We love exploring around our local area, and since there’s nothing better than a good long bike ride, we’ve really wanted to ride the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) for quite some time.
The BVRT follows the Brisbane Valley railway line that was built between 1882 and 1913 and it covers an impressive total distance of 130km, from Yarraman to Ipswich. We decided just to take on a bite-sized piece of it: Fernvale to Ipswich.
In Fernvale, we got our bikes set up and ready to go. Before we could even push off, our perpetually hungry teenager, Zach, declared that he was starving. Luckily we were taking a stash of muesli bars and protein balls, essentials when adventuring with hungry kids! (Plenty of water too)
The trail leaves Fernvale from near the Information Centre at Fernvale Memorial Park. The track runs behind the park, then heads south past some houses. From there, it becomes a wide fire road that is well graded and easy to pick up some speed on. The view quickly changes from town to country.
A bit of history
Winding through paddocks and light forest, we soon came upon some remnants of a bygone era of travel. The last of the steam trains to run in Queensland returned from Yarraman to Ipswich on the line in 1969 and after just a few kilometres of riding from Fernvale, we came upon evidence of the railway line. Still intact bridge supports rise up out of the grass and overlook a beautiful dam. The trail winds around then down across a creek on a concrete section of path. It is such a picturesque spot, perfect for photos and we were so glad that we stopped to take it all in. This was Eli’s favourite spot along the way.
We kept riding along the trail, which crossed a few rural side roads – the variety of gates on the roadsides are set up so that people with bikes or horses can easily pass through. The trail treats you to many classic rural outlooks – paddocks and fields, forest, scrubby bush and some really lovely country vistas. Apart from crossing a number of quiet rural roads, the track is off road and stress-free as we didn’t have to worry about cars and trucks in the vicinity of where we were riding.
The main exception is where the trail crosses over the Brisbane Valley Highway just south of Wanora. Of course, careful supervision must be taken here with children, but we didn’t find it difficult to cross safely. Once we crossed the highway, we continued to enjoy the quiet trail and even more variety in the scenery.
Seeing the old railway station signs along the way was really cool and enhanced the sense that we were following a path that many before have travelled, even if it was by different means.
As we continued along the last half of the journey, we could feel that the track was still trending slightly downhill, which is always appreciated, especially after you have been riding for a long time! The track surface varies: sometimes grassy, sometimes packed dirt, graded dirt and gravel and some short concrete sections as well.
Perhaps being the youngest of three boys is making Cadel a bit of an adrenalin junkie, but his favourite parts of the trip were the “jumps” (a few drainage gutters) and a section of track that drops steeply down to a dry gully and then ascends just as swiftly. There is a sign to give fair warning when you approach this part.
As we approached the outer suburbs of Ipswich, the traffic noise from the Warrego Highway signals the end of the rural part of our journey. Soon after passing under the highway, the BVRT transitions into the Brassall Bikeway.
The Brassall Bikeway takes us from Brassall through to North Ipswich passing over some impressive bridges and past some really interesting street sculptures. Once again, not having to contend with traffic made riding with the kids really comfortable and enjoyable.
From North Brisbane we used the footpaths on the road network to ride to Ipswich CBD to finish our journey.
We had covered over 25km and the boys were hungry for some late lunch. We were very thankful to find that Fourthchild were still serving meals so we could feed our hungry adventurers.
The Fernvale to Ipswich section of the BVRT is best suited to mountain bikes. Kids on BMXs would certainly be able to negotiate the trail, but the full distance would be difficult. We would recommend the full trip for families with older children and teenagers, who are accustomed to spending extended periods on the bike.
There are a couple of other options for families with smaller children. One would be to do an out-and-back trip: start at the end of the BVRT in Brassall and head up the trail towards Fernvale but turn around when appropriate for your group.
Alternatively, you could leave from Fernvale and have someone meet you where the BVRT meets the Brisbane Valley Highway just south of Wanora. This was a really lovely section of the trail and would be worth the extra effort required for transport.
The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail was long enough to really add a feeling of “journey” to the day. Definitely a highlight of our school holidays and we highly recommend it!