Fernleigh Track

The Fernleigh Track is 16km of fully sealed, high quality cycleway running south from Adamstown to Belmont (near Newcastle, New South Wales).

It follows the path of the now defunct Belmont branch line, which carried both passenger and coal traffic in its day.   The path opened as far as Whitebridge in 2003, and was completed to Belmont in 2011.  The track takes its name from the Fernleigh tunnel under the Pacific Highway, one of the tracks most prominent features.


There is food and water at both ends of the trail, together with to water points along the trail.  There are public toilets just off the track at Redhead.  On a hot day carrying two water bottles is a good idea, you can refill them on the trip.

Getting to the start of the track

The starting point (with water)
The train is an easy way to get to the start of the Fernleigh trail.  Although Adamstown station is almost directly at the start of the trail, Broadmeadow station is only slightly more inconvenient, and it has a faster and more frequent train service.  Trains are permitted on the Cityrail trains, and the Newcastle trains usually have 3-4 carriages with bicycle hooks at the carriage ends.  As only one bicycle can be hung at the ends of these carriages, if you are travelling with more than one, you may want to use separate carriages and meet elsewhere in the train.  If you are disembarking at Adamstown you will need to be in the rear four cars, as it is a short platform.

From Adamstown station just follow the wide footway south between the road and the rail line.  At the first roundabout you will see the start of the trail, about 100m from the station.

From Broadmeadow follow the road by the side of the railway south under the road bridge, then turn second right onto Coolah Rd, and then follow the signs at the next block on Teralba Rd to the start of the trail.  It is hard to get lost.

Adamstown to Pacific Highway Tunnel

The first section of the trail is a gradual incline.  Not enough to pose any major challenge at the start, but just enough to realise that the final section of the return journey is going to be a cruise back down to the end.  The track stays close to civilisation, but the track is on a different level to Park Avenue that runs parallel to it, so it isn't like you are riding by the side of a road.

Northern entrance to the tunnel
There is a view down to Kotara on the right hand side.  You can see the shopping centre at Kotara easily enough, but the hill to traverse down to it doesn't make it look like an attractive diversion.

The road is good, asphalt all the way, and 2.5 metres wide.

The Pacific Highway tunnel is the top bill of this railtrail.  Fully restored, lit and made safe.  It is wide, and most of it is the original brick, with only some concrete and wire reinforcement in place.

Pacific Highway Tunnel to Redhead

The track gets shadier, and heads downhill through eucalypt forest to the Redhill turn.

Some of the original rail sections remain in place, and some of the platform structures have been restored.

Redhead to Belmont

Between Redhead and Belmont there is a long boardwalk section, made from concrete planks.  These give quite a bumpy rid.  Again, the ride is removed from civilisation until you get to Belmont, with no shops or major centres adjacent to the track, and only a few road crossings.

Belmont station has been restored, with a station platform, picnic tables and a park.  Curiously, just as you are reaching the end of the cycleway, there is a sign excluding bikes from the last 100m of so of the path.  Supposedly you are either expected to go onto the road for the last section of the trail, or walk your bike.  The reasoning here is lost on me.

Getting to Belmont shopping, or to the lake or beach isn't straightforward either, unless you are familiar with the area.  There are no directional signs at the Belmont end like there are at the Adamstown end, and the no bicycle signs on the footpaths don't encourage you to push on further.

The easiest route to take to the beach and shopping is to turn right onto Ernest Street until you get to Macquarie.  Macquarie is a wide pedestrian mall into the centre of town, and continues down to the lakeside precinct.  It is a quiet, easy ride.

Elevation Profile

The first half of the trip has some gradient, a slowish climb mainly up to the tunnel, than a fairly rapid 80m descent.  The second half of the trip is just flat.

Ballarat to Skipton Railtrail

This trail starts just out of Ballarat, and heads down to the the small town of Skipton. Although the railtrail description has it at 56km, leaving from central Ballarat and arriving in Skipton, and taking short diversions into the town centres as we passed, we cycled 63km on the one-way trip. Certainly a good days cycling.

