An hours train ride North West of Melbourne is the 300 kilometre long, 3 forked Great Dividing Trail Network linking the country city of Bendigo with Daylesford and onward to either Bacchus Marsh and Ballarat, depending on the direction you choose.
The softly undulating track winds through ripped up mining traces, gigantic eucalpyt tree forests, lovely looping singletrack and rutted forestry roads.
There are large populations of bouncy native mammals crashing about and abundant birdlife squawking and flapping and yahooing around.
Resupply is easy but water can be scarce.
I walked from Bendigo to Bacchus Marsh in May, 2022. Almost always alone, I met no other walkers, only a few mountain bikers and camped where ever I wanted.
No access issues, no dumb bogans, very little road walking.
If you want a budget friendly, easily accessible, week long hike near Melbourne then the GDT is a fantastic option. I had a mighty time, lets crack on...
|Map sourced from Google Maps.|
Getting To the Trailhead:
Bendigo and Bacchus Marsh are served by regular Vline trains that shuttle back and forth many times a day to and from Southern Cross station in central Melbourne.
The trip up to Bendigo took around 2 hours and cost around $24, off peak fare.
I purchased a Myki card from a machine for $6 (non refundable) and added $32 credit onto it to cover the fare to Bendigo and also the fare from Bacchus Marsh back to Melbourne a week later (around $6).
Vline train fares and timetable here.
Note: There is no formal signage at these train stations announcing the GDT terminus'.
This is the kicker. Although the trail crosses many streams and creeks, many of them are seasonal and dry for much of the year. I sourced water from public taps and faucets in parks and picnic areas around the towns and localities and made sure I was carrying enough to get me through 15km or so of walking. At the end of a day I loaded up with H20 where possible in case I ended up dry camping on a ridge which is what I usually did.
There are also quite a few mineral springs with public faucets you pump up and down for a bit that I encountered and utilised. You won't die of dehydration on the GDT but I suggest grabbing every opportunity that pokes it's head up for a drink.
Most of the picnic shelters have a power socket to charge your phone too if you search around hard enough.
Plenty of trees and flat spots and privacy to camp wherever you want.
Day 1- Bushland 10km South of Bendigo near the water race.
Day 2- Slope below Mt Alexander.
Day 3- Bushland 2km North of Fryerstown. (Fryerstown has a Community Hall with toilets and water and undercover area, camping permitted.)
Day 4- Bushland above Hepburn Springs.
Day 5- Bushland 10km South of Daylesford.
Day 6- Nolan Creek Picnic Area. (I didn't see the no camping sign until the following day but no one disturbed me and a small fire on a frosty night was welcome.)
Day 7- Bushland along Nolan's Track. (Locked gate, walkers only.)
Pentland Council Sports Oval Toilet. (I rocked into the outskirts of Bacchus Marsh on a Saturday evening and it was either $45 for an unpowered tent site or $556 for an Air BnB. Instead, I chose a fairly clean toilet cubicle that the security guard didn't check was empty and then neglected to lock it correctly, thankfully for me.
- Bendigo itself has a Woolworths supermarket and shops right beside the train station.
- Castlemaine has IGA supermarkets and shops and the trail goes right into town.
- Daylesford is a really cool and yes, touristy town with a Coles supermarket and loads of cafes.
- Blackwood has a great Post Office/ Cafe with a good bakery and coffee.
- Bacchus Marsh has a Coles supermarket and shops and is easy to navigate.
I purchased a butane gas cannister from Bogong outdoor equipment store in Melbourne before boarding the train to Bendigo.
Navigation and Resources:
There are maps available from the official Great Dividing Trail website here.
I chose to download the free GPX files from the website of the Lederderg Track (Daylesford to Bacchus Marsh), the Dry Diggings Track (Castlemaine to Daylesford ) and the Leanganook Track (Bendigo to Castlemaine) and open them on the Gaia app. GPX links here.
This was free and ample for working out where I was on trail.
Track signage is excellent.
The guides are available in the Visitor Information Centres in the major towns along the trail as well.
I also purchased the Lederderg Park map (below) from Bogong in Melbourne for $11.
I did this walk on a slim budget, wanting to see how cheap I could take things and still have a great time out in the woods. This hiking area so close to Melbourne and a sizeable local regional population was for the most part uber peaceful and all about the solitude.
I exchanged a few greetings with the odd mountain biker or dog walker but was mostly alone and I had a blast heading Southbound.
Big thanks and hugs to the legends who maintain this trail network!