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An east coast bicycle route from the SCG to the Gabba

David Lloyd's picture
Lighthouse at Byron Bay on the Sydney to Brisbane bicycle route. Cycle Traveller. Tourism Australia

The idea for this ride is to cycle from Brisbane to Sydney over spare weekends until it is done. The prevailing winds for most of the year are east/southeast, so if all goes to plan, most days my wife Deb and I will drive to the furthest point and I'll ride north with a tail wind. I'll also be incorporating some ferries. But please note that sometimes I’ll be riding from north to south and sometimes I’ll be starting south and heading back north. So here goes.

 

Route: Sydney to Brisbane
Distance: 1,220km
Total vertical climb: ca. 5160 m
Surface: Paved

 

Stage 1:  SCG to Terrigal (S to N). 90km, 2hrs 31min

I stay the night in Bondi before riding out on the Sunday. It makes sense to ride out of Sydney on a Sunday morning because of the traffic and because I don't really know the roads except for what I've seen on a map. I probably leave a bit too early (5.30am) because although I don't have to battle traffic the streets are full of party people still going from Saturday night. Calls of Lycra Boy and wolf whistles are pretty funny at first. I set off from Bondi to Circular Quay via the SCG. I get on the ferry to Manly on the most beautiful Sydney morning. Sydney Harbour is as flat as a pond with a stunning sunrise. A work friend, Brett, meets me at Manly to ride to Palm Beach together. He's a local and he takes me on the more scenic route towards Palm Beach. As an ex boatie, surf lifesaver the clubs and beaches along the way have so much history in this great Australian institution. About 25km up the road is the Palm Beach ferry; I make it with about a minute to spare at 10am. I get the ferry over to Wagstaff, which is a beautiful, quaint little town. I have to ask a few locals for directions before finding my way to Terrigal; this is a beautiful stretch of road along the Central Coast Highway.

Stage 2: Terrigal to Newcastle (S to N). 70km, 3hrs 8min

Up early and off to Newcastle, two roads and you're there. Central Coat Highway, turn right onto the Pacific Highway and keep going. A really enjoyable ride on safe roads. I feel fit and strong and had a bit of Johnny Cash in my head, always nice when you like the songs and artist that pop in your head when you are riding. Once again Deb and I arrive about 5 minutes apart. After lunch we grab our bikes and ride out to the lighthouse and around the place for the afternoon. Another great day.

Stage 3: Newcastle to Tea Gardens (S to N). 48km, 1hr 34min

Up early again and ride down to the wharf to meet the 7.15am ferry to Stockton. It’s about 5 minutes across the harbour. From there I take the road to Nelson Bay, about 50km. It is a really nice flat ride, very scenic, pretty quiet, nice smells with a mixture of rural and the ocean. I arrive in Nelson Bay at 9am to catch the 10am ferry to the Tea Gardens. I buy my ferry ticket, have a feed of bacon and eggs and enjoy a strong coffee and the scenery of one of the most beautiful days in a beautiful location. I board the ferry at 10am for the hour trip to Tea Gardens. Catching the ferries keeps me off the main highways and adds a bit of romance. The lake system here is amazing and there's not a ripple on the water. The dolphins come on cue along the way. I meet Deb at the wharf, again 5 minutes apart. We end up at Jimmy’s beach where we stay for an hour or so. This is a beautiful spot and I just sit in the water and take it in; it's like being on an island.

David Lloyd cycling from Sydney to Brisbane. Cycle Traveller

Stage 4: Tea Gardens to Forster (S to N). 103km, 3hrs 50min

I find if I leave at dawn I don’t get the strong winds and today I’ll be riding into a northerly, so I’m off at 6am. As far as riding goes, this was sensational. I love cracking the 100km mark, it’s a bit like scoring a hundred at cricket! It's a ride with two choices: both 60km with one along a highway and one along the Lakes Road with a few challenging hills. I always take the hills! The Lakes Road was just the best ride imaginable. It had hills, forest, farms, and beautiful lakes of the Great Lakes System. The road was quiet and the weather warm. A challenging but very rewarding ride.

Stage 5: Forster to Port Macquarie (S to N). 100km, 3hrs 18min

It’s all about the ride today. It’s 20km out of Forster before you get on the Pacific Highway all the way to Port Macquarie. The 80km of Pacific Highway riding is the only option between these towns. The highway is smooth and safe so I just focus on a 30kph average while playing one of my favourite highway riding games: “Name That Road Kill”. I arrived at our meeting point in Port Mac on 99km so I had to ride a further 500m and back to bring up the century. No way was I getting out for 99!