We hired bikes from the Bicycle Centre in Armstrong St. The bikes were fine for the purpose, but our start was delayed for around 45 minutes while the guys in the store pumped the tyres, and tracked down the helmets, pump, etc that we would need.

It wasn't too hard to pick up the start of the trail. We headed south of Lake Wendouree and by the Botanical gardens, but we discovered on the return trip that it really would have been best to to follow Gregory St to the north of the Lake, which is a quiet and wide street. If you were coming from Melbourne by train, the other option would be to start from the new Wendouree Railway station, which is just next to the start of the trail.

The last part of Gregory St (Gregory St West) has a new off-road cycle path, which joins a cycle path running alongside Ring Rd. From this point the Skipton railtrail is signposted, and starts just to the south of the level crossing on Ring Rd. Part of Gregory St West is closed to traffic, so you would (obviously) need to be on a bike to go this way.

Lake Wendouree was almost totally dry, with the exception of a very small section near the Botanic Gardens. Interesting area, with piers extending out into what is now grassland, but not exactly scenic. The Botanic Gardens looked nice as we were cycling past, but we would have felt guilty stopping for coffee and a walk under 3km into our trip, so we pressed on.

The cycle trail starts a little rough along the side of the railway, but it soon smooths out to a fine flat fine gravel surface. Sometimes near the road crossings there is some rutting from cycle tyres to watch out for, but the surface should be easy for a hybrid/urban bike to cope with, and ours coped with no problems.

The first part of the trail is through open agricultural country.. It is easy and fairly level cycling, and the first town along the trail is Haddon. Didn't see anyone else on this part of the trail. There are a few shelters built here and there, some with information on the trail in them. The shade of the trees seems to make a better stopping point though.

Soon we started counting down the kilometre markers. One every kilometre along the trail.

Haddon itself was a just a spot to fill up with water. There are toilets there, and a huge modern looking recreation centre that looked out of proportion to the size of the town. I guess it was really just a suburb of Ballarat at this distance probably only a 10 minute drive.

Smythesdale was the first serious town on the trip. We stopped at the Courthouse Hotel for lunch, and I had the Steak and Guinness Pie, which was exceptionally tasty. Not one of those pies without a bottom. Food always tastes better after cycling, but we saw the jugs of Guinness being poured into jugs to make tomorrows pie. Well worth the stop. The Hotel is open for meals seven days a week for lunch and dinner. There is a general store in Smythesdale, and an antique store as well.

After lunch a quick trip following the Glenelg Highway to Scarsdale, and the more scenic part of the trail began. After stopping to refill our water bottles again, we took the quick trip downhill to the Nimmons Bridge which has been restored to give the ability to cycle across it. There is still the option of going the the lower route under the bridge which gives a more scenic view of the bridge as you pass. A short stop to practice photography.

After the bridge the trail leaves civilisation, enters the bush and begins to climb. At the top of the hill there are the remains of an hold wooden road bridge that crossed the railway. This marks the top of the climb, and from here is is largely downhill to Linton. There are a few smaller restored bridges along this section, crossing a few of the bush roads.

We emerged from the bush again at Linton, which became an afternoon coffee stop. There was a takeaway place right near where the cycleway crosses the highway, next to a park and memorial to the fire fighters that lost their lives saving the town on Black Friday. The township proper is up the top of the hill, and we made the cycle to the top, but not much there to see, the pub being about the only thing open. The other shops seem quiet or closed. The coffee from a small machine, basic and frothy.

After a little more bush cycling the railtrail returns to follow the Glenelg Highway to Pittong and on to Skipton, although at least in the section to Pittong there is some bushland separating the trail from the road alignment. The engineers have worked hard here to maintain a steady grade, and the alignment is built up around the surrounding country, and then cuts through the hills in shady cuttings filled with butterflies.

Pittong has showers and toilets provide by the neighbouring chemical processing factory. No more of a town there though. After Pittong the trail follows the road closely to Skipton, and the scenery becomes the agricultural golden plains for which the area is famed.

The flies came out here - they like it anywhere there are farm animals, and they are pests, but we try to keep our speed up so they can't land. The grasshoppers jump up in front of the bike types. They are probably a pest to the farmers, but they are no problem to us.

