Greatest Weekend Rides

weekendrides-7746

A day away

Here’s the second half of our guide to a great day in any of a dozen cities in Australia or New Zealand. What do we have for you in this issue? More rides, of course!


Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come. William “Billy Bubbles”
Shakespeare, Sonnets

As before, we’ve compiled a selection of short one-day or weekend rides, one from each of the cities below. In each case we reckon this is one of the best, most interesting runs given the time constraints and the fact that you’re probably not going to have a lot of local knowledge. Some of these rides are based on routes from the Bear’s Motorcycle Atlas, others are freely invented by the rest of us!

In case you don’t have a bike with you (which is likely in these sorts of cases) we’ve also found you somewhere to rent one in most of the cities mentioned. Where we haven’t listed a rental company, we simply don’t have any knowledge of or experience with one. It’s you and the internet, I’m afraid.

Sydney
The trouble with Sydney is that it’s such a pain to get out of the place. On top of that, one of the most convenient exit roads is the M5 and I would not suggest that anyone tackle the M5 tunnel on a motorcycle. The air pollution is literally breathtaking and even the government has suggested that riders stay out – with a serious health warning!

Take Ring Road 4, also called the Western Distributor, instead and pick up the Western Motorway at Strathfield. This means a bit of shuffling along with the traffic on Parramatta Road but it’s better than that tunnel. Take the Cumberland Highway, Ring Road 7, turnoff to the left and pick up the South-Western Motorway at Liverpool. Don’t worry, you won’t be on the motorway for long.

Take the Camden exit and turn left into Highway 89 at Narellan. This bypasses Camden on a dual carriageway road before taking you over the famous Razorback range and into Picton. The George IV hotel is worth a stop if the time of day is right; there’s a brewery tucked away inside which makes some outstanding beers. Take a bottle of the powerful Burragorang Bock home.

Stay on 86 and reflect on the fact that not too long ago this narrow ribbon of tar was Highway 1, Australia’s main transport artery. A very short excursion back onto the freeway is next, then take the Mittagong turnoff. Stay on this road to Bowral, which is full of Don Bradman memorabilia, then turn left onto the lovely, lonely back road to Robertson.

The Big Potato in Robertson is a not-so-huge disappointment (because it’s not so huge and ugly). But the pub, which doesn’t look like much either, is actually quite nice and had good meals last time we were there. Just down the road towards Macquarie Pass is the famous Pie Shop.

Macquarie Pass is a joy to ride but beware. Some of the corners are tricky and there may be oil or diesel on the road. Turn left when you get to Albion Park and follow the freeway to Wollongong and up the coast. At Bulli you pick up Lawrence Hargrave Drive or whatever they call it now, which takes you over the interesting Sea Cliff Bridge and up to the top of the cliff at Stanwell Tops. Take the road through National Park if you have time, otherwise turn left and head for the Southern Freeway. Both routes join up again in Loftus and from here you just follow the Ring Road 1 signs back into Sydney.

This ride is quite long at nearly 300 kilometres but you can easily shorten it by either staying on the freeway and skipping the Picton excursion, or by taking the Southern Freeway back to Sydney from the top of Bulli Pass. But stay out of the M5 tunnel!

Canberra

What about a ride right around town? Done! Start by taking Adelaide Avenue from Parliament House past The Lodge and turning off onto Cotter Road.

Just past Duffy you’ll see a road on your right signposted to Mt Stromlo Observatory. This is not only a great little run but at the top you’ll find the observatory with (maybe) a cafe and some nice views out over the Molonglo River valley.

Back to Cotter Road and follow it out to the scenic Cotter Dam. Then follow Paddys River Road south from the reserve through state forest and pasture land as far as the turnoff to the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. Not only are the big radio dishes worth a look all by themselves but the little museum and pleasant coffee shop beckon as well. This is a popular destination with Canberra riders.

