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Sydney Harbour Foreshore Loop bike route review

Alia Parker's picture
The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Loop bike route starts with a short ferry trip to Balmain East.

There's not a cloud in the sky as Maz and I wheel our bikes onto the Balmain East ferry at Circular Quay. We push them through the old boat and squeeze onto the outside deck so we can look across to the Opera House catching the sun's rays with its luminescent sails. The ferry pulls out from the wharf and spins around, passing one of the mega passenger ships that make a regular appearance in Sydney Harbour these days. Above us the Harbour Bridge looms large. We pass under it and are greeted by the smiling face of Luna Park as the ferry makes a quick stop on the other side of the harbour. The stop at McMahons Point is so close and brief that we don't even notice it and before we know it we're at Balmain. The 10 minute ride feels far too short for the $5.80 it costs per ticket, but it's always a delight to be on the harbour on such a nice day and at least our bikes have travelled for free.

Today we're out and about testing the City of Sydney's suggested Foreshore Loop ride, a 13km joy ride past some iconic harbour scenery. It's one for the tourist or locals like us that don't often treat ourselves to what the harbour has to offer, and it's a ride to take your time on, stop, look about and breathe. To guide us we have the 'Sydney Rides' booklet, found in libraries and bike shops all over Sydney or downloadable here. Strangely, the suggested riding direction is different in this downloadable version, but all else is the same.

The ride begins

We jump on our bikes and start pedalling up the hill. The map says to take the first left without specifying the street name, but the alley is so small we assume it must mean the road at the traffic lights. We make our turn and soon hit a dead end. Maz and I look at each other and groan as we realise the map in my hand is going to need a lot of deciphering, with very few of the streets actually shown on the map accompanied by names. At the same time, we're delighted by the old houses of Balmain and quite enjoy being lost among them. We backtrack and continue up Darling Street. After a few minutes we hit another main road, this one with a bike path sign signalling the way to the city. We take it, but the signs soon disappear and we lose the suggested trail. To save you this hassle, I've entered the bike route into Google Maps and created these trip notes to go with it, street names included!

We're soon back on the path at the busy corner of Roberts Street and Victoria Road. Not the most serene part of the ride, but it will get better as we near the foreshore. We follow the bike path, wheeling our bikes over some concrete obstruction, and make our way around the bend. We need to go over a footbridge, but don't take the first one you pass on your left; that goes out to Homebush. And don't take the one that says to 'City and Pyrmont', because that will take you over the Anzac Bridge (which is great to ride on, but not part of this suggested route). We take the unmarked one over Victoria Road and wind our way down to The Crescent.

Finally, we reach Bicentennial Park and the shared path along the foreshore; the drone of the traffic fades fast as we explore the little harbour pockets around Glebe. Next stop is the famous Sydney Fish Markets. As we're locals, we don't stop, but if you're from out of town or even just in search of some lunch, a stop here's a must. We cut through the market's car park and up Bank Street. We're pretty sure we're on the wrong road as we make our way around the next little headland because the map indicates that we should be on a shared path. Either way, it's a quiet road and we do find our way to Pirrama Park, which is an interesting little place. Maz is quite enthralled with the red ladders that bob up and down at the water's edge.

Sydney Harbour Foreshore Loop bike route. Cycle Traveller review and trip notes.We cross the Pyrmont footbridge at Darling Harbour and mistakenly continue riding on the bike path which takes us up to Sussex Street. We should have jumped in the lift at the end of the bridge (there's a little lift icon on the City's map) and gone down to the concourse, allowing us to continue along the water's edge. No big deal. It's nice down on the water, but there are also a lot of pedestrians that you need to zigzag through. Our Google map can't depict the lift and instead takes your around via the road. We ride up Sussex Street and onto Hickson Road, which we continue along due to the construction that has started at Barangaroo, closing the waterfront path for now.

At the end of Hickson Road are the Finger Wharves, another great place to stop for a coffee or a play by the Sydney Theatre Company if you time it right! Past the wharves we see the foundations of the Harbour Bridge and we know our little loop is nearing its end. Riding around under the bridge is quite delightful, as is the view of the Opera House we're greeted with on the other side. From here it's just a short scoot back to Circular Quay, past the Passenger Terminal and some very fine restaurants.

Should you ride it?

Overall, we enjoyed this little ride, which we have at being 14km rather than the 13km suggested by the City. It may be short, but it's not a ride to knock over in a hurry and there are lots of turns, stops and pedestrians along the way. But, it's a nice way to see a different side of the city and enjoy the cafes and sights along the way. You'll stop so often on this trip that at the end of it your body won't even remember it had been on a bike. The downside for us was not knowing exactly where we were meant to be, mainly in the Balmain section of the ride. But it's not a deal breaker. Hopefully our trip notes will help the rest of you out. If you've got kids, it's worth noting that sections of this ride are on roads with no marked bike lanes.

The ferry ride on the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Loop Bike route. Cycle Traveller.So if you're in town and have two to three hours to kill, consider this little loop. However, I wouldn't suggest you go out of your way to do it if you're tight on time. It's really just one more thing on the long list of things to do in Sydney.

If you'd like to cut out the ferry and Balmain section, one option is to follow the route from Circular Quay down to the footbridge over Victoria Road, then return to the city over the Anzac Bridge, Union Street and Kent Street.

All up, three stars out of five.

Maps and trip notes

Images from top: 1. Riding along Circular Quay with the Sydney Opera House. 2. Map of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Loop. 3. Blackwattle Park and the Anzac Bridge. 4. On the Balmain East ferry going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. All images copyright of Cycle Traveller.

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