Cycle Touring in Australia

 Bruce Robertson

The best bike tour is the one that ticks most if not all the boxes for you - focus in on exactly what you want from a tour or just narrow your selection a bit and have a browse.

Australia is one of the largest and most sparsely populated countries on earth. As such the tyranny of distance moulds the cycle tourism industry. However there is also huge variety and if you focus on particular areas you can have many different experiences - or cross the continent and do it all!

Visit world-renowned attractions like the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Ocean Road, the Sydney Opera House or some of the best wine regions in the world.

The climate varies from tropical (wet and dry seasons only) to Alpine and temperate (four distinct seasons - sometimes in one day!) and desert (dry and arid). Remember Australia is in the southern hemisphere so January is the height of summer! 

Although wearing helmets is always recommended for touring, Australia is one of few countries where they are mandatory (at all times) - even for a short spin around the block or riding off-road bike paths. Other cycle rules vary from state to state but your tour operator will have the most relevant information for you.

Probably the best, certainly the most popular, state for cycle tour, Victoria is relatively compact - but still almost as large as the entire United Kingdom! The state government has also been the most proactive in Australia in converting old railway lines to thriving regional rail trails that make for excellent touring.

Melbourne is by far the biggest city and is good for cycling, being flat and using a grid street system.There is also a bicycle share scheme in operation if you want to DIY.
Elsewhere are several mountain ranges for the climbers, coastal and river routes for those after water views, and great wineries and gourmet regions for just about everyone - and they all offer fabulous scenery.

Despite being the most populous state cycling infrastructure is low on the state's priority list. However there are several good tour operators that have selected really good routes, both in Sydney and across the state.
City tours in Sydney are popular, and why wouldn't they be with the magnificent setting of the harbour, Opera House and the Bridge. The city is also becoming slowly more accepting of cyclists.
There are beautiful areas to ride up and down the coast such as the Illawarra and Byron Beach. Wine regions around Mudgee and the Hunter Valley are also well worth a visit, as are places further west - although distance and remoteness makes touring more challenging.

A larger state, Queensland even less infrastructure than New South Wales - certainly outside Brisbane. Popular regions such as Noosa and the Gold Coast offer some good bike tour options.
Much further north Cairns and the hinterland are quite popular - particularly for mountain biking.

The story is much better with the whole cycling world being focused here in January. One of the world's biggest cycling events outside Europe, the Tour Down Under, calls Adelaide home and has spawned a whole industry around it, including tours.
Some of Australia's best wine regions also attract many cyclists - the Barossa and Clare Valleys, the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale. More challenging tours are available further north in the Flinders Ranges, Mount Lofty and along the Oodnadatta track.

About the same size as Ireland or Switzerland, it is compact in Australian terms but with a low population. However with dramatic scenery, magnificent mountains and national parks, beautiful beaches and wilderness, Tasmania rivals almost any location in the world.
Cyclists who love the great outdoors and having it to themselves will feel at home here.

Most tours are based around the southwest of the state, with the Margaret River wine region in particular being popular. You can increasingly do tours along all or part of the Munda Biddi Trail, which was only completed in 2013.
Outside this southwest pocket of Western Australia (albeit a very large pocket) riding a bike is almost unheard of due to enormous distances, vast deserts and few if any facilities.

Best suited to the most adventurous, several epic tours across Australia visit various parts of the territory. The capital, Darwin, is quite small but is fairly bicycle friendly. Top tourism areas include Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks as well as the Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs areas - but of course the best known is Uluru (formerly known as Ayer's Rock).