FOR MANY FAMILIES, the annual fortnight away used to be sacrosanct, something looked forward to every year. Along with Christmas, Easter and birthdays, the family holiday to the mountains or the sea came every 12 months without fail.
Of course, times have changed. Traditional holiday weeks are now the busiest times for resorts and travel plans, while many people simply can’t guarantee such a lengthy period of consecutive holiday time.
The good news is, though, that the long-form adventure holiday is making somewhat of a comeback. Plucking kids out of school a few days before the end of term, between-job breaks and even shortening the holiday by a day means that more families and couples can once again escape for a solid period of R and R.
And it’s not just the traditional skiing, fishing or surfing break that takes centre stage any more; Australia’s ski resorts have recognised the trend and are adapting themselves to cope with the growing influx of fair-weather visitors.
With this is in mind, Outdoor has put together its ultimate six-day road trip to two of Australia’s premier mountain bike hotspots – and it’s one that you can do, too. We’ve based our trip from Sydney, but it’s equally as doable from Melbourne. Forget the airport, too – this is a road trip!
DAY 1 – Sydney-Canberra-Thredbo (or Jindabyne)
You’ve loaded the car the night before, and all you have to do at first light is to strap the bikes on and roll out for Canberra. This works as an added bonus for the ultra-early risers; if you’re away early enough, you can sneak a cheeky ride stop in at either Stromlo Forest Park or – our preference – the newly redone trails at one of Australia’s most iconic mountain bike destinations, Majura. Not only is the park almost right on top of the route to Thredbo, the trails are well marked for a quick mission out among the pine plantations.
Once you’ve cleared Canberra, you can make a beeline for them thar hills; Thredbo is the destination, but your accommodation options are wide open. Staying down the hill in Jindabyne can be more affordable, plus there’s the added advantage of a set of cross-country trails that surround the lake. The Mill Creek trail is among the newest, and it links in with a range of trails that cater for all skill sets.
A quiet beer and a feed at Bits and Pizzas overlooking the lake is a perfect way to carbo-load for the next day’s adventure.
DAY 2 – Thredbo All Mountain Trails
Thredbo has been working hard at increasing its singletrack mileage over the last couple of years, and 2016 will show the dividends of this hard work. A key plank is the new All Mountain Trail, which fires off from the top of the Gunbarrel chairlift, through the cruiser and High Noon slopes through what we’re told will be the sweetest singletrack on the hill. Not quite as full-on as the Flow trail, this almost 10km run will match perfectly with the longer Thredbo Valley Track – just make sure you book a shuttle to get you back up the top in time for another go.
Grab a quick bite in the Village and head up the chair for a couple (or five!) runs on the Flow trail to take you to the end of the day. Watching the sun set over the mountains, cold drink in hand, on the balcony of the pub is a great way to relax those slightly achy muscles.
DAY 3 – Thredbo to Buller
If you’ve got the energy, sneak in another blast down the Flow trail (or linger longer over the excellent breakfast at the Thredbo Alpine Hotel) before packing the bikes and making for Mt Buller. It’s about a five-hour run – but you’ll need to make time to stop in at Café Derailleur in Wangaratta on the way for coffee and a bite.
If you’ve given yourself enough daylight, check into your diggings and head for Stonefly, one of the most iconic loops in the region. At 10km long, it climbs gradually for 6km… but what goes up must come down!
Fuel up at the Alberg Bistro, because tomorrow is going to be a monster…
DAY 4 – Australian Alpine Epic trail
Ignore the twinges in the legs, grab an extra bag of jelly snakes and cinch your helmet down tighter… 40km of singletrack mountain bike heaven awaits. Opened early in 2015, the Epic trail has rapidly gained a reputation as one of the best in the country. Designed by legendary trail builder Glen Jacobs, the Epic falls more than it rises – but the last 15km are powered by nothing more than gravity. Give yourself the whole day for this one; you’re going to need it.
DAY 5 – Downhill
While Mt Buller is home to some ferociously fast downhill, it also caters to rookies. Both chairlifts and shuttles operate, depending on the time of year. The ABOM/Village Link and Home Trail pairing are ranked as ‘easy’ – and with your week’s worth of technical riding under your wheels, these should be a doddle. And hey… no more uphill!
Spend the last few hours of daylight packing your gear, before retiring to the Alberg for a few celebratory drinks. It's been a big week of riding, so you’ve earned it!
DAY 6 – Home
It’s a solid eight hours back to the Big Smoke, so you’ll need to get an early start. Of course, it’s only an hour extra to stop by Stromlo on the way home…
Road trip quick tips
- Budget for National Park entry at Thredbo, as well as lift tickets at both venues.
- A mid-travel dual suspension bike with good quality tyres will cover the terrain we’ve featured here. Toss in a spare tyre in case of damage, though both resorts have good shops on site. Get a service before you go, too.
- The weather can change by tens of degrees in an hour in both spots, no matter what time of year it is, so pack an extra layer in your Camelbak, no matter what the morning looks like.
- A trail helmet with more coverage is a good pick. Both resorts will have full-face helmets for hire for the rougher stuff.