The parents of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) are the councils of Tweed, Richmond Valley, Lismore and Byron, guided by a not-for-profit Committee that came together a decade ago with a common vision to preserve this valuable community asset, the 130km disused rail corridor between Murwillumbah and Casino, and convert it to a modern cycle and walking trail through the region’s spectacular landscapes.
The aim is for the community to use it; for getting to school, work and sport, shopping and recreation and for visitors to experience the region’s scenery, food and culture, and enjoy a more adventurous experience.
The Rail Trail is not just about a walking track, it’s about eco-tourism and host communities, festivals and events, employment, education and workplace training, mental and physical health, equity for the disabled, habitat and wildlife corridors and most importantly, future legacies. It would showcase our natural environment and our beautiful lifestyle to the world.
It could be part of a new way of thinking about walking and riding and public health and happiness, particularly in the regions. As a valid means of transport or for the sheer joy of it, a journey along the rail trail would be safe from traffic and free of exhaust fumes. It would be quiet, interesting, social, comfortable and beautiful and it could inspire the sort of personal changes that people find difficult to make.
And no other rail trail in the world has a renowned tourism hotspot like Byron Bay sitting right in the middle of it, flush with the tourism dollars that can help pay for the project.
The rail trail will help existing businesses and encourage new ones. Seasonal and casual employment will increase as well as new business ownership. It does not all have to be there at the start.
Along the route food outlets (cafes, restaurants, markets, food producers), and accommodation (B&B, farm stay, guest lodges, rural cabins, pubs, motels, luxury tents and camping grounds) will spring up and be sign posted.
Even though we know exercise has enormous health benefits, many people have fewer opportunities to get out and exercise in their communities. There is a lack of places to cycle and walk – particularly in the towns that don’t have the luxury of a beach or walking tracks nearby. Pregnant women can walk safely without the pollution of motor vehicles and can later walk their babies in strollers, along with their friends – reducing the risk of postnatal depression.
The NRRT will provide habitat and a wildlife corridor that reconnects an assortment of forest remnants. The trail will be able to deliver interpretative displays of most of the types of ecosystems to be found in the region and will be able to showcase the biodiversity for which the Northern Rivers is famous. With long sweeping vistas in both directions, spotting animals or watching for birds will be one of the signature experiences for trail users. Iconic Australian wildlife including koalas and wallabies (in the wild) will be a key tourism drawcard.
Users should take water, a strong torch or bike light, wear a helmet or hat and wear sunscreen: it goes without saying cyclists should have a basic repair kit. Food and drink are available from the village outlets and there is also bike hire at both Murwillumbah and Mooball.
The trail is not crowded but you will not be alone, as on average 570 people use the NRRT daily, and the NRRT is free to use.
When the entire 130 km Northern Rivers Rail Trail is complete, numerous rural centres will be connected to Murwillumbah, Byron Bay, Bangalow, Lismore and Casino. It will take some time to complete the next three stages but construction continues and there is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes.
Some information for this article is taken from the Northern Rivers Rail Trail website.
March 2023 Opening