When you carry on along the main road you will pass the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve’s visitor centre, which is also worth a look if native animals are your thing (alive, that is, and not barbecued). After some more pleasant riding along the river, take Point Hut Road to the left and make your way across to the Monaro Highway.

Next it’s a right turn into Lanyon Drive towards Queanbeyan. Continue along the Kings Highway, number 52, to Bungendore. This pleasant if highly touristy little town has some quality craft shops and cafes. The best is probably the Bungendore Wood Works Craft Shop and Cafe but there are also really good pub meals to be had.

There’s no need to retrace your tracks to get back to Canberra. Instead, tackle some more terrific riding along Bungendore Road. Take the left turn into Macs Reef Road (signposted to Sutton) before joining the Federal Highway for the final run back into Canberra itself.

Launceston
Lovely place, Launceston. The town itself is attractive, it has a green, restful park and a motor museum and, of course, the Boags Brewery. What more could you ask?

Well, how about a ride over some great roads through the outstanding countryside around the town?

Let’s leave Launceston by way of the West Tamar Highway, via Legana. Why not the East Tamar Highway, which goes in the same direction but on the other side of the river? Well, because this way, you get to have morning tea in Exeter, where there is an exeterlent bakery right on the main road. You also get to ride across the Tamar River on the Batman Bridge and trust us, the locals would be just as happy if you kept the question about the Robin Bridge to yourself.

Turn left into the East Tamar Highway when you get to the T intersection after the bridge. This is a lovely ride before you turn right into the B82, signposted to Bridport. A fast and open road that passes a lot of Tasmania’s better-known wineries (why?), this takes you to a crossroads. Here you can turn left for the short run into the pretty little fishing town of Bridport or right into the B84 which takes you further along our route. Why not check out Bridport before you go on?

Once you’ve done that, the B84 is another open and quick road that passes through the minuscule but wonderfully named settlement of Jetsonville (whistle “Meet George Jetson”) before depositing you at the A3, the Tasman Highway, in Scottsdale.

You’re in for a treat here and it’s not only the sight of all the hops being grown to be turned into beer. The Tasman Highway is a terrific road, both east and west of Scottsdale, and you’ll have a good time before Launceston comes into view again. Call this ride 200 kilometres and make sure you stop at the small (and remarkably normal) town of Deviot and at least one winery along the way.

Perth
It’s said that Perth is the most remote capital city on the planet and boy can it seem like that at times! Not, let me hasten to say, because it is in some way insular – it’s just that even the local stuff is a long way away!

Lovely as Margaret River is, for instance, you wouldn’t want to try visiting it on a day trip – not if you actually wanted to have time to see it. It’s the same for Wave Rock, or the Valley of the Giants.

But there is a ride of reasonable length we’re happy to recommend.

From the southern end of the Causeway, take the Great Eastern Highway out to Guildford and on to Mundaring. Nice pub there, but not for today! The road splits at The Lakes and you want the right-hand fork. It’s signposted as the Great Southern Highway (great highways in WA) and it will take you through a bit of rolling countryside to York.

The home of the excellent and highly recommended York Motor Museum (mainly classic cars but some nice bikes), York is also a remarkably historic town and offers pretty good coffee in several cafes. From here, turn north to Northam – preferably along the back road on the western bank of the Avon River, rather than the main road on the eastern bank.

Northam is pretty historic, too, and right next to the information centre it has (wait for it) “one of the longest pedestrian swing bridges in Australia”.

Further north and west again is the National Trust classified Toodyay with a steam-driven flour mill in the tourist information centre – in full working order! You can probably skip the deepest railway cutting in Australia with a clear conscience.

The road from Toodyay back down to Perth by way of Midland and Guildford is once again a lot of fun on a bike and despite a 250 kilometre day, gets you back in time for a short excursion out to Fremantle to see the remarkable sight of the sun setting over the ocean.

