We’re all familiar with pictures of a peloton snaking down a smooth tarmac road in the Tour de France, or of a mountain biker immersed in stunning forest trails. Alongside the familiar though, there is a new kid on the block in the cycling world, and it is taking the riding world by storm.

Gravel riding falls somewhere between road and mountain biking and it has taken off, for all sorts of good reasons. Be it quiet back roads, the right bike to take that turn you always wanted to, or the chance to explore scenic lanes and forest paths, gravel is a gift that keeps on giving.

We are possibly biased, but the rise of the gravel bike is great news for our part of the world, because the gravel riding options are excellent. It is no coincidence that events like the Dirty Pig & Whistle, starting and finishing in Creswick, have popped up in the last few years.

Here in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, you can start things off with a pre-ride coffee and treat at a French patisserie before riding off into an incredible oak forest. Then roll on through lush farmlands and into stunning messmate forests, taking in a lake or two along the way… an experience known as ‘gravel goodness’.
Stopping at one of our many villages for a crucial (and excellent) second coffee and fresh baked goods is a must. A wave to a tractor, a kangaroo or two, plus fellow riders, tops off a perfect day.

Those in the know are hesitant to let the cat out of the bag about just how good this region is for gravel riding. However, it would be wrong not to share the joy one feels when exploring our many trails. There are a plethora of fab options, but we thought we would start with a few suggested routes to kick things off, naturally with the all-important food and drink stops along the way.


First up, using Creswick as a base, there are some fantastic round-trip options. Equally important, there are great fuel stops before and after. Le Péché Gourmand serves up tasty French treats, while Smokeytown Café, Meg’s Place and the Creswick Bakery are all top notch as well.

A popular route is the 80km version of the gravel route taken at the Dirty Pig & Whistle event (happening 18-19 May 2024). Starting in Creswick, the route goes hard early, with an ascent of the well-known lung buster, Brackenbury Hill. It then takes a series of quiet, undulating farm roads to Clunes, where you can refuel with coffee and treats before turning back to Creswick. All up it’s 80km long, with a little over 600m of vertical ascent. Think rolling, hard pack gravel, small towns and bucolic scenes.

Cliffy's Emporium Daylesford, photo by Bec Rowlands
Cliffy's Emporium Daylesford, photo by Bec Rowlands

Famed for its mineral springs and day spas, it turns out the gravel riding is pretty darn good here too. We love to start and finish at Cliffy’s Emporium, with a coffee in the morning and a refreshing ale (and tasty food to match) when we return.

Fellow rider (and CEO of Daylesford Macedon Tourism) Steve Wroe recommends a 30-ish km loop that he often does before work. You warm up by rolling through Daylesford township, before ascending Lake Road past Jubilee Lake and onto the gravel roads and into the Wombat Forest.

It’s long, steady climb, topping out at over 800m as you ride along beautiful farm roads and through the hamlet of Bullarto. Riding north, you’re back into the forest for a fun descent before popping out near Daylesford Cider and then back into Daylesford.

Fit riders will knock this route off in 90 minutes, but it’s easy to extend to include Trentham, making it around 50km.

The Dirty Pig & Whistle event, photo by Spurlo Style Photography
The Dirty Pig & Whistle event, photo by Spurlo Style Photography


Woodend is another great place to start and finish. With a direct train service to Melbourne, and Mount Macedon as a backdrop, it ticks a lot of boxes. The Wombat Wanderer is a fantastic and relatively easy 25km trail. Warm up your legs on Mahoneys Road, then follow the ‘No Road’ signs to explore the quiet backroads into the Wombat State Forest. You’ll be immersed in lush, shaded forest as you wind your way around these quiet gravel roads. There is quite a bit of undulation in the first 15kms, but the last 10km of largely downhill makes it all worthwhile. Post ride, Holgate Brewhouse is the natural way to celebrate and ‘re-hydrate’ after a great day on the dirt.


If travelling with the family, the Federation Trail linking Lancefield and Romsey is a fantastic option. Travelling along a dedicated shared path for the majority of the ride, this 16km return route is ideal for older kids, or younger kids travelling in bike trailers or bike seats. As you leave Romsey’s main street, the trail becomes a well-formed granitic sand surface and the surroundings transform from classic Australian architecture to expanses of rolling farmland. Stop for a meal at the Lost Watering Hole in Lancefield, or enjoy a post-ride drink at The 1860 in Romsey.

So, there you have it; a totally unbiased look at why gravel riding is fabulous and our region is a perfect place to dive right in. See you out there.

For more information, visit our website or Strava page:
Dirty Pig & Whistle:


Hero Image: Gravel riding through Musk, photo by Bec Rowlands

Gravel riding through Musk, photo by Bec Rowlands
Gravel riding through Musk, photo by Bec Rowlands

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Michael Hands
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