The light at the end of the NR Rail Trail tunnel is bright!
Rail Trail – a new way to immerse yourself in the beautiful landscapes of Northern NSW
Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail opened on 1 March 2023.
From Murwillumbah, the rail trail takes you south along the path of the railway that closed in 2004, past the Tweed Regional Gallery, through Dunbible, Stokers Siding, Burringbar, Mooball and ending just south of Crabbes Creek.
“Of the 24 kilometre rail trail, six are sealed asphalt and the rest is solid compact gravel,” says Tiffany Stodart, Manager Destination, Communication and Customer Experience at Tweed Shire Council “The trail passes seven historic railway stations and 26 bridges, 16 of which you travel across and 10 which are bypassed. There are two tunnels including the 524-metre long Burringbar Range Tunnel.”
This is a trail for both visitors and locals, and for people wanting to travel by foot or wheel. “It’s not just for cyclists, it’s for walkers and joggers, families with prams and kids on their bikes and scooters,” Tiffany says. “We have kids riding to school and a gentleman who travels between Burringbar and Mooball in his mobility scooter.”
One local who had his bike tyres pumped ready for the opening day was Ocean Shores resident David Froggatt. “We cycled the whole length of the trail from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek in three hours including a decent stop for bacon and maple syrup pancakes at the Burringbar Gallery and Café,” he says. “From Murwillumbah, you start in sugar cane fields, the valley to Stokers Siding is open and rural then there’s a gradual uphill to Burringbar.”
It’s at this point that you go through the Burringbar Range Tunnel. “It’s dead-straight so there’s literally a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Tiffany, noting the recommendation to carry a torch as the tunnel is kept dark to protect resident glow-worms and microbats. David agrees: “You could do it without a light but it’d be a bit sketchy,” he says.
“Then there’s a consistent drop back down into the Burringbar Valley with gorgeous views and such beautiful countryside beside a creek,” says David. “It’s treed and shady and, at the old train stations, there are shelters and info signs.”
Other facilities, including accessible toilets, are being developed. There are water bubblers and bike pumps at Murwillumbah, Mooball and Burringbar and a ‘bike fix-it rack’ with tools for repairs at Murwillumbah Station.
If you drive to the rail trail, Tiffany recommends starting somewhere other than Crabbes Creek, which doesn’t have much parking. “Murwillumbah is best for parking and Burringbar and Mooball are fine too,” she says. “And locals will soon discover other access points.”
The trail is all about shared users, so considering the safety and wellbeing of not only yourself (with sun-protection and water), the environment (carry any rubbish out) and other trail users is essential. Dogs on short leads and e-bicycles up to 250 watts are allowed and, at the moment, horses are being trialed on a 2 kilometer section only. “Though the trail is three metres wide, there are points where you could go off the edge very quickly so it’s a challenge to safely meet everybody’s needs,” says Tiffany.
At the other end of the full 132-kilometre rail corridor, there’s full-steam ahead on trail construction between Casino and Lismore. The middle section, which runs mainly through the Byron Shire, is as yet unfunded.
David enjoyed his ride so much he’s already planning his next trip: “I’m so excited we’ve got this world-class cycling opportunity through such beautiful country.”
Find out more: All trail info, including a detailed map and safety information, are available from northernriversrailtrail.com.au Community celebrations are planned for 25-26 March 2023.