We stayed the night at the Skipton Hotel, which is a typical country motel. Basic, but nice enough. They serve an evening meal with $10 specials, but the chicken parmigana was really just cheese and schnitzel, and the nachos was filling, but also rather basic. There are a few cabins attached to the roadhouse in town as well.

The evening was spent searching for the claimed platypus in the adjacent Mt Emu Creek in Stewart Reserve, just by the pub. They proved elusive on the night.

I mapped the whole trail quite accurately on OpenStreetMap. You may need to zoom in and scroll around to see the details. I also put a brief description on Wikitravel

This is the elevation plot. You could certainly feel the downhill at the end of the day heading towards Skipton, but the climb on the return trip was hardly noticeable.

There is more information on the trail at the Balbug site or the Railtrails site. You can also buy a book on the history of the Ballarat to Skipton railway

Nowra to Comerong Island

Alexander Berry was was one of Sydney's original merchants and pioneers. After several adventures on the high seas, including the rescue of the survivors of the Massacre of the Boyd and the subsequent wreck of his ship the City of Edinburgh, Berry settled in Sydney and formed a partnership with Wollstonecraft. They owned the property 'Crows Nest' in Sydney, after which the suburb was named, and took a land grant at Coolangatta, in the shadow of Mount Coolangatta near the mouth of the Shoalhaven (the more famous Queensland Coolangatta is named after one of Berry's ships, that was wrecked on the current day Gold Coast).

In their first attempt to enter the mouth of the Shoalhaven in long boats, five of Berry'e men died, including the boy Davidson who Berry had rescued five years earlier at the Boyd. Berry also had on board his ship Hamilton Hume, later of Hume and Hovell fame, who under instructions from Berry engineered and supervised the convict construction of Australia's first canal, which cut between the mouth of the Crookhaven River and the mouth of the Shoalhaven. The canal was widened by the river flow, and now forms the navigable mouth of the Shoalhaven. The heads of the Shoalhaven are now open only in times of flood. The cutting of Berry Canal also formed Comerong Island, which is now accessible by car ferry across the canal. The island itself is mostly nature reserve.

It is a nice flat a quiet cycle from Nowra out to Comerong Island, with the possibility of crossing the heads to the town of Shoalhaven Heads, and the site of the Berry residence at Coolangatta.

We chose a early Sunday morning train to start to Bomaderry. Exiting from the station, it was an easy cycle to the Shoalhaven River Bridge, The rutn towards Comerong Island was at the first set of lights to the left (unsignposted), however we made a quick diversion into Nowra for coffee. We certainly hadn't earned it yet, but we didn't know when the next possibility would arise.

It was still around 8:30am, and Nowra looked fairly deserted. We cycled around the town losing hope, but found the River Deli open and serving breakfast and coffee.

Back to the lights on the Princes Highway. I needed the GPS to confirm that we had to go down Moss St, but I wasn't 100% sure. OpenStreetMaps was still at bit sparse in this area, so I was happy when 200m down the road we turned onto Tarara Road, and I knew we were going the right direction. Agricultural country here, with a just about every farm having a barrow of sorts out the front selling local produce. We didn't have the produce basket attached, so unfortunately had to pass by.

We saw a couple of passing cars early in the trip, but before long the traffic was such that we could comfortably take the road for cycling. We didn't pass another car between Tarara and Comerong Island. As the road was following the river, it really was dead flat. Only an occasional glimpse of the the river itself though.

We arrived at the car ferry while the ferry master was having morning tea, which seemed to consist in sitting in his car not far from the ferry. It gave us 20 minutes or so to look at the view over the river, and try and imagine the sight facing Hamlton Hume back in the 1820s.

The ferry crossing was $5 per vehicle - return. Unfair on a couple of levels. Firstly, if we had been in a car with our bicycles on the back we would only have a single charge, and secondly we weren't intending on getting the ferry back. We were planning on going across the sands of Shoalhaven Heads. Anyway, a small amount of negotiation later, we paid the ferryman before we made the other side. That is to say we paid the ferry ticket machine - which only accepts coins. If you head this way, remember to bring change - it would be at serious cycle to get change if you only have a $5 note.

