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Sea to summit: A bike route loop of NSW and Victoria

Alia Parker's picture
View over the 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road. Source: Shutterstock. Cycle Traveller

Cycling between Melbourne and Sydney is one of the most popular rides for cycle travellers in Australia, especially for those visiting from overseas. And for most, the tricky question is: should I cycle inland via the Great Dividing Range, or along the NSW and Victorian coast?

I find this difficult to answer; both routes are lovely and offer very different experiences. As a local who grew up on the coast, I tend to gravitate away from the traffic and toward the mountains – I love the quiet roads, tiny towns and views across the rolling ranges. But the Australian coastline is divine, especially for those who haven't been spoilt with its beauty all their lives.

A bicycle touring route through NSW and Victoria looping through the mountains and along the coast. Cycle Traveller

So, for an independent point of view, I asked Hans Vanhöfen from Germany, who conveniently went bicycle touring on both routes in 2015. The 66-year-old retired naval officer and former Iron Man has racked up quite a few miles over the years, cycling throughout Germany, from coast to coast in the United States, around the Great Lakes in the US and Canada last year, and now, a loop through New South Wales and Victoria, Australia, raising funds for a German hospice via his website.

Hans kindly shares his thoughts, as well as his GPS tracks, to help you decide.

Two routes or a loop

Route: Sydney to Melbourne via the Great Dividing Range and return via the Great Ocean Road and South Coast
Distance: 2,630km
Surface: Sealed road

 

CT: Now that your journey in Australia is over, are there any sections of your ride that stand out in your mind as highlights?

Cycling the Great Dividing Range. Cycle Traveller

HV: The stages from Cooma to Thredbo (through the mountains) were really demanding. If I hadn't changed my cassette at Werk's bike shop in Queanbeyan, I wouldn't have made it. The speed dropped to single digits and I needed almost four hours to get from Jindabyne to Thredbo. From Thredbo to Corryong there were long descents and ascents – pure nature. And then there was the long and tiring stage along the Great Ocean Road. It wasn't planned, but a friend of mine with whom I rode last year in the USA and Canada recommend it and listening to a radio feature just before I took off to Australia made me change my route. I was glad having done it.

CT: The route through the mountains is very different to the coastal route. How did you find them?

HV: The Mountain road is highly recommended. There is far less traffic compared with anywhere else and the scenery is breathtaking, but it is very demanding. Whitfield to Mansfield in Victoria was one of my favourite sections.

Planning the coastal route I thought it was going to be easy with many flat stages. Later I learned there are very, very steep hills to climb, like grades of 18% near Tanja. Traffic became more dense on the Princess Highway, but overall I enjoyed the coastal road very much.

Cycling the Great Ocean Road. Cycle Traveller

Riding from Wollongong back to my "Home Harbour" in the Sydney suburb of Dural, was no fun at all.

CT: Travellers often ask me which of these two routes they should take. What would you recommend based on your likes and experience?

HV: If you are travelling long stretches, let's say from Sydney to Adelaide, I would prefer the coastal route, but as a loop take the mountain route into consideration. Very picturesque with small villages, like Yackandandah or Beechworth, which are worth visiting.

CT: What was your main source of accommodation and did you find food and places to stay easy to come by?

HV: Shortly before left for Australia, I logged into Warmshowers. This, and cycling the Great Ocean Road, have been the most valuable experiences of my entire journey. My hosts, Michael of Thredbo, David and Hellen of Ocean Grove, John, Trish and Nic of Sale and James of Bergamui are very nice people and they treated me like a family member.

Cycling through the mountains of NSW. Cycle TravellerFurthermore, I stayed twice with family members and a friend of my host family in Dural. I also stayed in motels, hostels and B&B which I booked online two to three days in advance. Finding food at general stores wasn't a problem.

CT: Overall, how would you rate cycling in Australia compared with previous rides you have done elsewhere?

HV: The roads are better than in Europe and far better than in the US and Canada. People are very nice; "I haven't met a bad bastard, yet!"

Riding on the 'wrong side of the road' wasn't a problem, but I was confused by the movement of the celestial bodies. In Picton, I rode for 5kms in the wrong direction before I realised!

Images: 1. Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria. Source: Shutterstock. 2. Route map overview. 3. Hans in the Great Dividing Range. 3. Cycling the Great Ocean Road. 4. The roads through Kosciuszko. Source: Hans Vanhöfen.

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