Cycle Touring Australia - Sydney to Sussex Inlet

For our first big cycle trip we decided to challenge ourselves by riding from Sydney to Melbourne. Up until this point the furthest we’d cycled in a single trip was 120km so it was a big jump but we felt like we were ready.

We considered the trip a test run before we head off to Europe for a 6 month adventure. We wanted to get comfortable riding, check that we have all the gear we need, and find out what sort of problems we may run into and need to know how to fix (at the start neither of us knew anything about bike repair other than fixing a puncture!).

The trip was done over 22 days which consisted of 16 cycling days and 6 rest days. We did it in January 2013, Australian summer and peak season.


Sydney to Kiama

To avoid city traffic we decided to catch the train to Wollongong and cycle from there to Kiama. It’s a nice 35km ride which is mostly cycle path and relatively flat except for a few short hills coming into Kiama. All in all a nice way to start the trip and we were very excited to finally be on the road after a long time planning.

It was peak season when we arrived so all campsites were completely booked, but luckily during this time the Kiama Showground is opened up to campers and caravans to handle the overflow. It wasn’t the nicest place to pitch a tent, some parts looked a bit like a shanty town with the number of old caravans squashed up next to each other, but it had everything we needed ie. hot showers and toilets (no camp kitchen though) and was only $33 for the night rather than the $60 it would have been at the tourist parks.

The first glimpse of Kiama is quite stunning and reminded us of how great the beaches are in Australia. The town has a lot of character and is surprisingly very clean and well kept for an old beach town. We’d been to Kiama a few times previously and had already seen the sites, so decided to spend the day relaxing at Surf Beach.


Kiama to Nowra

We took the coast road down to Nowra, it started off with a decent climb up Mt Pleasant which had a lookout at the top with a nice view of both Kiama and Gerringong. After getting down the other side of Mt Pleasant the road was completely flat for about 30km through forest, which sounds great but got a bit monotonous and by the end we were itching to climb a hill.

There are a two good camping options that we’ve found in Nowra, on a previous trip we stayed at the Nowra Wildlife Park and really liked it, it’s located right on the river and has a resident peacock and wombat (wally) that stroll around the campgrounds like they own the place, it’s also very cheap at $10 per adult per night. The only drawback is that it’s located 5km from the town centre and we wanted to find somewhere closer this time because we still had a lot of kms ahead of us.

The place we camped at on this trip was Shoalhaven Caravan Village which is about 1km from the town centre, close enough to be convenient but far enough from the hussle and bussle. The unpowered camping area at the front of the property is a open green field spotted with big trees that are perfect for camping under. There were only a few other campers when we were there so it felt luxurious to have so much space after Kiama.

There’s not much to see in Nowra other than the river, which you can get a great view of by taking a ride down Scenic Drive. It’s a fairly big town with a lot of shops and even a cinema, we took advantage of the local library to charge our gadgets and access the free wifi they have there.


Nowra to Sussex Inlet

We originally planned to cycle from Nowra to Ulladulla, but ended up taking an “unplanned deviation” that taught us a few valuable lessons.

The planned route was 90km long (our record to date) taking Braidwood Rd through Yerriyong State Forest then cutting across the forest to the Princes Hwy via Wandean Rd, which would have been our first dirt road. It was a very hot day (35 degrees celcius) and at this stage of the trip we were only carrying 3L of water with us, assuming we’d find places to refill along the way, but we were wrong, there was absolutely nowhere along Braidwood Rd to get water, no shops, no houses, nothing but forest, forest and more forest.

After cycling in the heat for three hours our water was running low and we were still 40km from the next town, so we decided to take a detour through the national park to Wandandian, the nearest town to us at only 14km away. Google maps showed us a cycle route via Cassia Rd which started off as a comfortable dirt road but quickly deteriorated into something you’d only want to take on with a 4×4, there were large rocks, fallen trees, steep hills of sand and mud which could only be passed by getting off the bikes and walking. Because of the extremely slow progress, our water ran out and we were starting to feel the effects of heat stroke in the final kms.

In the end we made it to Wandandian and luckily found help from the people at the first house we came across, they gave us water (and even lime cordial) and a lift to Sussex Inlet where we could find accommodation. The lessons we took from the experience were:

To recover from the saga we took a day off and got ourselves a cabin in Sussex Inlet. It’s a quiet town and a nice place to relax, with a lot of retirees and holidaying families around. On our day off we rented a little motor boat and went fishing in St Georges Basin, had a dip in the water off one of the piers, and went out for a cheap dinner at the local RSL.

Jan 5, 2013