From cruising around the city to taking on rugged mountain trails, look no further for the best cycling experiences Australia has to offer.
By Anna Lavdaras
While it may not immediately spring to mind as a cycling destination, Australia offers some of the world’s most scenic locations made to be discovered by bike - the best part is, they come without the customary traffic expected at other world class cycling hotspots. And while the coastline and bike-friendly city lanes are local favourites, there is a whole country of unexpected routes made to be explored on bike back. If it’s remote you want, there are the vast open highways that travel cross country and offer only the local wildlife for company. Or if you prefer a coastal backdrop, there’s the entire eastern coastline just waiting to be explored. For your ease, we’ve compiled the best places to cycle in Australia, so all you have to do is pack your lycra.
You’ve seen Sydney Harbour in pictures, but a great way to explore it in person is by riding alongside its famous azure blue waters. Nestled in the city’s Inner West is one of the most popular harbourside tracks – the Bay Run. This local hotspot is teeming with Sydneysiders of all ages who can be found walking, running, rowing, and yes, cycling their way around the 7-kilometre (4.3-mile) loop ride. Another popular cycling track is located in the picturesque Centennial Park in Sydney’s East. Visited by over 700,000 cyclists annually, you’ll never feel out of place. This enclosed 3.7-kilometre (2.3-mile) loop track is especially perfect for family cycling adventures, complete with smooth roads and a segregated bike path.You can hire bicycles right in the park.
About an hour flight north of Sydney you’ll find the famous beach town of Byron Bay, known for its year-round sunshine and a local cycling community that outnumber car owners. Head west to the hinterland for rolling green hills, or take on the Bruns to Byron Beach ride, a 13-kilometre (8-mile) route that begins at the Brunswick Heads Visitor Centre and takes you all the way to the famous main beach.
Another notable cycling mecca located an hour south of Sydney is the Royal National Park. Offering 70 kilometres (43.5 miles) of lush gum tree-lined roads that snake through the oldest nature reserve in Australia, there are options for all abilities. If you’re looking for a mountain biking experience, Manly Dam Mountain Track is a quick track, only around 10 kilometres (just over 6 miles), but the difficult terrain, swooping turns and drop-offs a plenty make it a great experience for all.
The Southern Highlands region of New South Wales is likewise a special part of world, with rolling hills, unspoilt bushland, and spectacular wildlife diversity. Located halfway between Canberra and Sydney (just a 1.5-hour drive from either major city), there are multiple route options with plenty of gentle hills to conquer, including the Best of Bowral and Bong Bong Track.
Finally, in what many consider as the pinnacle (literally) of cycling in New South Wales, the Snowy Mountains is a network of roads that navigate across Kosciuszko National Park. This is Australia’s highest peak, so you can anticipate some serious elevation, with a range of challenging climbs and equally fun descents. These trails are only open during the warmer months, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Melbourne takes it’s cycling scene almost as seriously as it takes its coffee. In fact, the two can be perfectly paired if you choose to take one of the many trails that navigate through and around the city centre. The most famous of these routes is the Capital City Trail, a 30-kilometre (18.6-mile) city loop which winds past Melbourne's most historical and iconic landmarks like Federation Square, Docklands, Melbourne Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens. And if you think Sydney is the only city with epic waterside cycling routes, think again. Port Phillip Bay offers a leisurely 6-kilometre (3.7-mile) coastal trail that starts at the photo-friendly Luna Park in St Kilda, all the way to the bayside suburb of Brighton. There’s also the option to continue riding for another 12 kilometres (7.4 miles) towards Half Moon Bay, the home of the shipwrecked last surviving monitor warship in the world, HMVS Cerberus.
For a dose of history with your ride, take to the Goldfields Track, a 210-kilometre (130-mile) route named for the abundant gold supplies of this area responsible for making Melbourne – at one point in history – the richest city in the world. Begin at the top of Mount Buninyong (about a 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne), and travel through the historic towns of Ballarat, Creswick, Daylesford and Castlemaine, before finishing in Bendigo.
A 3.5-hour drive north east of Melbourne’s city centre lies Mount Buller, a winter wonderland that transforms itself into one of Victoria’s best mountain biking locations when all the snow has melted come spring (usually around September). Buller's newest trail, the Australian Alpine Epic, was named by the International Mountain Biking Association as one of the world's 'epic' mountain bike rides - the only one on the list outside of North America.
Finally, you can’t sum up Victoria’s greatest bike routes without mentioning the Great Ocean Road, Australia’s most scenic road trip. Just imagine 664 kilometres (412 miles) of uninterrupted clifftop, coastal and rainforest views. The main road is sealed, but there are also mountain bike trails dotted along the way as well as quaint seaside towns worth a visit.
