Back to nature: Bike your way across Victoria's top national parks

Back to nature: Bike your way across Victoria's top national parks

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If you and your family are looking for an interstate travel opportunity that will be sure to get your hearts pumping, there's really no better destination than Victoria.

This humble, little state is actually home to some of Australia's most challenging and dynamic cycling routes and mountain biking trails, making it the perfect domestic getaway destination for families looking for a little outdoorsy adventure over these summer holidays.

But where exactly should you be setting your sights on? A fair portion of Victoria's most idyllic and popular cycling tracks actually go straight through some of the state's must-see national parklands, including the Dandenong Ranges.

We've put together four of these quintessential cycling tracks so that you can get a head start on mapping out the itinerary for your family's great Victorian summer cycling adventure.

Mountain biking through the Dandenong Ranges

There's no denying that metro Melbourne has a little something for every kind of cyclist, whether you're on a road bike or a mountain bike.

For avid mountain bikers, the Melbourne region is home to many jaw-dropping tracks and trails, including North Melbourne's own Plenty Gorge state parklands.

If you're looking for trails that are a little wilder, however, the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne's east are well worth a visit or two over the course of your stay in Melbourne.

There are ten major trails that are well worth trying that span the suburbs of Dandenong and Ferntree Gully as well as the gorgeous Silvan and Olinda regions.

These trails are of varying difficulty, so it's best to do some independent research online to get a gauge of their length and elevation before you load your car up for the drive to the ranges.

Some trails may see you cycling high into the mountainous region, while others like the Dandenong Ranges Loop, will have you journeying around the base of the region's peaks and on relatively even ground, which may be ideal for younger or older cyclists.

Being so close to metro Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges parklands are some of Victoria's most accessible national park spaces, making it the perfect destination for families travelling with younger children.

Sun, sand, and sky at French Island National Park

If you're looking for some picture perfect seaside cycling tracks, look no further than the Mornington Peninsula's own French Island National Park. Located just 61km south-east of the Melbourne CBD, French Island is actually far more accessible than you may think at first glance, considering it's smack dab in the middle of the region's Westernport Bay.

Despite the fact that French Island is only accessible via a thirty minute passenger ferry ride, it is possible to visit the island on a day trip, so you won't necessarily have to seek overnight accommodation, especially if your aim is to complete the French Island Loop track.

This track is just under 50km with slight elevations here and there and a maximum elevation of 79.2m, making it an ideal all-day challenge for cyclists of all levels.

Terrain can vary from slatted boardwalks through dense mangrove forests, to gravelly pathways, so it may be best to tackle this lengthy loop on a mountain bike over an urban road bike.

French Island is also a marine conservation zone, with its surrounding seagrasses and mudflats being nursery habitats for a handful of fish species as well as nesting grounds for migratory seabirds like waders.

With this in mind, there's plenty of reasons to take the French Island Loop slow over multiple days if that's what you'd prefer to do!

You can book accommodation or even camp at the Fairhaven Campgrounds, located just a few kilometres from Tankerton Jetty where the ferry docks.

As French Island is also accessible via ferry from Phillip Island, its accommodation options are available to you as well.

Coastal cruising at Point Nepean National Park

On the southernmost tip of Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay sits the illustrious landscape of Point Nepean.

This coastal gem is home to a myriad of preserved colonial buildings, Indigenous cultural sites, and the awe-inspiring structures of Fort Nepean, the fortifications that made Melbourne one of the most protected cities during both World Wars I & II.

This region is well known for its self-guided cycling tours, spanning from the picturesque Sorrento Historic Park to the east of Portsea, through to the entirety of the Point Nepean National Park that spans to the region's west.

There's plenty to see and do here both on and off your bike, making this destination a favourite amongst adventurers who don't necessarily want to follow a set path.

Unlike French Island and the Dandenongs, the cycling tracks and hiking trails throughout Point Nepean aren't very steep and are generally more built-up, so you'll be guaranteed to experience smooth coastal cruising throughout your self-guided tour across this incredibly rich region.

Be sure to include Cheviot Hill, the fortifications across Fort Nepean, and the Harold Holt Memorial to your itinerary when visiting these timeless national parklands.

Experience Victoria's history along the Goldfields Track

Want an extra dose of Victorian history and an expansive cycling track to boot? The 210km long Goldfields Track is one of Victoria's absolute must-do experiences, both for avid cyclists and history buffs alike. An extensive route that links the 'great goldfields' cities of Ballarat and Bendigo, the Goldfields Track will have you gliding through some of country Victoria's most breathtaking townships, including Creswick, Daylesford, and Castlemaine.

The bulk of the Goldfields Track (the Wallaby Track) will have you meandering through forests sitting at the base of the Great Dividing Range, ferrying you through to Mt Buninyong and into the charming region of Daylesford.

This track's temperate climate and healthy tree coverage makes it one of country Victoria's more refreshing tracks and a quintessential summertime experience for cyclists living in all corners of the state.

With plenty of accommodation options along the track between Bendigo and Ballarat, riding across the Goldfields can be the basis of your entire Victorian cycling experience. In fact, packing a lightweight tent and some camping gear along for the ride will allow you to complete the Goldfields at your own pace, and ensure that you and the rest of your party don't miss any of the picturesque views that you'll experience along the way.

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With mountains, beaches, grasslands, and sleepy little rural towns to keep you company along all the trails we've outlined above, there's no denying that Victoria is definitely the place to be if you're looking to get on your bike over this coming summer.

Be sure to map out your routes and flesh out your itinerary nice and early to ensure that all members of your cycling party know just what they'll have to look forward to when visiting the Garden State!