It can be nice to ride along the beach. But it’s just as good to go inland. Whether you’re after some arts and culture, a piece of Victorian history, or simply a stunning view of the city and some bush scenery, the Yarra bike trail out to Heide is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.
- Meet at Fairfield cafe Mr Wednesday for Industry Beans coffee and a light brunch. Or, if you’re not ready to eat, hold out for Fairfield boathouse.
- Avoid the inner-city traffic and catch a train to Dennis Station. Look for trains running north on the Hurstbridge Line from the CBD stations.
AND YOU’RE OFF:
From Dennis Station or Mr Wednesday, it’s an easy ride to Fairfield boathouse. The fresh air, water, greenery and cottage-like cafe awaiting when you arrive will allow you to forget how close you actually are to the CBD. Watch out for dogs, other cyclists and families emerging from the many playgrounds while you're riding.
Fairfield boathouse is one of those places that makes you feel like a tourist in your own town. Decent coffee and a big English breakfast await those who want to fuel up at the start of the ride. The boathouse also rents out gentlemen’s rowing skiffs, canoes and kayaks. Take a relaxing trip along the Yarra River before you cycle north. It may end up being your longest stop, but the river views are worth it.
Riding uphill once you cross the huge industrial bridge, you can play spot the city. It's very quieting to sit up high above the Eastern Freeway, and look over other people rushing while you coast along.
As you come to the corner of the Chandler Highway and Yarra Boulevard, you can make a clean break over the traffic. Or, for those with good bikes – and nerves of steel – you can ride down the edge of the stairs and then under the Chandler Bridge in all its historic glory (it was built in 1891).
This is where the scenery turns from rugged bushland to open green lawns with beautiful big old gums. The birds are louder and the freeway is quieter as you roll along the river, waving at passing (often geriatric) canoe rowers. The rhythm of the oars against the water is a nice soundtrack to set your riding pace to.
Where the path leads you right in between the freeway and the river is when you starts feeling like one of the kids from Stand by Me; you've been riding long enough that you've got a slight sheen on your brow; you’re giddy from the speed you’ve built up, whizzing past all the trees; and although there are no dead bodies, no scary train tracks and definitely no leeches, there is a sense of childlike adventure that’s quite hard to find off of a bike
If you’re looking for it, there’s a nod to childhood when you come out into the suburban streets next to the freeway – right down to the basketball net perfectly placed at the end of a dead-end street.
Whizzing past the golf course, it’s very easy to get lost in this section, that's half the fun. Cycling along the path between the golf course and the river, you’ll find yourself very thankful for the fences designed to save you from golf balls gone rogue. (And you’re more than a little likely to hear cries of "Heads!" screamed across a seemingly calm fairway.)
After some ups and downs (literal and maybe metaphorical) and many checkings of Google Maps, you emerge reborn from the snaking bike tracks into the grounds of Heide. Wander inside and explore the major exhibition currently on show, O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism.
After you look around the gallery, take yourself to the on-site cafe and refuel for the ride home. Grab something and take a short walk through the sprawling gallery gardens and grounds as well as the famous sculpture park before heading off.
If you’re game, and have a bit of steam left in you after refueling on art and snacks, you can head on to Diamond Creek from Heide. The Diamond Creek Path goes past Eltham to Diamond Creek (it’s an extra 18.4 kilometres of riding). On the way is the Edendale Community Farm (12 kilometres from Heide), an environmental education centre.
This article was updated on December 21, 2016.