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Australian Bicycle Camping Fact Sheets

NSW : Hunter Valley (2000)

By Grace Newhaven

 PO Box 3331 RUNDLE MALL SA 5000

 

Purpose

This fact sheet is intended as an introductory guide to cycle camping in the Hunter Valley NSW. 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.

Resources

There is no bicycle-specific map of the Hunter.

NRMA's " Regional Touring Map # 4 : Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Hunter, Illawarra & Southern Highlands ( scale 1 : 550 000, edition 1999/August ), 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 Pacific Bicycle Route" [Australian East Coast, Sydney to Brisbane ] (1986 collaboration, 66pp A5 format). A thoughtful and detailed route guide to existing roads, as distinct from off road "trails", includes its own lift out maps. Published by Bicycle Australia. No ISBN. Available from BNSW (see below)

Freewheeling Magazine # 04:07 describes a route between Goulburn and Maitland via Penrith (W Sydney). Available from bicycle libraries.

The Australian Bicentennial National Trail passes through this area, using pleasant back roads. http://home.vicnet.net.au/~bnt/

Wind direction maps are available at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/wind/wrselect.shtml

The "Newcastle Cycleways Movement " is primarily an urban advocacy organisation, but may be of interest. http://users.hunterlink.net.au/~magsb/. There is also a Bicycle Users Group in Dungog. Local cyclist Brian Carter of Singleton offers current information.

The "East Coast [Bicycle] Touring Club" is based in Newcastle http://users.hunterlink.net.au/~derk/index.html

The Wine Country website may be of some interest: http://www.winecountry.com.au/

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 of the Awabackal people inhabited the region for millennia before European settlement began with the discovery of coal in 1790's. By the 1820's the area was attracting settlers and producing timber, cattle products, wines, coal & wool. In places, the present minor roads follow historically significant routes, especially the Great North Road of the early colonial period, including the oldest bridge still in use on mainland Australia

Environment

A lush river valley, with gentle undulations near the Hunter River, with a few short, steep hills beyond, especially towards Gloucester. The country is mixed dairy & beef cattle country with remnant tracts of pleasant native forest, especially on less accessible hilltops. In some places there is a timber industry, much reduced from its previous scale. Wine is now an important industry in parts of the region. The Wollomei National Park on the S. side has attractive views of sandstone cliffs. Wildlife is common, especially in National Park areas. The route to Sydney through Wiseman's Ferry is particularly idyllic, with small villages and quiet river and forest views. Wildflowers are particularly attractive from August to December.

Weather : the warmest time is December to March ( 24 -18 deg ) and the coldest in July ( min 8.3 deg.) The driest season is September - November and the wettest March - July, though rainfall is fairly uniform year round , about 10 days / month

Getting there

by bike       

From Sydney, the Wollombi road is an attractive alternative to the Pacific Highway. From the West, quiet access is via the Bylong road. There is a fact sheet in this series for the adjoining Central West of NSW.

See also the "The Pacific Bicycle Route" (above).

by bus

Greyhound & McCafferties intercity buses serve the main highway towns. Both have " flat fee" charges for bikes that effectively discriminate against short journeys with a bike. Note however that significant discounts exist for tickets booked in advance. The train (below) may be much cheaper and more frequent, at least to/from Sydney

by rail         

"CityRail" the Sydney suburban commuter network extends as far as Newcastle 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 all the way, supporting your fully loaded bike. The "Countrylink" [statewide express] train system, running on the same tracks, is much 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. http://www.staterail.nsw.gov.au/

Roads

There is an extensive network of well maintained sealed roads, sometimes narrow (one lane). Car traffic generally very light and considerate but through roads between major towns will be busier and less pleasant for cyclists. Some newer sections of through roads have useful sealed shoulders. There are also some rough, sandy tracks providing useful & picturesque alternatives to sealed roads.

The road from Wollar to Bylong and Sandy Hollow is very quiet, and rough in some places, but well worthwhile. The Singleton to Gresford road is very attractive, as is the unsigned backroad between Maitland & Cessnock and on to Wollombi. The road from Gloucester to Stroud can be busy and sometimes narrow - the local people have protest signs demanding improvements near Stroud Road village. There are some pleasant and very quiet backroads behind Gloucester, leading into the Barrington Tops area. Wooden decked bridges are frequent , and can be slightly hazardous, especially for thin tyres - approach these bridges cautiously.

The main highways are very busy with a lot of heavy coal trucks, particularly Route 15 (New England Hwy) - the road has good sealed shoulders, but is very noisy.

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. If possible, however, try to find rain water, which is collected in metal or plastic tanks and usually 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 which originated in the Hunter miners' pubs, 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. For other food ideas, see " Bicycle Kitchen".

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. 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

Bylong

water tank, friendly general store with liquor, free camp site at tennis court.

Cessnock

urban centre, all services, with a severe traffic problem in the CBD! Free camp by railway line on S side

Clarence Town

pub, general store, van park. Free camp in forest nearby.

Denman

expensive van park.small s/market. Pubs. Town used for historical film set.

Dungog

large town, several s/markets. No van park, no tank water, but taps OK. Free campsite at picnic shed about 5 Km to NE. Bicycle User group . (Tel unknown). Steep climb to the SW, great views !

Gloucester

Nice small town, all services, pleasant, cheap van park ( with friendly management & a bottle recycling program).Thrift shop. Email at Gloucester-on-line. World heritage National Park.

Gresford

small town. Tank water at the school. Good place to wash clothes in school 's trough.

Jerry's Plains

small friendly general store. Pub. PO.

Kulnura

general store. Football field .

Maitland

urban centre, wholefood shop ( Bulwer St). Email at library near bridge $3.00/hr

Mangrove Mtn

general store, camp at football park. Smelly battery chicken farms.

Singleton

large urban centre, free email at library. Bike shop at Singleton Plaza (tel 02 6572 2213). Historic buildings.

Spencer

village by the Hawkesbury, general store with liquor shop till 1800 hrs, 7 days.

Wards River

Public water tank at reserve, shelter shed, and toilets. Fast food store.

Warkworth

Water from school's tank. Noisy park near the school. Fast food.

Wiseman's Ferry

pub, fast foods.

Wollombi

general store, pub. Basic camping area near the pub. National Trust site, very pleasant.

 

Note : there are several small villages along the Hawkesbury River, most with a general store.


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 in this series include

Central Australia | SA Kangaroo Island | SA Flinders Ranges | North Queensland

| WA Kimberley | Stuart Highway | NSW Central West | NSW Sydney to Canberra

2000 / September 7