I cycled from Sydney to Brisbane in 15 days with only 3 days off in between. There were a total of 11 legs on my journey and some days I rested for 2 days but most legs I rode back to back. I did this on a budget, yet had a great time and was very comfortable. I set off the morning of Monday 11th September and arrived in Brisbane lunchtime 25th.
Best ways to be cost effective:
- Camp when inexpensive hostels are not available – you can get a motel for around $85 per night..
- Always take advantage of the free breakfast and buy something to add to it (get creative and take it with you)
- Eat lots of small / energy meals on the riding days, eat light / nutritious on your days off
- If you drink bottled water – get this from Aldi, it is half the price that it is in Coles (Coles is now matching Aldi prices for 2 litre water)
- Always know where the KFC, Maccas, Caltex Starmarts, Target, Commbank, Libraries are for their free wifi
- Cheap coffee – Seven Eleven is for bargain large $2 coffee (real coffee) also in some places they have $2 dollar sandwich days on a wednesday which is good for lunch. Also Coles Servo sells good coffee for 80 cents.
- Plan your rests to co-inside with the inexpensive hostel parts of the journey
My bike set up is as follows:
- 2 X 28 litre Tioga economy rear Panniers
- A 16 litre Louis Garneau Rear top box
- A Front Phone Holder with small pocket for sunglasses wallet and phone
- I also had my big 40 litre back strapped onto the back but this proved to be too much weight so I got rid of / gave a lot of gear away on my journey and ended up taping the bag to my frame.
Leg 1 – Sydney to The Entrance 100km (2 nights)
I set off around 8.30 from Glebe Point Hostel in Sydney. I had flown into Sydney 3 days earlier from a record heatwave summer in the UK and being greeted by Sydney’s cold winter mornings was a bit of a shock. First thing I did was to stop and buy extra bungee cords for the panniers. Buying economy panniers and a pannier rack rated at 25 kg’s seems to work well, but the extra support the bungee chords offered was invaluable.
I could have caught the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly and save some KM but I decided this was just another extra cost. Also, if you have never cycled over the Sydney Harbour bridge then I fully recommend this – it’s an amazing experience in itself and a great reason to skip the ferry to Manly.
Cycling through North Sydney is also great as it is a very affluent area with lots of interesting houses and property nestled across the many hills reminiscent of the Ewok or wood elf houses from fantasy film.
I had planned to use Strava to log my journey on the new iphone I had recently been given as a present. The battery lasted for around 1.5 hours and I am told that this is even better than Map my Ride. Previously an Android user, I have been very unimpressed with the iPhones battery performance thus far. I’m sure they have corrected this with the new iPhone 6..
At the top end of North Sydney is a place called Palm Beach. Here Is where you can catch the ferry to Ettalong and miss out on a huge bridge related detour. I was able to take my bike on the ferry at no extra cost and the single ticket was $11.20.
I should mention that once you get out of the North Sydney area much of the journey is on the open coastal roads and offers no protection from the pacific winds. My Goretex Wind proof jacket was invaluable – I would not have been able to do this ride in the winter without it. It is also very apparent that the affluence of North Sydney soon disappears when you hit the central coast. Things become a little more ghetto.
After Ettalong you reach Gosford which is one long busy roadwork of an American drive-in style outlets. I stopped here to use KFC’s free wifi. Finding free wifi on this trip ended up being a central theme because I also had a second Huawei handset with me which worked great with wifi and maps but would not take my sim card. So I soon found that finding the local library in each place I stopped in was very valuable and any chains that offered free wifi such as McDonalds and Caltex.
Gosford to The Entrance was one busy boring road and this is where it started to get dark on me. Very tired by this stage I kept pushing into the night and finally arrived in The Entrance with The Entrance Backpackers being on the main road A49 into to the town. The Entrance Backpackers is one of the most modern hostels I have ever stayed in and I got 2 great nights sleep here, highly recommended.
The Entrance itself reminded me of Dubbo – small town parades old-fashioned, American influenced. You can see it all here in a few hours and it was nice to read the history info spots on the beach front and see the spit and various birds which included massive Pelicans. A lot of recreational fishing happens here also.
Leg 2 – The Entrance to Newcastle 70km (1 night)
Unfortunately my good stay at The Entrance was ruined by local Aussie crazy lady running in my room and waking me up at 1.00am. She was very threatening and intimidating to the younger English couple on the other side of the room and I had to calm her down. After not much sleep I set off at 8.00 am with lots of grey and rain clouds.