Darwin
Without wishing to belittle Darwin in any way I do have to say that this is the toughest one of all. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of places to see and ride to around Darwin, it’s just that they’re mostly a long way away. The Northern Territory is a big place, and it’s bigger than ever since they got an open road speed limit.

But there is one place that makes for a good day trip, even though you’ve got to come back pretty much exactly the way you went. That’s Mandorah, on the Cox Peninsula and at the end of a road that’s finally been sealed.

Just take the Stuart Highway south from Darwin, turn right at Noonamah and carry on until you reach Mandorah. Repeat in reverse to get you back to Darwin.

The big pub is being redeveloped, but there’s fuel, snacks and cold drinks at Belyuen and Wagit Beach.

Christchurch
How’s this for an offer that’s hard to resist: a ride of about 100 kilometres over some of the best motorcycle roads in the world, and when you get to the end… you’re in France.

Christchurch offers that with the run out to Akaroa. Listed in Peter Mitchell’s excellent New Zealand Motorcycle Atlas as ride #43, it takes in the best roads around the extinct volcano that created Akaroa’s harbour.

The town itself has a very French air because it was originally settled by French immigrants, and it still has a lot of that atmosphere. When I say it was first settled by French people I mean, of course, that it was somehow wrested from the far more original Maori inhabitants… I don’t know what happened, but the place is tres charmant.

Peter recommends riding out along the coast east of Christchurch to Sumner, and then taking Evans Pass Road inland to Gebbies Pass. Here you have several choices; my advice is simple, “see road, ride it”. It doesn’t matter where you go here, it’s going to be a terrific bike road.

Eventually you will find yourself on State Highway 75, heading further east towards Akaroa. Little River makes a good souvenir and coffee stop, and then you’re into the corners again either along the Summit Road or the main highway. Whichever you choose, take the other one when you come back. They are the only options, but you won’t mind.

Akaroa can hold you for quite a while, but when you’re heading back to Christchurch make sure that you tackle whatever roads you didn’t ride on the way out.

Peter warns that there is fuel only at Christchurch, Lyttleton and Akaroa. I’ve called this ride about 100km one way, but I guess the final length depends on the roads you actually take. And you’ll probably want to do quite a few of them more than once…

Rent here
We asked the indefatigable Selena Thurbon from Bikescape Motorcycle Tours and Rentals to recommend rental companies in some of the cities we’ve covered. They were chosen partly for convenience; they’re pretty much all in relatively easily accessible places. Oh, and of course Bikescape was chosen because Selena knows the people there very well indeed…

Cairns: Cairns Motorcycle Tours & Hire, http://www.bikingaustralia.com/index.htm
Sydney: Bikescape Motorcycle Tours & Rentals, www.bikescape.com.au
Melbourne: Garners Hire Bikes, http://www.garnersmotorcycles.com.au/
Hobart: Moto Adventure Tasmania, http://www.motoadventure.com.au/index.html
Adelaide: Show & Go Australia, http://www.showandgo.com.au/
Perth: Big Boyz Toyz http://www.motorcyclerental.com.au/
Auckland: South Pacific Motorcycle Tours, http://www.motorbiketours.co.nz/
Christchurch: Te Waipounamu Motorcycle Tours, http://www.motorcycle-hire.co.nz/index.html
Keep in mind that these are far from the only places where you can rent a bike in these cities. One that we would add straight away is South Pacific Motorcycle Tours in Christchurch, www.motorbiketours.co.nz.
Reader Rod Smith has also come up (finally!) with a rental agency in Darwin. “Bikes Top End have Harleys, Ducatis and Triumphs and have been operating for about 18 months,” he writes. “Check them out at bikestopend.com.au.”

It’s not exactly Brisbane, but Aussie Biker Tours & Rental in Noosaville, Qld offers rental bikes. See www.aussiebiker.com.au.

Likewise, OzTrikes is a little way north of Sydney at Somersby, rather than in the city, with its fleet of rental trikes. The website is www.oztrikes.com.au.

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