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Touchdown: Cycling from Sydney airport to the city

Simon Parker's picture
Sydney. Cycling from the airport. Cycle Traveller

Sydney may not be the most cyclist-friendly city in the world, but it does have some excellent bike trails that get you from A to B with minimal interaction with cars. Nowhere is this more evident than the bike trail that links the city's airport – particularly its international terminal – to the city and beyond. Following is an outline of the trip in from the international terminal to the city along a route that aims to avoid cars as much as possible.


Cycling route from Sydney airport to the city. Cycle Traveller

Route: Airport to City
Distance: 12km
Surface: Bike path and road

The route I've chosen starts at out the front of gates C and D at the International Terminal. Walking out the revolving doors take a hard left and walk along the sidewalk, past the taxi stand on your right, for around 50 metres or so until you reach the one way road. Get on your bike and travel along this two lane road for another 50 metres or so, taking the first left immediately after you've gone underneath the car overpass.

Note, the small road you are turning left into isn't identified on Google Maps. It's there though! Immediately after entering this road, you'll see a canal (image 1). You'll be following this waterway for the next few kilometres, initially on a quiet road, and then joining the Bay to Bay bike path after around 700 metres as you head underneath another overpass (image 2).

Bicycle underpass near Sydney airport. Cycle Traveller

The Bay to Bay cycleway is an impressive trail that links Botany Bay, upon which the airport is situated, with Homebush Bay – the main site of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 – and the Parramatta River. It's predominantly a separated bike way, with long stretches of pavement along the Cook River. It's an excellent path if you're looking to head south, north and west of the city, and links up nicely with a number of train stations and numerous bike routes.

If you are looking to head south, at the 680-metre mark you'll need to take the bike path exit to the right and follow the path as it then swings around to your left and over a bridge that goes across the canal. This will take you to Botany Bay and Cronulla and is also the way you should go if you're headed to Wollongong. For those not heading south, just a little further along on the main path, at the 1.13km mark, you'll have the option of heading left to Homebush Bay over another bridge – this is clearly signposted (3).

The Bay to Bay bike path. Cycle Traveller

For those heading into the city, continue straight ahead following the sign that says 'Mascot/City' – you'll soon pass the north-south runway of the airport and, as such, you may be treated to the sight of an A380 roaring in just metres above you.

The path takes a left and then continues along the canal until you come to a sharp right (you can't get lost – there are no other routes to follow at each of these turns). After 2.87km you'll reach a relatively quiet street – Coward Street – you'll need to cross this road and take the bike path along its southern side (or, of course, you can choose to stay on the road) (4). The bike path ends at the second set of traffic lights (at 3.50km). Cross here, and carefully make your way along the sidewalk until you reach the next set of traffic lights on the corner of Bourke and Coward Streets. Turn left here on Bourke Street.* You'll need to get on the road here, heading past Mascot train station until you reach the next set of traffic lights at Gardeners Road just a few 100 metres down the road.

Coward Street. Cycle Traveller

* Note, if you head right here, you'll end up at the domestic airport terminal. Most of this route though is on road along Bourke Road and right onto O'Riordan Street, as the bike path doesn't link to the domestic airport.

If you are looking to take a train to somewhere across the city, you can avoid the high airport train station surcharge by starting your journey at Mascot Station. The difference? Well, from the international terminal to the City, it costs $16.70 for an adult, one way; to Parramatta, it's $17.30. From Mascot, the fare to the city is $3.60 one way, while to Parramatta, it's $5.00 – quite the saving, particularly if there are two of you. Note, if you commence your train trip with a bike during peak hour (anytime between 12.01am and 9am on a weekday), you'll need to pay an additional child's fare for the bike. Sydney's trains aren't the best equipped to handle bike riders during peak hour, so probably best to avoid this period unless you're heading away from the city.