The first half of this Journey until reaching Swansea was a chore. It’s all straight down the A49 and the road side has plenty of room for cycles but a lot of lose debris to slip on or cut your tyres into. You slowly climb up into the hills and get to see some spectacular views of the water on both sides of the spit. After getting a slow puncture I stopped at a McDonalds and used the free wifi in Swansea. After leaving here Google Maps took me through what I can only describe as pre-mangrove swamps.
I was directed onto a dirt road and was cursing Google for about 10 minutes until this turned into the Fernleigh Track. A total blessing in disguise, this ended up being a beautiful scenic bike track made from a previous railway line. This lead me directly to Newcastle and was super quiet and peaceful.
I sung as cycle down this track and took in the wooded scenery. at the end of the track and a couple of residential roads later I arrived at Backpackers Newcastle. The lady here was amazing – super friendly and I chatted to her for 45 minutes. She put me in a quiet 4 bed dorm and let me go to the cash machine and pay 2 hours later to evade the $3 visa surcharge.
This hostel was $25 a night and had a really great atmosphere. Old and in need of a lick of paint but more than made up for this with the friendliness and atmosphere. The lady gave me loads of information about what lay ahead on my journey and saw me to the right destinations. I set off early in the morning after staying here for 2 nights and headed for Point Stephens.
I should also mention that I was able to change my inner tube here and I actually took my whole wheel to Big W and pumped it up. I also bought a cheap replacement pump (mine broke) for $6.
Leg 3 – Newcastle to Port Stephens 50km (1 night)
The ride was very pleasant on average roads. Unfortunately for me I got a puncture and then could not inflate it due to buying a cheap pump. Once I arrived in Port Stephens I came across Spokeys bike shop and the guy was great and gave me loads of great advice. I ended up putting on a touring tyre on the back of the bike which was slightly larger and thicker and I also bought a mini floor pump which would go up to 140 PSI on a Presta valve so I would not have any more problems on the road.
I should say that on this leg of the journey you have ride over the Stockton bridge over the Hunter river. There are signs saying no cycles but you really don’t have another choice. Just power over it and stay away from the edge. Shortly after the bridge you come across Lockheed Martin and Raytheon buildings. It was here that there must have been some joint US / Aus Airforce base because I had 4 F15 fighter jets hovering over my head I had never seen these things move around in the way that they do with the rocket thrusters before and It really was quite astonishing.
Port Stephens itself is a beaitiful place with awesome views. The main areas are Nelson Bay, Anna Bay and Salamander Bay. The hostel I stayed in was called Melalecea Backpackers and it was like an amazing eco-village with loads of wildlife and wood built cabins.
The lady here was super friendly and helpful and showed me how to get to the Stockton Sand Dunes. Totally worth a visit these dunes are amongst the biggest in the world and I can only compare it to being in the middle of the desert but with the sounds and sites of the sea next to it.
Leg 4 – Port Stephens to Forster 100km (1 night)
Only staying one night in Port Stephens meant that had to get up early to see the Stockton Sand Dunes.
After this I went to Nelson Bay and caught the 11.15 ferry over to Tea Gardens. This was $12 including my bike (which they strapped to the roof).
On the ferry ride across the boat driver stopped so we could see a pod of dolphins which was a nice little bonus seeing them in a natural habitat.
If you are travelling up the coast, the Old Gibber track after Mungo Brush road is a dirt track that stretches for over 20km to Seal Rocks. Very hard ride on a touring bike which I did but would never do again…
The road after this became good and I got to Forster on a very cold evening. The Sundowner Tiona Backpacker hostel refused to accomodate me even though they were clearly open when I road past on my bike.
Lazy staff perhaps? Anyway I ended up staying in a nice little motel in Forster central called Bella Ville – these guys were super friendly and helpful to my journey. No disrespects but Forster had nothing of interest – skip it if you can.
Leg 5 – Forster to Port Macquarie 110km (2 nights)
The longest leg of the journey so far which also ended up being the hardest but with some of the best views around. Google Maps will tell you to take the smaller roads and avoid the Pacific highway (A1). Ignore this, the Pacific Highway has a huge hard shoulder perfect for cycling on and the road is flat and smooth.
I wore a high vis vest and I had no angry beeping from any drivers at all. The best route is to stay on the A1 until you reach Kew and then take the coast road which is paved. I unfortunately came off the A1 too early and ended up having to cycle through a haunted wood for another 20km along a dirt track.
Seeing the rainy mist rise over North Brother mountain in Laurieton was amazing, and this quaint little village is a good place to stop on your way into Port Macquarie.
I was faced with very bad night rain conditions cycling into Port Macquarie and could not see very much but I can say that there are some nasty hills on your way into the town centre.
