In the coming weeks, RIDE Media will be posting some #RideRoadTrip features about cycling in an array of Australian destinations.
To get things rolling, here is a series of videos about a road trip to the NSW south coast in August…
– Videos and story by Rob Arnold
Part 1: Introduction to the road trip
It was a mild winter in Sydney with great conditions for cycling and although I like riding in my town, there comes a time when a bit of variety on the routes can help raise the spirits.
A road trip doesn’t necessarily have to take you far for it to be beneficial.
If the weather is good and the conditions for cycling as they were on the NSW south coast at the end of August, then a five-day getaway can reinvigorate the body and mind in more ways than you might have expected before setting off.
There had long been a rough plan for an escape from Sydney in the back of my mind even if the itinerary was vague. Go south, was the general concept. Take a few bikes and, if the conditions are suitable, try riding somewhere different.
Cycling is a good thing to do for many reasons. When you’re in a new location, the bike is the perfect vehicle to help you explore… but time was limited so, instead of riding away from Sydney, I packed the car and set off early on a Monday morning.
I’m happy to say that it turned into a perfect escape with plenty of discovery, loads of interesting sights and the luxury of a bit of spare time to while away the days.
The first stop was Lake Conjola. It wasn’t planned but after a few hours of driving I wanted to pull over and find a place to rest and consider what would come next.
The next stop was Bermagui, a gorgeous place about 375km south of Sydney where I’d only been once before.
In July 2022, I set off with my teenage son in a Let’s Go campervan filled with bikes and kit. The intention was to drive, discover new places and ride…! Alas, only a few kilometres into our first adventure we had a touch of handlebars while on a descent leading to the gravel roads north of Bermagui.
I crashed heavily, landing with a thud on the tarmac. Thankfully my son stayed on his bike… but the damage was done. My initial thought was, ‘I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to finish this ride…’ That soon became, ‘I think we’ll need to visit the ambulance station.’
Eventually the diagnosis confirmed my suspicion: fractured ribs (three) and later I’d also find out that I sustained a pneumothorax when I fell. So, painkillers and recuperation time before calling an end to the holiday and limping back to Sydney.
My return to Bermagui a year and a bit later was my attempt to redeem that mishap.
Plans for my ride on the second day of the road trip were delayed by whales.
After grabbing some lunch, I idled up to the southern headland in Bermagui ready to each a salad roll before kitting up for a ride. To my surprise, when I looked out to the ocean, I saw a humpback in full breach. It was a glorious sight and although late in the migration season, it was clear that this haven for whale watching was living up to its reputation.
I sat and stared at the ocean for hours, watching pods of whales pass by so close to shore that I could hear their song and watch them play in the waves. Glorious. Unexpected. And so hypnotic, it was soon evening and ride time would have to wait another day.
After two nights in my swag, it was time to venture a little further south along the coast than I’d ever been before. It wasn’t a long drive on day three, as I got to Tathra it was clear that this would be a place worth exploring more.
I booked into a cabin at the wonderful Tathra Beach Eco Camp and kitted up for a gravel ride. Loosely following a few suggestions from Justin and Aaron at Tathra Beach & Bike, I aimed north along the bike paths leading out of town before jumping on the road for a few more kilometres.
This was a treat of a lunchtime ride that eventually sent me over the range on gravel roads before descending down towards Bega.
Birdsong and the buzz of tyres accompanied me as I plodded along, forgetting the directions given to me only a few hours earlier before eventually stumbling upon a fantastic little ‘beach’ on the Bega River. After cooling the heels, it was back to the cabin to clean up, get some rest, and prepare dinner (after a walk along the beach, of course).
Click the link below to see the #StoryOfMyRide from Tathra to Bega and back to base…
Part 2: Exploring on the gravel bike – Tathra to Bega… and back
My first ride ended with a second visit to the local bike shop to thank the guys for their suggestion (and then ask for the GPX files of other gravel rides that they had suggested). Would tomorrow be road cycling, or gravel riding? I wasn’t yet sure, but I did enjoy the experience of riding on the fire trails – without the bother of traffic and a wealth of choice for exploration.
