Australian Bicycle Camping Fact Sheets

www.iinet.net.au/~bikefish/

Sydney to Canberra

via the Blue Mountains & Jenolan Caves

By Grace Newhaven

PO Box 3331 RUNDLE MALL SA 5000 / eMail : bikefish@iinet.net.au

  2000/15 May , revised 2008

Purpose

This fact sheet is intended as an introductory guide to bicycle tour-camping on the minor roads between the Blue Mountains (W of Sydney) and Canberra. The region is an established conventional tourist destination and general tourist and promotional information is readily available from mainstream sources elsewhere. This fact sheet assumes the reader has, or will have, access to those sources. This document is also intended to be printed as two A4 pages, rather than in voluminous HTML format.

Resources

There is no bicycle-specific map of this region.

NRMA's " Regional Touring Map # 2 : Canberra & South East NSW ( scale 1 : 550 000, edition 1999/April ) is useful for the minor roads, showing some roads that are not listed on larger scale road maps. Free to members of car clubs, otherwise $5.00 from NRMA offices in larger towns. http://www.nrma.com.au/index.html

The Australian Bicentennial National Trail passes through this area, and extends beyond Canberra into the Snowy. http://home.vicnet.net.au/~bnt/

Wind directions: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/wind/wrselect.shtml

Freewheeling Magazine featured articles on Oberon district (issue 53:40) and a severe condition tour round Yerranderie (53:30). Issues 09:32, 16:36, 49:34 carried articles on the Bathurst area. Issue 25:56 contained an article on the Southern Highlands. Issue 04:07 covers a route between Goulburn and Penrith ( W. edge of Sydney).Australian Cyclist Magazine had a small item about Yerranderie in 94/June. Copies of these magazines are available in bicycle organisation libraries.

Pedal Power is the Canberra cyclists' www site with some touring information for the region.http://sunsite.anu.edu.au/community/pedalpower/index.htm

Bicycle User Groups : Blue Mountains (Peter, 02 4751 1682) ; Lithgow ( Bronwyn < laing@lisp.com.au >) Southern Highlands ( Denise , 02 4883 6650)

Bicycle NSW is the established bicycle advocacy group for NSW. There does not appear to be any independent touring information at its site. http://www.ozemail.com.au/~bikensw/

The Roads & Traffic Authority of NSW [Department of Transport] has some token information about bikes, but nothing about long distance bike travel. http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/

History

Aborigines inhabited the region for millennia before European settlement by sheep farmers in 1840's. The region was also the location for a number of " bushranger" episodes in the middle 19th century. At the present time, the area is often described as the "wool capital" of Australia.

Environment

West of Mt Victoria is generally undulating with a few short, steep hills, especially N of Goulburn. Mixed sheep & cattle country with tracts of pleasant native and plantation forest. There are good views along most of the route. East of Mt Victoria, the road drops gradually towards the Sydney plain.

January is the warmest month (average temperature 23 - 13 C) and July the coldest (10 - 0.9 C).

Getting there

by bike

If you wish, you can ride the whole distance from either Canberra or Sydney. The Sydney end will mean a lot of heavy urban traffic.

by bus

Greyhound & McCafferties intercity buses serve the highway towns. Both have " flat fee" charges for bikes that effectively discriminate against short journeys with a bike. The train (below) will be much cheaper, at least to/from Sydney.

by rail         

The Sydney suburban network extends as far as Lithgow and Goulburn, and is relatively cheap. Bicycles travel free in off-peak times, you simply walk on / walk off with your bike, though there are no purpose designed facilities for bikes, so you may need to stand supporting your fully loaded bike. The "Country" [statewide] train system, running on the same tracks, is less bike friendly. The two services are not well integrated. Smaller stations may not have ramps (consult the timetables for " disabled access" stations). Do not expect train staff in either service to be informative or helpful. 

Roads

The roads in the region range from modern highways to rough, sandy single lane farm roads. Most of the roads are sealed, sometimes with a useable shoulder. On the minor roads however, traffic is generally so light that you can leave the shoulder safely and comfortably. The surface on minor roads may be somewhat rougher than is the standard in other developed countries, but is still easy enough to ride. Car traffic is generally very light and considerate on the backroads even when the surface is good, but sealed through roads between major towns will be much busier and less pleasant for cyclists.

