Loire Life Cycling in Australia
For cycling holidays France is, in our opinion the best, but we thought while on holiday in Australia we’d try out the cycling on offer. How would cycling “Down Under” compare with Loire Valley cycling?
Our holiday had been planned for some time, but following kind invites from a number of this year’s Australian cycling holiday guests we extended our trip and spent time in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.
In Sydney, we didn’t find many marked routes around the city centre, but maybe we didn’t look hard enough! Whilst there are plans to create a network of cycle ways around the city, at the moment you pretty much take your chances with the rest of the traffic. Rather than risk injury, we hired bikes at Centennial Park ($40) a few km’s south east of the city centre and enjoyed a couple of hours cycling around the large parkland. I say a couple of hours – we spent at least forty minutes having ice cream in the park’s restaurant – but we were on holiday!
Brisbane was a completely different kettle of fish. There are plenty of bikeways and the suburban trains and water taxis have no problem with you travelling with your bike. In fact, if you are exploring central Brisbane and in particular the Southbank area then using the bike is perfect, with dedicated routes and plenty of clear signs. We opted to have a cycle the Moreton Bay Cycleway following the coastline in the eastern suburbs. Many thanks to Lou & John Carroll, guests from our first French Cycling Holiday of 2009, who provided us with the bikes and Lou who guided us.
The sun gets so high so early in Brisbane that everyone is up and out by 7am. So it was with us and after an early breakfast we were cycling along the dedicated coastal cycle/walkway from Wynnum to Wellington Point. Now this was a ride that we can’t offer on our French cycling holidays – a cooling coastal breeze, nothing but the glistening Pacific Ocean on our left hand side and boardwalks meandering through mangrove swamps. It was so good that we did it again later the same week, except this time taking in more of the mangrove swamps, cycling across the boardwalk, just inches above the water at high tide – it was fantastic!
The capital of South Australia, Adelaide is designed on a grid layout with wide boulevards, the result that for a city even though the roads are busy the traffic moves fast. Even the locals would admit that the drivers are unaccustomed to sharing these routes with cyclists. However, we choose to cycle the dedicated cycleway running from the north eastern suburbs and following the banks of the Torrens river through the centre of the city and out to the coast – a ride of 16kms. You are then able to link up with the coastal cycle paths running along the beaches. We took the section of the path through the centre of town and its an amazing green corridor that avoids the traffic and the buildings. For city centre cycling this was as good as it gets, with glimpses of all the sights, including Donald Bradman’s statue outside the Adelaide Oval, but none of the traffic!
The closest we got to some French style cycling on this holiday was found 130kms north of Adelaide in the Clare Valley. Here the ‘Riesling Trail’, 34kms of dedicated gravel cycle track has been developed, which follows an old railway bed through the vineyards of the Clare Valley. Offering plenty of chances for wine tasting and with many of the wineries offering meals we could have felt quite at home here! Just make sure you don’t try it in the height of summer when temperatures are well into the 30’s!
The sheer size of Australia makes rural cycling entirely different to France. While in France we will pass a hamlet or point of interest every few kilometres. In Australia the space between hamlets are not usually less than 20kms and often far more. This is what makes French cycling holidays so appealing – being able to cram a huge amount of sights and sounds into a 45km cycle ride, and at the same time using roads with little traffic and where there is traffic, the drivers respect and understand the cyclist, as perhaps no other nation does. What we can’t provide though in the Loire Valley is that stunning coastline – cycling alongside the crashing waves is fantastic!