This was a holiday that was to include cycling… but there was more to it that riding bikes.
It takes a little while to adjust to a new location and understand what, for example, the vibe of traffic is like. Early hesitation soon quelled as I realised that this part of the country has loads of ‘local’ roads which means you don’t have the hassle of major highways; instead, you can easily find somewhere to ride without being too bothered by motorists.
As this was also something of a reconnaissance journey – taking notes for a future family holiday – it was great to have some time to simply look around, to explore, to visit one headland after another and take in the wonderful views and consider where I might go next.
Yes, there was a cycling holiday, but there was no pressure to ride all the time.
The trip to Bega and back to Tathra highlighted the options that exist for holidaying on the south coast – and it’s not only the beaches that make it a great place to visit. There is scenery all around and all you have to do is decide if you want sand, salt water and waves, or a cooling dip in the many rivers and inlets of Yuin country.
As you’ll see in part 2 of the video series, I’m rather hopeless at following directions, reading maps, or even knowing what town might be around the next corner. Still, by day three of my getaway, I felt completely at home. It’s a welcoming part of the world and although it is a prime location for summer holidays, I was pleased that my time there was in the final days of winter – when accommodation was easy to find and very reasonably priced.
Part 3: On the road – Tathra, Bermagui, Tathra
By the time I got on the road bike I’d been able to scope out the scene and understand that, on the whole, there is usually ample room on the tourist routes for bikes. And, when there was traffic, I found that the drivers showed plenty of respect, giving loads of room as they passed – often as much as a lane – and not once did I feel threatened.
That said, I was also mindful that I was riding somewhere different (for me). I was never in a real rush – one of the fundamentals of any good holiday – and if it ever felt as though I was in a dangerous situation on the road, I just pulled over until it was appropriate to ride again.
Of course, in both the city and the country, motorists are largely reasonable people who understand that there are road rules for a reason. It’s only the rogue drivers (and riders) who can spoil the vibe. My experience on the south coast of NSW was only good. Never once was there a moment when I felt threatened or at risk of an accident.
The road surface is generally good but, on the shoulder, there can be some loose gravel at times. This is what I found more dangerous than the interactions with other road users. It only takes a loose stone here or there to create some havoc. And, with plenty of undulations, there were times when I worked up some speed on the descents… and I’m glad I didn’t hit the tarmac again on this visit.
In part 3 of the video series, I ride north from Tathra back towards Bermagui (for some nourishment and more ocean views) and then turn back south and eventually a second night at the Eco Camp.
The rates are good (or they certainly were at this time of the year) and it got me thinking about how good the off-season is in a holiday hot-spot like this. In summer it would be hectic – on the roads, and at the camping grounds – but in August it was blissfully welcoming (ie. largely empty, with the exception of the friendly locals).
The Eco Camp is a camping ground that has 30 or more years of history but it was only recently taken over by new management and they are doing a great job of creating a welcoming environment for holiday makers and wildlife alike. All around are kangaroos and bird life that cannot be ignore.
Yellow-tail black cockatoos flew overhead, squawking their way from tree to tree. Joeys munched on the grass nearby their mothers… only to retreat to the sanctuary of the pouch when I tried to get close enough for a photo. And it was at the Eco camp that I got another reminder of how much wonderful wildlife there is in this country.
Part 4: One last ride before heading home
The final video in the series begins with a montage from the five days away and then a little overview of the holiday experience as I stood on the beach at Moruya Heads on my last night away.
“It has been a a fantastic adventure,” I say to the camera.
“If you make a bit of time for yourself every now and again it pays off in so many ways,” continues the dialogue with myself. “I didn’t anticipate being away five days… I’ve done this before and I’ve gone only one or two and then I surrendered and gone back home – and I’ve wondered why I didn’t stay away a little bit longer.”
This time I didn’t retreat early. I relished the chance to discover some of my country, to ride my bike(s), and to clear my mind.
I’ll use my comments from part 4 to conclude this overview.
“I haven’t lashed out on expenses. I haven’t spent very much money at all – a swag for a couple of nights, and then a cabin for a couple of nights. It has been terrific and I would highly, highly, highly recommend coming here.”