There are also some sand or gravel sections, readily noticeable on the map, (N of Taralga, W of Goulburn , E of Gundaroo and then approaching Canberra via the backroad to Ginninderra ). These may be corrugated and sometimes slippery in the dry, but quite passable at least with wide tyres and /or slow speed. Some short clay sections may not be rideable in wet weather. There are a few patches of " bulldust" [wheel ruts filled with powdery clay dust] near the Abercrombie River, unusual in this climate and easy to distinguish because of their different colour to the rest of the road - exercise care in this area, you could buckle a wheel easily if you hit one at speed.

The Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains is fast, narrow (mostly three lanes in total) with a lot of heavy trucks, and only an intermittent sealed shoulder. The Mt Victoria pass is very steep for about 3 km on the W side, without a shoulder - you will need good brakes and some nerve.

In all cases, it will be worthwhile to wear brightly coloured clothing to enable motorists and truck drivers to see you as early as possible - in particular, avoid dark helmets.

Water

The longest stretches without access to drinking water would be around 20 km or less. Tap water is theoretically safe to drink in all places, though there is concern with septic run-off contamination in the Mountains following rain. If possible, however, try to find rain water, which is collected from roofs of buildings into metal or plastic tanks and is usually much more palatable - farmsteads will usually be happy to provide drinking water. Bottled water is readily available in large supermarkets. Ground water will not be safe anywhere.

Food

Most small settlements still have general stores with a limited stock of non-perishables (see below). Major centres have well stocked supermarkets with competitive prices and long trading hours ( useful to the tired cyclist arriving late ). Supermarkets often have liquor stores attached. Beer drinkers should try "Toohey's Old" a traditional dark beer, and Resches "Real". Wholefood stores are useful if you can find them, as the cyclist can buy smaller quantities of basic foods ( eg honey, milk powder, dried fruits etc ) than are available in supermarkets.

Camping

Roadside camping is generally permitted overnight anywhere outside the 60 km (ie, town) limits. Free camp sites are easy to find on quiet unsealed minor roads & stock routes leading off from the sealed roads. Around most of the small towns, it would be possible to stock up on water and food, then proceed to an overnight "free" campsite nearby if desired. Be sure to bury all toilet waste carefully. In many places there is enough wood for a small pit fire, and you can cook or make damper easily. Use wood sparingly and observe all fire precautions and bans - always bury your fire when you leave.

Alternatively, caravan parks in some towns provide tent sites, and hot showers, at about $5.00/person and up - managers may ask you if you need power!

Services

Blackheath  

"real bread " bakery; helpful wholefood store (with cyclist operator).

Black Springs

small, friendly general store (till 1800). Free camp in small park with OK water

Breadalbane         

good tank water at the church. Telephone. Emergency campsite at the church.

Collector    

a couple of pubs, general store. Historic village, somewhat neglected

Goulburn      

large urban centre, all services. Cyclists Home stay: Kerry < kldyer@tpgi.com.au > ( tel 02 4821 8917 or 4822 2498)

Gundaroo   

pleasant village with 7 day PO & store ( till 1800). Free camp on oval.

Hampton     

Pub & perhaps a small store with fast foods.

Jenolan Caves        

tourist café, small camp site ( $10.00). Tours are worthwhile (YHA discount 10 %). Free camp in the nearby forests, before the steep descent on each side.

Katoomba    

major tourist icon, all services. Bike shop . Cyclists Home stay: Julia ( tel 02 4782 7663).

Parkesbourne       

nil. Taps have been removed from the water tanks.

Porters Retreat     

nil. Private house may have water

Taralga       

small general store, pubs, PO.

Note : the NRMA lists a number of " localities" on its map. These are generally abandoned settlements, with no facilities at all.


This fact sheet was produced by grassroots cyclists. No responsibility for errors or omissions can be accepted. It is intended for free or low cost distribution on paper or on the www, and you are free to copy it on that basis.

Suggestions for improvement are most welcome!

Other Bicycle Camping Fact Sheets include Central Australia, Kangaroo Island, the Flinders Ranges, North Queensland, Kimberley WA , Stuart Highway


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