From its designated bike lanes to the enormous network of bike paths that weave their way through the city – not to mention the abundant bike-friendly lunch and coffee spots – Canberra is a serious contender for Australia’s most cycling-friendly city. The region has a year-long calendar of popular cycling events you can opt into whilst visiting. Or go it alone on one of Lake Burley Griffin’s surrounding cycle paths. For multi-day rides, check out the fully organised cycling holidays by Mulga Bicycle Tours, which offer biking tours that capture the best of Canberra and the region.
Mountain bikers are taken care of in Stromlo Forest Park, a popular spot for bike fanatics and just an easy 15-minute drive from the city centre. This shared-use park boasts more than 50 kilometres (31 miles) of custom-designed cross-country trails, as well as dirt jumps and dedicated zones for every skill level. Dynamic Motivation offer weekend shuttle services for you and your bike between the city and Mount Stromlo.
Home to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest cycling race - the Santos Tour Down Under - South Australia is a cyclist’s haven. In the city, take the River Torrens Linear Park Trail from the Mount Lofty Ranges to the coastal suburb of Henley Beach. Alternatively, head out of town to discover any one of these great bike trails.
The Riesling Trail in the Clare Valley offers a taste of the epic 800-kilometre (497-mile) Mawson Trail. Starting in Auburn and ending in Barinia, the Riesling Trail takes in farmland, vineyards and forest, with signposts along the way to point you in the direction of award-winning cellar doors and cafes if you’re ever in need of a break.
Another nearby wine region is the beautiful McLaren Vale, just a 45-minute drive south of Adelaide. Families will love the Coast to Vines Rail Trail, with slight inclines and spectacular vineyard vistas that change as you ride.
The town of Melrose (a three-hour drive from Adelaide) in Mount Remarkable National Park is fast becoming a jewel in South Australia's crown for single track mountain biking. The Melrose Fat Tyre Festival is held there every winter (usually in June), allowing keen mountain bikers to explore trails not usually open to the public.
Rottnest Island is a cyclists’ wonderland, with endless flat, car-less roads which wind around the protected nature reserve. It’s perfect for families or less experienced cycling enthusiasts and with 63 stunning white-sand beaches surrounding the island, a refreshing swim in bright azure water is never too far off.
Once you conquer the coastline, head inland for the Munda Biddi Trail, a 1000-kilometre (621-mile) biking trail that stretches from just outside of Perth all the way to Albany in the state’s south west corner. You can complete the entire thing in just about three weeks, or break it up into bite-size bits, visiting stunning coastal towns along the way.
The World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, only three hours east of Darwin, is a place everybody should visit at least once in their lifetime. With thundering waterfalls, ancient rock art galleries, and a luscious rainforest, there are endless adventures to be had, including great opportunities for cycling. Long haul trips for serious cyclists include the Gibb River Road and Tanami Track. There are plenty of watering holes to divert to along the way, including Koolpin Gorge, Maguk, Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls.
Another quintessential Australian journey is a self-guided cycle journey around Uluru, Australia’s spiritual epicentre. Take your time to experience this sacred Aboriginal land, explore the incredible watering hole and observe ancient rock art along the way. Bicycle hire is available from Outback Cycling's mobile bike shop at the Uluru Kata-Tjuta Cultural Centre.
With over 700 kilometres (435 miles) of documented mountain bike trails, Cairns has some incredible experiences to offer any level of mountain biking enthusiast. Discover the area’s top five mountain biking trails, including the Smithfield Mountain Bike Trail Park and the Bump Track, where you can ride trails exploring the rainforest, mountains, beaches, and accessible outback.
Tasmania is often celebrated for its abundant and beautiful hiking routes, but it doesn’t receive nearly as much credit for its cycling offering. Blue Derby is a network of trails that surround the town of Derby, which lies a short 1.5-hour drive east of Launceston. Once the centre of a tin mining boom, these days it’s the mountain bikers carving up the dirt. The Blue Derby Network has changed mountain biking in Tasmania and Australia forever. The trails encompass everything mountain bikers love. Cruise to the top of the hill, tear downhill as fast as you can. Repeat.
If the occasional car is too much for you, head to Maria Island, where the only traffic exists in the form of wombats and kangaroos. The island is a dedicated national park and it has several wide, unsealed tracks open to cyclists – though you need to pre-pack supplies as you won’t find any of Tasmania’s famous eateries here.
If it’s incline you want, make your way to Mount Wellington. One of the most popular ways to get to the top starts at the famous Cascade Brewery in South Hobart. Once you leave behind the beautiful gardens and sandstone façade of the brewery, prepare for a steady uphill climb. The ride down towards Hobart can be equally as brutal if you don’t have the right gear, so make sure you pack layers and some extra warm gloves for the temperature drop – even in summer.