August 3, 2017
The South Burnett Rail Trail is showing signs of becoming a major tourist drawcard for the South Burnett.
Barely six weeks after the trail opened to the public following a one-year sealing effort, the Rail Trail’s Facebook page has swollen to almost 1300 fans.
It now routinely publishes reader’s stories and photos about people coming to South Burnett for cycling and walking excursions, and their positive reactions to it.
The Wooroolin Cafe, Dan’s Diner and the Wondai Bakery have quickly become popular stop-off points for hungry and thirsty Rail Trail visitors.
And accommodation operators in Kingaroy, Wondai and Murgon report they are starting to see a small but growing number of overnighters drawn to the region for a Rail Trail weekend.
The Wondai Regional Art Gallery, which expanded in early June to become a cellar door for four of the region’s wineries, sold 19 bottles in its first month of operations.
Gallery curator Elaine Madill also played a lead role in creating this year’s new Wondai Country Festival, which is specifically designed to leverage rail trail tourism for the town.
Locals are using the Rail Trail in increasing numbers for exercise and fun, too.
The Wondai parkrun group, which began using the trail more than six months ago, conducts weekly runs along it every Saturday morning that can attract more than 100 participants.
The South Burnett Mountain Bike Club is also using the trail for some of its own excursions.
It will be conducting its next Rail Trail ride from Murgon to Wooroolin and return this Sunday (August 6) in conjunction with riders from Maryborough.
And as the Rail Trail’s Facebook page reports, many others along the route are now using the trail for walks or runs with friends or their pets.
Others are waiting for Gympie Regional Council to complete their own section between the South Burnett Regional Council’s border and Kilkivan so they can ride their horses or cycle along it.
Cr Ros Heit, who helped form the Wondai parkrun group and regularly takes part in their runs, says she’s been overwhelmed with the positive response the trail has attracted.
“I’m really delighted with how many walkers, runners and bike riders are enjoying the beauty of our region from the Rail Trail,” Cr Heit said.
“Both locals and visitors are loving it, and businesses along the trail are already reaping the benefits.
“This can only grow.”
On Wednesday, cyclist Leon Hill posted a video on Youtube about a two-day cycling trip with his daughter Miranda from Kingaroy to Murgon and back again, which he took last weekend.
Leon, who regularly rides the famous Otago Rail Trail in New Zealand, said he was “blown away” by the South Burnett Rail Trail and can see its enormous tourism potential.
South Burnett Regional Council’s Natural Resources and Parks Manager Greg Griffiths said the Rail Trail’s ability to generate income for the region was dependent on numbers.
He said studies conducted on other Australian rail trails showed the average visitor spends about $130 a day on food, drink and accommodation.
“Simple maths says that 12,000 visitors a year would bring in more than $1.5 million,” he said.
“That’s only about 230 users a week, and that should be possible in a few years from now when word about the Rail Trail gets out.”
The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, which was established 11 years ago, uses counters to track the number of people using that trail.
Earlier this year the BVRT’s management group reported that 14,000 visitors a year now travel along the portion of the trail between Blackbutt and Linville.
The economic impact on Linville, Moore and Blackbutt has been so strong it has encouraged the Yarraman Progress Association to lobby Toowoomba Regional Council to complete its own portion of the trail between Yarraman and Nukku so Yarraman can enjoy similar benefits.
Somerset Regional Council is also hoping to get funding to complete unfinished sections of the trail in its own shire which will ultimately create a 167km long rail trail that will connect Wulkuraka to Yarraman.
The South Burnett Rail Trail will be officially opened as the centrepiece of this year’s South Burnett and Cherbourg On Show long weekend festival on Sunday, October 1.