything from the history of the Victorian Railways to gold mining, settlement, timber and farming industries, and domestic life are covered.
Master blacksmith Dietmar Fleckhammer, from the Yarra Junction Hobby Blacksmithing Group, also demonstrates his craft there and offers lessons from time to time.
It is fascinating to watch this as he heats up metals to make his works, a lot of which are for sale.
If you’d prefer to keep moving, just down the road is the Yarra Centre, which features a 25m indoor, heated pool and a heated toddler pool, plus a café, barbecue facilities and other sports equipment.
Leaving Yarra Junction, it’s another 5.1km to Millgrove, with its historic sawmill.
There is a community market next to the town’s CFA station on the fourth Sunday of the month.
The final stop on the trail is 3.3km away, and the scenery changes to more dense vegetation and greenery.
But while Warburton is the trail's end point, it's not the end for exploration.
The town on the banks of the Yarra River bustles with activity.
And you’ll no doubt be hungry, so settle in to one of the many eateries for some quality food.
Just off the trail is a place named Little Joe and it's big on good food and service.
Freshly made wood-fired pizzas straight from the oven are the big drawcard, and so hard to choose from - a long list includes classic combinations like salami, tomato, mozzarella and basil, and specials like a delicious caramelised onion, goats curd, olive, eggplant chips and parsley.
There are also great starters – try the marinated olives and wood-fired Turkish bread with extras - and other mains.
Quench your thirst with an alcoholic beverage, the list includes many local offerings, or go for something simpler like an iced coffee.
No meal is complete without a sweet treat.
The vanilla and blueberry Portuguese pudding with mascarpone was a hit, or try the delicious Chum Creek Coffee Co brew with a cake from the display.
Then lock your bike up (we did just outside Little Joe) and let the food digest.
Do you want to relax by the water? Or maybe take a walk on one of the many tracks nearby?
On the first Sunday of the month, have a wander around the Warby Artisans and Produce Market at the Upper Yarra Arts Centre, with plenty of handcrafted and homemade products, baked goods and produce.
On your way riding back along the trail, you can drop off your bike at the Launching Place General Store and take a home a piece of the valley in the form of freshly laid Little Yarra Free Range Eggs.
Between the captivating scenery, the many places to stop off, and the surprises along the way, the trail makes for a magical ride.
Zoe Powell is our new guest blogger. Zoe is an extremely busy editor at Leader Community News, an ambassador for I Quit Sugar, and in her spare time she's a fabulous blogger and social media natural.
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