I was going to stay at the Beachside Backpackers Hostel but they had just had a fire that morning and were closed. They directly me to the YHA Ozzie Pozzie hostel instead and I am glad I stayed here as its a really nice hostel, really well kept and the staff were super friendly.
For 2 nights I had the room to myself in a 4 bed dorm and I was able to rest and re-cooperate here for the weekend and do a bunch of washing and sort all my stuff out.
Port Macquarie is a lovely place and well worth a visit. This was the first place on the journey that started to look more tropical and it reminded me of the sunshine coast which I visited last year.
Leg 6 – Port Macquarie – Coffs Harbour 165km (1 night)
This was the hardest leg of the journey so far and probably for the whole trip. I stayed on the A1 for most of the journey which meant the road surface was good but it was a little dangerous in places with huge lorries brushing past my shoulder at 100kmph. I took plenty of breaks and stopped in Kempsey for lunch.
This was the first time I had eaten a banana in over 20 years and I ended up eating 2.
Anything to give me a bit of an energy boost as there were many times where I would lul and become very tired. I even ended up drinking an isotonic drink, something I do not like doing but I was desperate for any extra energy to get me there. I knew the distance was doable but the race was against loosing the daylight as the road into Coffs Harbour was good but very dangerous at night with no street lights.
Between Kempsey and Urunga there are many up and down hills which really tire you out also. When I was in Coffs Harbour I went to an Egyptian exhibition that only cost me 2 dollars.
It was a great talk with many replicas and great information. It was a front for a christian based beliefs religious sect but I enjoyed it none-the-less.
Leg 7 – Coffs Harbour to Yamba 145km (1 night)
Leaving Coffs Harbour was easy. I had got a good nights sleep and the road led straight out down the coast road. This was a long leg and I was splitting it up with a lunchtime stop in Grafton on my way.
It was 85 km just to Grafton so I had to leave early. The roads were average on this leg of the journey with a lot of flat farm plains and cross winds to deal with. Sorry to say it, but Grafton was an utter shit hole.
The A1 from Grafton to Yamba provided very little hard shoulder and loads of super-sized trucks to contend with. Most truck drivers will give you a wide berth but there are some that flat out try and knock you off your bike on these types of roads and although there are no bibs to deal with, you can feel that they are trying to put the woollies up you as they get super close when you go past and then re-align to the middle of the roads 100ft after they pass you.
If you do this journey in 1 go try and get to Yamba before dark as there are no street lights and it is 15km from the highway.
The YHA is at the very end of Yamba near the sea but it is worth reaching as it is hotel quality. Here the guy on reception was super friendly and he gave me my own 4 share room and I got a great nights sleep.
Leg 8 – Yamba to Byron Bay 125km (1 night)
This was probably the hardest leg for me because I only stayed in Yamba 1 night and did not leave a rest day from the previous leg. I also had a tyre blow out in the first 20 minutes of the ride (luckily I had the spare from my earlier tyre swap of the journey). With sore legs I journeyed from Yamba and the roads for the first half of the ride were great. I stopped in Woodburn for lunch and ate bananas and apples to keep me going.
The A1 soon becomes the M1 and its like the total opposite of England. The Motorways and A roads are the best and safest roads to ride on in Australia because they have huge hard shoulders and none of the fast traffic bothers you. A lot of the motorway is sign-posted for cyclists too which reminds the car drivers that you do have rights as a cyclists to be there. I took the coast road into Byron bay (B62) and this was a nice yet hilly ride.
I didn’t get to see much of Byron Bay, but it seemed very hipster to me with lots of hippy and alternative health food type stores. The YHA Hostel here again was great and the staff were super helpful. I only stayed 1 night again in a 4 share room but the vibe of the hostel was great and I would go again.
(lot’s of rain going on so I did not see the beach here nor take any photos 🙂
Leg 9 Byron Bay to Coolangatta 70km (1 night)
it was very miserable and grey and raining when I left Byron Bay. This was a 70km leg and my third day riding in a row. I was tired and sore and it did not stop being cold and pissing it down. Google maps fucked up on this leg of the journey and it took me off the M1 too early to take the coast road with a stretch of it that did not even exist going through a national park I had to turn back and lost about half an hour journey time.
My recommendation is to stay on the motorway until you get to Tweed Heads. The problem I had was that all the signage was for tweed Heads and there was no sign or turn off for Collangatta anywhere on the motorway. When you reach Cooly, the motorway has signs that say no bikes and it just ends after a signposted cycle route. Here, if you can stay on the road for 500 metres more and take the turn off which will eventually take you too Cooly.
