The long-awaited Northern Rivers Rail Trail has opened, and you bet we tossed on our sneakers and gave it a test-run for the opening weekend.
What’s the Northern Rivers Rail Trail? It’s a track that used to be a rail track that connected trains from Byron Bay to Murwillumbah. They stopped running years ago, and ever since we’ve had grass growing over the rails, with no real purpose, until now.
The first 24km of rail trail was completed recently, linking Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek. For us Tweed locals it’s been a pretty exciting project that we’ve been hearing a lot about, and an exciting addition after a hard year of floods and local damage (we’re still in recovery mode here in the Tweed with motels filled with locals being re-homed after losing their homes, and roads still damaged). It’s been a tough 12 months for many, and I’m sure opening the rail trail on the 1 year anniversary wasn’t a coincidence, instead a nice boost for the community.
I’d seen a local share on Facebook, about a kid-friendly shady part of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, so we opted for that leg of the track, knowing that it would be quite busy with everyone wanting to give it a try while it was brand new and exciting.
How to walk the Northern Rivers Rail Trail with Kids
While most people opt to start the rail trail at Murwillumbah (the start of the 24km track), there is a way to do a smaller section, ideal for those on foot and wanting to start at a quieter location. When we passed through Murwillumbah there was no parking and it was packed with cars and bikes, so we were glad that we had already made the decision to start further south.
Just south of Murwillumbah (around 12 minute drive) is a small town called Stokers Siding. We parked roadside between the General Store/Post Office and Stokers Siding School. This is a really sweet small town, with nothing open on a Sunday, so don’t plan to stop for lunch here (on Sundays, but during the week would be fine), but it’s a great starting point for the walk.
I’d heard that this section of the trail was really leafy and shaded, which was ideal for walking on a hot 28ºC day. The surface of the track varies. To start it was tar, and then gravel, and then sometimes concrete. It was well done, with no trip hazards, and easy to walk on for us, as well as usable for bikes. There would also be no problem for prams and strollers.
From Stokers Siding we headed towards Dunbible (which was North-ish), and walked for around 2km. We kept this walk short, mostly because we had our older dog with us and she tires quickly (poor old girl!) We plan on walking longer, and more excitingly, riding it very soon, so I’ll update with what that is like when we do it.
The trail was busy, but not so busy that it was annoying. It was more really exciting to see everyone having fun. We only saw one other walking group, all the rest were riding (but I also think most walkers were starting from Murwillumbah rather than this sneaky section).
It’s really important to always keep left (something that might be a little foreign for some overseas visitors), so that bike riders can safely ride around and there are not issues with safety and crowding.
The scenery is really beautiful. Lush greenery, some bridges, and waterways. We even said hello to a local whose property crosses over the rail trail, which must be exciting to see for her. My dream is to see a koala in the wild, but sadly we didn’t spot any on this walk. One day, I tell you. I’ll see my wild koala!
We turned around prematurely (only realising later as we drove home), but just a few hundred metres from where we turned there is a proper Dunbible rest area, so I suggest walking that little bit further to the stop area and having a read of the info and stopping for a drink and a little break.
While plans for the Northern Rivers Rail Trail to continue to Byron Bay, and eventually Lismore and Casino are still in the works, this first start is a cracking beginning. I’m so impressed and can’t wait to explore more.
Northern Rivers Rail Trail Questions
Is the Rail Trail free to use?
Yup. It’s free to use.
What is the best time to walk the Rail Trail?
It’s suggested that you use the Northern Rivers Rail Trail between sunrise and sunset. While it would be quiet at nighttime it wouldn’t be ideal to navigate in the dark, but also, it’s not forbidden (so if riding, walking, running in the dark is your thing, go for it).
How long does it take to do the Rail Trail?
The entire length of the trail is 24km, so it would totally depend who is walking, how fit they are, and for us, how many old dogs they have with them. 😜 For the shorter section, Stokers Siding to Dunbible, that we took, it was around a 45 minute round trip and there was lots of stopping for photo-taking and having a little look around.
What’s allowed on the Rail Trail?
You can take bikes, and e-bikes, wheelchairs and mobility scooters, prams and dogs on short leads. Of course, walkers are also allowed. On the sealed sections of the trail, skateboards and scooters are welcome. If you want to take your horse, you’ll need to have a permit.
What’s not allowed on the Rail Trail?
You can keep your motorbikes at home, as well as petrol-powered bicycles, quadbikes, and pet cows (wink, wink).