Stage 6: Port Macquarie to Nambucca Heads (S to N). 117km, 3hrs 54mins

I’m on the road at 6am for the ride to Nambucca Heads. It’s 10km to get back on the Pacific Highway before taking the highway the rest of the 107km to Nambucca. It’s nice riding a long way and setting yourself for it, 100km is always a nice achievement. There are some pretty largish towns along the way, like Kempsey. Being the Eastern Seaboard’s major highway, there is a fair bit of traffic along it so it’s not a quiet ride by any means, nevertheless, it’s quite picturesque in places. It’s amazing how fast you can go when you are crossing the rivers on the bridges. You just pedal like crazy and don’t look back, hoping that a B Double truck is not going past. Fortunately, I didn’t get passed while on the bridges; maybe I was going too fast because I was crapping my pants! Despite the bridges, the highway for the best part is safe with a good shoulder to ride on. I arrived in Nambucca Heads about 10 minutes before Deb. This is by far the most beautiful place I have ever been in Australia. It is just beautiful, a few beers in the afternoon overlooking the river and sea and life is pretty bloody good. The satisfaction smile is well and truly on the dial.

Stage 7: Nambucca Heads to Grafton (S to N). 132km, 5hrs

On the Palm Beach ferry, Sydney to Melbourne bicycle touring route. Cycle TravellerIt’s now September and I’m taking advantage of the Show Day public holiday on the Gold Coast to get a weekend of riding in. I'm on the road at 6am. It’s 50km along the Pacific Highway to Coffs Harbour. Pretty much standard Pacific Highway riding although the early mornings are a little quieter. When I get to Coffs I take the back road to Grafton, Orara Way. This is 80km of country-road bliss with everything from banana plantations to dairy farms, crops, a vineyard, and a fair bit of natural bush. It’s pretty hilly in places, especially just out of Coffs where there is a long steep climb. It’s a long ride so I planned my fluid and nutrition really well with a big brekkie of natural muesli. I have two high carb energy bars, a banana, a bag of snake lollies and two bottles of 750ml Staminade. This was perfect and replenished my energy nicely. A great day seeing some more little Aussie gems along the way.

Stage 8: Grafton to Evans Head (S to N). 111km, 3hrs 50mins

The road from Grafton to Lawrence is about 30km along the Clarence River and just beautiful. It is a sunny day and quiet. I see only three cars along this road. I cross the Clarence on the ferry and go through MacLean to the Pacific Highway at the Yamba turn off. It is about 45km to Woodburn along the Pacific Highway, which I find quite safe with ample room on the side of the road for cycling. From Woodburn it is 11km to Evans Head through National Park. I really enjoy the ride; it is nice to get a 100km plus ride under the belt. I get to the motel and check in. Evans Head is beautiful, once again a few beers with dinner and off to bed for an early start to Byron in the morning.

Stage 9: Evans Head to Byron (S to N). 70km, 2hrs 32mins

I'm riding this section from south to north. I leave at sunrise at 6.30am, taking the Broadwater road for 11km until I reach the Pacific Highway once again. This first 11km is a nice quiet country road through National Park. From here it’s about 30km along the Pacific Highway to Ballina; the road is quite safe with a good shoulder to ride on. The road is still quite picturesque with the Richmond River and its tributaries never far away. From Ballina, it’s the Coast Road through Lennox Head to Byron for the final 30km. I think this is the highlight for the whole weekend. Not only is it a beautiful ride but I feel really energised. I will have to spend a few weekends in Byron and just ride to Ballina and back on this great road. It’s not just the scenery, but the ride just has the right amount of hills to make it a great place to ride.

Ferry on the Sydney to Brisbane bike route. Cycle Traveller

Stage 10: Cabarita Beach to Byron Bay (N to S). 54km, 1hr 50mins

It’s now the May long weekend so I’m riding three legs over three days to Grafton. We’re up early and leave Cabarita Beach at 6.30am. I take the coast road through Pottsville and Wooyung and follow the old Pacific Highway south to Brunswick Heads where I join the New Pacific Highway for about 8km to the Byron turn-off. The road is wet but the ride is mostly rain free. There has been a lot of rain in the week leading up to the ride so the creeks are flowing really well. Wooyung Road has started to flood with only about a foot of road not under water, so I’m lucky I can ride along that for about 100m. Deb gets through in the car OK, so all is good. A few rolling hills with just a couple of small climbs along the way. The scenery is spectacular with the landscape green and lush in the sunrise and generally quiet roads for most of the way. Crossing rivers and riding along flowing creeks is food for the soul. I feel great after the ride and put my bike on the car rack, get into my boardies and have a body surf out front of the Beach Hotel in Byron. I look at my watch and it’s only 8.30am! We find a café and have a big feed of bacon and eggs with coffee.

Stage 11: Robina to Cabarita Beach (N to S). 51.4km, 2hrs 3mins

I leave home just before 6am to meet the group from in2cycles who do their weekly ride to North Kirra, which is about half way to Cabba Beach. I set off with about 40 riders from Robina to Burleigh through Currumbin until I leave the group at Kirra to keep riding south on my own. I ride along the foreshore at Coolangatta and cut in along Terranora Creek to Sextons Hill. From here it is across the Tweed River where I take the Fingal exit and the Tweed Coast Road through Kingscliff and Casuarina to Cabarita Beach. The weather turns a bit nasty just after Coolangatta, with a stiff east/southeast wind and showers that blow straight at or across me. It’s head down, pedal into it. Despite the weather, it’s an enjoyable day as always on familiar roads. My wife Deb picks me up at Cabba and we drive home with the bike on the back.