After the crossing the country continued agricultural for the next 20 minutes or so, before we got to the Comerong Nature Reserve, a signpost marks the division, and the the cleared land changes immediately to forest. A well formed track goes into the reserve, and we could tell by the sand and the surf sounds that we were following the coast, but it certainly wasn't visible through the eucalypts. We made it as far as a walkway through the forest to the beach, and certainly had a long stretch of beach to ourselves. We didn't actually see anyone else in the reserve at all.

By this stage we were feeling like the country hamburger that we dreamed awaited us at Shoalhaven Heads, and it was time to see just how successful the canal was in stopping the flow of water through the original Shoalhaven River mouth.

I was thinking we would have to do a fair bit of pushing bikes across the sand in order to get across, but it wasn't as bad as all that. We managed to find bush tracks (now marked on OpenStreetMap) that got us a fair way towards the heads without having to cycle on sand. Once we were on the sand, the cycling along the tide line where the sand was firm seemed to work most of the time. It was slow going, sure, but it took us nothing like the time it would have taken us if we were walking and pushing.

Lots of wading birds around this area. It was a bit of a birdwatchers paradise I think. We had bought along a copy of Standard Australian Birds and binoculars just for this occasion, but we couldn't find any of the birds in the shallows reproduced in the book.

Shoalhaven Heads did have a hamburger shop, albeit not much else. It was okay, as take-away places go, but it was definitely not the place of our cycling dreams.

From Shoalhaven Heads you can clearly see Mount Coolangatta, and why it would have seemed like an idea place for a land grant. It still isn't that populated. The original homestead stood there until about 40 years ago when it burnt down. It has been redeveloped into accommodation and a winery.

We headed back the short way along Bolong Road to Bomaderry. The road was busy, albeit with a shoulder pretty much the entire way. Still not a nice place to cycle, with no view from the road, and hundreds of cars overtaking at speed. If I was doing it again, I'd go back the way we had come, even though we would have to go back across the sand. Perhaps better just to bring a picnic to eat on the beach or in the reserve, and forget the Shoalhaven Heads bit. Or if you do decide to do the loop, the ferry trip is free coming from the island to the mainland - given that it assumed that you are doing the return trip. Check the river conditions though, in case you are unlucky enough to be doing the trip when the heads are open.

Bong Bong Cycleway

There is a scenic off-road cycleway which runs by the side of the Wingecarribee River a short distance from Moss Vale. Bong Bong was the site of the first settlement in the area, but there is little remaining of the town. Intepretive signage and photographs along the track show what the settlement was like, but the track is also just a nice off-road cycle along ther river. If you are driving up the Hume Highway with the bikes on the back of the car, it is worth a bit of a stop and a cycle.

The cycleway starts just outside of Moss Vale on Suttor Road, and continues alongside the road and over the Wingecarribee River alongside the Highland way. It then leaves the road, and turns and follows the river. There are signs explaining the history of the area regularly located along the track.

The path follows the river until the railway bridge, and then follows the road adjacent to the railway as far as Burradoo station.

The cycleway is all off road, and safe for kids. It isn't very hilly.

You can take bikes on Cityrail trains to Burradoo.

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Oberon Tarana Railtrail

The new Oberon railtrail winds beside the now disused Oberon to Tarana railway.

It is a 5.5km cycle. The trail starts beside the museum on North Street in Oberon, passes the timber mill, and heads out on to merino country. The trail ends at the old Hazelgrove station.

There are no toilets, food, or anything much in terms of facilities along the trail. There are two chairs to sit on along the way.

At the Hazelgrove end of the trail, it is possible to continue on foot along the disused railway line for some distance before the track becomes overgrown.

The council website says that a loop back through the forest is possible, but it certainly is not signposted, or obvious. So take a good map and a GPS if you want to try it and are not familiar with the area.

The trail is quite flat, slowly ascending around 25m in the first 4.5km, and then descending for the final 1 km. After that first 1km, the trip back is quick and easy.

This is the gradient of the path, click to see the details:

This is the georeferenced map of the path:

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