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Adventure

10 top cycling trails in Australia

Adventures

From the inner city to the remote bush, here are 10 of the best cycling tracks across Australia

Australia's wide open spaces and warm weather provides some of the best multi-day cycle trails in the world, but there are also plenty of shorter options to keep you occupied.

Imagine cycling over grassy paddocks, alpine mountains, along rugged coastal beaches, beside winding rivers and you start to get the picture of where cycling in Australia can take you.

"We are fortunate in lots of ways because there's huge potential for really gorgeous recreational cycling," says Elaena Gardner, communications officer at Austroads and former executive officer of the Australian Bicycle Council.

"In our cities, and not that far out of our cities, there are beautiful parks and national parks that are really great for cycling."

But we aren't just blessed with good views; we have sunshine and temperate climates throughout the year in most of the country. "You can ride all year round," says Elaena. 

With such a vast coastline and a lot of space in between, there area a plethora of trails to choose from.

"I like that experience of not knowing where I'll get to at the end, but there are quite a few books and resources available, and websites so cyclists can share information and maps with each other," says Elaena.

AUSTRALIA'S TOP CYCLING TRAILS

To walk the following 10 trails, which add up to almost 4000km, would take more than 150 days, but covering them on a bike takes less than 50.

The beauty of being on a bike is that you can cover bigger distances quicker but still enjoy the scenery. So get your tyres pumped, panniers packed and choose your next adventure.

The Gap to Mt Glorious via Mt Nebo, QLD

Beginning in Brisbane before heading west into D’Aguilar National Park, this popular route, on the shorter side of our list, is used by riders who want to challenge themselves. It is a climbing ride, but the route is suitable for both mountain bikes and road bikes.

Cyclists on mountain bikes have the added option of riding the fire trail that runs parallel to the road. Travel in a clockwise direction, as the road through Samford Valley is steeper and not as well maintained.

The Mount Nebo Road has a number of lookout spots overlooking D’Aguilar’s subtropical rainforest, right out to Moreton Bay.

Distance: 60km, but can be shorted to 40km if completed as an up-and-back instead of a circuit

Time: 1-2 days

Suitable for: Road, mountain and hybrid bikes

When: All year

Bondi to Mt Kosciusko, NSW

Beginning at the most famous beach in the world and ending at Australia’s highest mountain, this 658km trail takes six to eight days to complete. Cyclists take in views of the Sydney coastline and city, the southern highlands, inland NSW and the Snowy Mountains.

There are amenities and accommodation available along the trip, and only the last 9km (from Charlotte’s Pass up Mt Kosciusko) are on unsealed road.

Distance: 658km, including the return to Jindabyne

Time: 6-8 days

Suitable for: road, mountain and hybrid bikes

When: Best time to travel is between March and April. The roads near Mt Kosciusko can be closed from June to September, and the summer months can get very hot.

Wollemi Cycle Trail, NSW

In the NSW Blue Mountains, the Wollemi National Park is where its namesake prehistoric pine was discovered, so riders can experience isolation just a few hours from Sydney.

Cyclists riding this trail can visit some of the small towns inland from Katoomba, before heading onto the Newnes Plateau and cycling through The Glow Worm Tunnel, which cuts through the escarpment to an isolated valley.

The whole trail is 442km and takes roughly six days, but can be ridden in sections. It is commonly shortened to a three-day trip.

Distance: 442km

Time: 6 days

Suitable for: Mountain and hybrid bikes

When: The trail can be ridden year round, but in winter riders need to be prepared for sub-zero temperatures overnight

Victorian Alps Cycle Trail, VIC

Traversing the highest continuous stretch of road in Australia and exploring Ned Kelly country, this trail gives incredible extended views over the Victorian countryside and mountains. Traversing 426km and climbing an overall 6100m, there are quite a few uphill stretches.

Experienced riders recommend starting at Albury, as the climb up Mount Hotham is spread over 50km instead of 20km. Accommodation is available along the way, but camping gives you a lot more flexibility, and you can really enjoy the alpine scenery.

Distance: 426km

Time: 8-10 days

Suitable for: Road, mountain and hybrid bikes. The rail trail along Lake Hume is gravel so road bikes can detour onto the sealed road around the lake

When: The trail is best ridden between November and April, as the Bogong High Plains Road is closed in winter and early spring due to snow.