Stage 12a: Brisbane to Southport (N to S). 102.25km, 3hrs 35mins

I was one of 12,000 who set out from Brisbane at 5am for the Brisbane to Gold Coast ride. It was quite a warm morning, beautiful actually, quite humid but just a perfect South East Queensland morning. This suits me fine as a first leg because the course is set and we get to ride through places you wouldn’t normally if you were taking the most direct route. It’s pretty amazing that you can be riding alongside sugar cane farms and beautiful bushland in between the two metropolises of Brisbane and Gold Coast. I take in the surrounds while at the same time, when the mood takes me, mix it with the guys on race bikes. I thought it appropriate to do the ride in board shorts on my cross bike as it is the Gold Coast. Well hydrated and nourished along the way in what was a great ride.

Stage 12b: Southport to Robina (N to S). 16.65km, 41mins

I finish at Southport with the rest of Queensland and have a bit of a rest, drink and food before riding home to Robina. Just along the Gold Coast Highway. It’s a matter of rolling the legs over the familiar roads that I ride often. I jump in the pool and crack a beer, tired and satisfied.

Stage 12c:  GABBA to Southbank (S to N).  2.75km, 8min

Probably sounds strange but hadn’t ridden this short 2.75km section from the GABBA to the start of the Brisbane to Gold Coast section and that’s been bugging me. So I’ve now slipped it in and crossed it off the list so Stage 12, and the ride, is complete.

Ride Summary

Once again, a big thank you to Deb. Same as the Adelaide to Melbourne ride she drove the legs that I rode and has shared some great experiences along the way.  It’s not just about the riding.  Riding is only about 3 or 4 hours per day and is usually done by about 10am.  We have seen towns and experienced things that we may have just driven past if not for the riding aspect of our adventure.

I love riding my bike along roads that I have only seen on a map. You learn to expect the unexpected. No incidents, no mechanicals, not even a puncture on both city to city rides is either good luck, but I will call it good planning because I can.

I have met some really interesting people along the way and swapped stories, people who live completely different lives to me but somehow when you swap stories you realise that they are also on a journey. The ferry aspect from Sydney to Pt Mac was suggested by Woolies Wheels who I rang about advice getting out of Sydney. As a true coastal ride this actually added kilometres to the overall ride but gave it a certain romance. The fact that you are truly coastal and strive to find that route that gets you closest to the sea.
I am proud of the fact that we stayed true to our original plan for this ride. Do it when it fits, and we did! Australia is a beautiful place to see and savor.

We have already started planning MCG to SCG next year. Another coastal gem coming up.

Read David's trip notes from the Adelaide Oval to the Melbourne Cricket Ground bike route.

Images from top: 1. Byron Bay (Source: Tourism Australia). 2. David near Manly. 3. On the Palm Beach ferry. 4. The ferry to Tea Gardens. Photos courtesy of David Lloyd.

Comments

Thanks for the great report. I live in Brisbane and have always wanted to ride the road between here and Sydney but wasn't sure how to ride it safely. We have two long weekends in a row at Easter and Anzac Day next year. I think I might fly to Sydney and follow your route as best I can.

Hello David! I'm Jee from south Korea. I red yours and it makes me motivation to ride a bike in Australia! Actually i was been in Brisbane 2years ago. I just lived in Brisbane around 2years, however Aus becoming my secondarily hometown in my heart. Long story to short, now i'm planning to have a short trip in my holiday season(October first) Sydney to Brisbane. Of course by my bike. And your post give me a more confidence and motivation. But it'll be tough trip for reach final destination Brisbane. I only have around 7-8days to ride it means i have to ride 100km per day or even.. So i'm bit worried about this plan. My engine is still working and i'm sure that its a pretty good enough.

Anyhow, thank you to your post. I love it so much!

Take care man. I'm also going to ride from Brisbane to Sydney in November.

Hello Everyone,

This will be my first ever bike trip and I plan to be doing it in early-mid January. I have a pretty flexible time limit and was thinking of just cruising along, stopping in nice places for a while here and there.

I'd just like some practical tips for the trip.

Also, David, you were cycling about 100 km p/day from a- b but are there other smaller towns between your destinations?

One more thing, were you camping?

Thanks so much,

Tasch

Hi there. Thanks for the blog on Brisbane -Sydney. It sounds like a great route although I might take it a bit easier. My husband and I have ridden from Wollongong to Melbourne down the coast but only 200km on Princes Highway. It was stunning. Also rode around Tas.just magnificent! Pusan to Seoul in Korea is worth a shot too - very beautiful!

Hi david i found your ride very informative i am planning a ride from brisbane to adelaide i live at burleigh heads and would love to talk to you about your ride and get some tips if your interseted please let me know

Thanks

Shane

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