Bike lane ends, cross road to other side. Cycle TravellerBack on the bike path, you'll need to cross Gardeners Road and continue along Bourke Street – it's here that a separated bike way commences, travelling through the semi-industrial suburb of Alexandria. After following the bike path for almost two kilometres, I prefer to take a left at Bowden Street (at the 5.95km mark),** and taking the first right – almost immediately – at Mandible Street, which also has a bike path. Upon reaching the next set of traffic lights at Wyndham Street, get onto the road and continue straight ahead until you reach the end of Mandible Street at Botany Road (at 6.55km) (6).

At this point I head cross at the lights, head left, and ride along the sidewalk until the next set of traffic lights on McEvoy Street (McDonalds is on the corner). Cross here, take a right (following McEvoy) travelling along the sidewalk, taking the second left through the trees along George Street (note, this end of George Street is a separated dead-end road that cars cannot enter although there is a footpath that links it with McEvoy) (7).

Bourke Street bike lane end. Cycle Traveller

** For riders who are comfortable on city roads, you can continue along Bourke Road – the bike path ends shortly after Bowden Street, although if you continue along Bourke Street it does start again in 1.8km, at Phillip Street.

You'll now continue along George Street – including directly between two large housing commission highrise buildings – for just over one kilometre. Immediately after crossing Redfern Street, in about 50 metres you'll take a right at Wells Street, which is a narrow laneway. This is a narrow one-way road for cars, but two-way for cyclists.

Note, if instead you continue along George Street you'll quickly come to Prince Alfred Park (after crossing Cleveland Street). Cycle through this park and you'll reach Central Railway Station, the city's main railway station and hub for intercity trains and buses, and a wide variety of hotels and hostels.

Go through the trees to the dead-end road. Cycle Traveller

You're now travelling through Redfern, a traditional inner city suburb complete with rows of 100 year-old plus terrace houses, cafes, pubs and, for the most part, well maintained parks. It's a mix of old and new in Redfern; older residents who have lived in the area long before it was considered trendy mingle surprisingly easily alongside students and white-collar professionals attracted by its location and entertainment options. It's also a centre of Aboriginal culture in Sydney.

Back on the route I've chosen, take Wells Street east until you reach Chalmers Street, at 8.3km, where the Woolpack Hotel is on your left (time for a quick schooner or three? Great place for a feed as well). Cross the road here to the pavement opposite, head right, and then take the first left a few metres along at another lane way (Redfern Lane), following this until you reach Elizabeth Street.

Taylor Square, Oxfor Street. Cycle TravellerAt Elizabeth, turn right along the pavement, and then cross Elizabeth Street immediately at the traffic lights. After crossing, get back on the road (Redfern Street), travel up and over the short hill and turn right at Young Street (at the T-intersection), and then take the first left at Telopea Street. You'll travel along here until you rejoin Bourke Street and the separated bike path.

This path will now take you all the way until the end of Bourke Street, a wonderful tree-lined road that takes you through a particularly vibrant and beautiful part of inner city Sydney, passing major intersections at Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, Oxford Street, Darlinghurst (at 10.75km) (8), and Williams Street at Kings Cross (at 11.45km). It's at this end that you're close to quite a variety of backpacker hostels, including two on the route itself: the Woodduck at the corner of Williams and Bourke, and Australian Backpackers, just north of Williams Street (I stress though there are plenty of other hostels near the bike path; these were just two I noticed along the way).

The elevator up to the pedestrian overpass to the Domain and the city. Cycle TravellerThe bike path ends at Woolloomooloo Wharf, although there is an opportunity to head into the city proper at a pedestrian overpass opposite Wilson Street (you'll need to go up a lift to reach the overpass). This leads into the Domain near the Art Gallery of NSW. This park shoulders the inner city.

Once in the city, most bicycle lanes come to an end, however, bikes are commonplace on the roads of the central business district (CBD).

Overall, it's a relatively flat route, with only a few hills of note and it will get you into the heart of the city without riding along overly busy roads, quite a feat considering the size of Sydney.




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