My honest opinion, if you have enough energy miss out Coolangatta as unless you are a surfer there is fuck all there. The YHA hostel was a horrible disgrace – really old, dirty and full of low-lifes (although the staff were super nice). There are also no shops near the hostel and I had to eat a Subway for my dinner which is really not good energy food..
Leg 10 – Coolangatta to Surfers Paradise 20km (2 nights)
The shortest and easiest leg of the journey but again the weather was super miserable and all of the clothes I got dry the night before were soon very wet again as it poured it down all morning. The roads were all city roads and its just the coast road which you stay on. Loads of shops to get a coffee and an easy ride to reach Surfers. Here I decided against staying in the YHA because it was miles away from the main centre.
I stayed at Gold Coast Backpackers and this hostel was great and more like a hotel. Surfers Paradise is full of meat-head steroid jocks and is a bit like a car crash of Great Yarmouth and Blackpool with high-rise buildings.
I love the convenience of the big cities and did consider looking for a job here but everything was just too phoney. I knew that it was less culturally integrated up north, but this place was just too phoney for me.
I was hoping that Brisbane could offer more – I needed to settle for 4 months in a place where I could get an easier bar job and do some freelance work. Here’s hoping Brisbane is more of a melting pot than this sterile boy racer town. I should note that I am not into Surfing and I am sure that it is great if you do surf.
Leg 11 Surfers Paradise to Brisbane 85km
On the final leg of my journey it was a lovely sunny day and I was very thankful for this. This was probably the hardest leg of the journey in terms of knowing where to go because the goal was to follow the motorway from Sunshine coast to Brisbane without actually going on the motor way and this proved a lot more difficult than it sounds.
As this blog mentions, there is a cycle path called the V1 cycle way and it is signposted for some of the way, but there are parts where I got completely lost in suburbia and there is also a point where the cycle path crosses the motorway (which is really hard to find) but essential if you are going to follow it all the way there. OK so to begin with the cycle path started for me at Helensvale where the V1 is signposted on the left side of the motorway (toward Brisbane).
I followed this for sometime until I got to Cove Park. It was here that the Velo signs vanish and it becomes really hard to figure out how to get over the river. Basically there are 4 bridges over the river. You have to follow the path underneath the bridge and back round on yourself to get onto the second bridge from the lefts right hand side cycle lane (toward brisbane).
Then once you are over the bridge you have to cross the busy road and re-join the cycle path on the other side of the road (or you will crash into on coming cyclists as I nearly did). Whatever you do don’t try and find a smaller bridge by going around the lake. This will just result in you doing a complete lap of the lake and wasting half an hour (as I did).
After this the cycle path goes past a lot of the theme parks and you can see them first on your left and then on your right. At some point near Pimpana the cycle path crosses underneath the motor way but it is very badly signposted. What I did was first get lost then go back to the Pimpana junction and went over the motorway using the secondary roads and then re-found the V1 on the other aside of the road.
After this the cycleway takes you back across to the left hand side of the motorway and is much better signposted from here onward giving you distances to Brisbane and other nearby places. After Pimpana you come to Beenleigh which is the first of the south Brisbane ghetto suburbs.
This is about the half way point of the journey and it was here that I got a blow out on my front tyre and had to get the train. Luckiliy the train line was very close to the cycle path here and I managed to get a direct train to Southbank station which was walking distance from Brisbane Backpackers resort and excellent and recommended hostel. You can hop on the train for around $7.00 single but you need a Go card (I luckily purchased on on the Gold Coast) but they also sell them in the station.
If you have any questions about any of the journey please leave me a message in the comments below.
Top 5 Places I visited
- Port Stephens
- Port Macquarie
- Surfers Paradise
- Byron Bay
Least Favourite 5 Places I visited
- Coffs Harbour
- The Entrance
It cost me just over $1000 with the biggest costs going toward motel rooms, expensive hostels and buying lunch and breakfast on the road. I could have flown to Brisbane and taken my bike or I could have bought a cheap car but that would probably have cost me as much in petrol. This was a fantastic opportunity to cross a bunch of places on the east coast off my list that I would not have seen any other way.
Rural New South Wales is very much like the fens area of England in the winter. What I also realise is that I packed for a life in Brisbane not a 1000km cycle ride. I had about 25kgs in total bike weight with 15kg’s of that being from luggage. By then end of the journey I had given away so much stuff that I had around 10kgs of bag weight which was much more manageable.
If I could do it all again I would pack less and get some tri / aero bars because I could feel that when my calves and quadriceps were spent of energy I still had loads left in my hamstrings which I could not utilise because I could not get into the triathlete position.