Mawson Trail, SA

For mountain bikers wanting to explore the outback and rural South Australia, the Mawson Trail is the perfect option. Covering more than 900km, the trail is an excellent option for ‘section riders’ wanting to covers shorter distances anywhere between Adelaide and Blinman in the Flinders Ranges.

Riders pass through a number of small country towns and the Barossa Wine Region, so there are plenty of spots to start from, or to stop and recuperate.

The trail avoids traffic and main roads, instead travelling along fire trails, farm access tracks and reserves.

Distance: 900km

Time: Completing the whole trail takes at least 14 days, but it can be broken down into a number of shorter sections

Suitable for: Mountain bikes

When: The trail can be ridden comfortably for most of the year, April to November, but it's best to avoid summer as temperatures can be dangerously high.

Tasmanian Trail, TAS

Travelling from Devonport to Dover, the Tasmanian Trail covers 480km of winding green Tasmanian countryside. The trail can be broken into 16 sections, each designed to be an easy day’s ride, but most riders will be able to complete two sections in a day.

The track travels mostly through national parks and state forests, but most sections end in small towns or at camping grounds. Support vehicles can access all accommodation sights, but might need to find alternate routes because much of the trail is not accessible by vehicles.

Distance: 480km

Time: 8-10days

Suitable for: Mountain and hybrid bikes. Although some sections of the trail are on sealed road, much of the trail is on surfaces not suitable for road bikes

When: The trail can be accessed and ridden all year round, but between December and February the weather is most reliable

Capital City Trail, VIC

Covering 30km in inner city Melbourne, this car-free cycle trail is the best way to see all that Melbourne has to offer.

The ride is a complete circuit, so riders can start and finish anywhere, with an easy access point at Flinders Street Station. The trail travels past many of Melbourne’s famous sights, including the Melbourne Zoo, Aquarium, Como Historic House and Garden, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Yarra Bend Park.

The trail is suitable for all types of bikes and is family friendly.

Distance: 30km

Time: One day

Suitable for: Road, mountain or hybrid bikes

When: All year

Marmion to Burns Beach, WA

Known fondly as the sunset coast, Western Australia is home to a number of well-maintained cycle paths alongside the ocean. Marmion to Burns Beach is an easy 14km ride, designed to take only a half day.

The trail can be ridden from either end, but bike hire is available in Scarborough, s6km south of Marmion. The track is family friendly and provides ‘information access points’ along the way to explain significant flora and fauna.

Time the ride to finish at sunset and you’ll be able to reward yourself with a sunset into the Indian Ocean.

Distance: 14-20km one way

Time: 1 day

Suitable for: Road, mountain and hybrid bikes

When: All year, but the trail can be very busy on weekends and in school holidays

Darwin Rail Trail, NT

Darwin has an extensive network of cycle paths, giving access to riders throughout the city. The Darwin Rail Trail follows the path of the North Australian Railway line, which was in use between 1888 and 1976.

Many remainders of the tracks can be seen along the 25km ride, including four heritage railway bridges. The ride is fully sealed, so all bike types can use it.

By sticking to the original rail corridor, there has been minimal impact on the surrounding eucalypt habitat, so riders sometimes see native animals along the way.

Distance: 25km

Time: 1 day

Suitable for: Road, mountain and hybrid bikes

When: The trail can be ridden in both the Wet and the Dry, but riders should avoid riding in summer

Munda Biddi Trail, WA 

Billed as one the world's longest continuous off-road cycle tracks, the epic Munda Biddi ('path through the forest' in the Aboriginal Noongar language<) wends its way through 1000km of Western Australia, from Mundaring just outside Perth, down to Albany. A connection of single track, fire trails, railway lines and bush tracks, the route takes you through towering eucalypt forests, river valleys, small towns, heritage areas and pristine bushland. 

The beauty of the Munda Biddi Trail, officially opened in April 2013, is that you can tackle it many ways - and you don't have to be an experience cyclist, as much of the trail is non-technical. For the full trail, you should allow about three weeks, but the trail was also designed in sections (from 8-32km), so you can do short return rides, or shuttle cars to complete sections. There's no more than 50km between towns or campsites with purpose-built huts and amenities.

Distance: 1000 kilometres

Time: 3 weeks

Suitable for: mountain and hybrid bikes (with off-road tyres)

When: autumn, winter, spring