Australia has always been a hotspot for adventurers and travelers, and because of its vast array of well-maintained highways and country roads, it’s also become one of the premiere locations for cyclists. With most of the population of Australia crammed into a thin slice of the East Coast, this does invariably become one of the main starting points for long-term travelers heading north, west, and south.
Cairns is generally considered the most north-eastern town, and its sleepy toned down atmosphere is a good starting point to head north. Following the main 44 route of town, cyclists can enjoy the rural somewhat hippy-ish oriented communities that start to dwindle into the Daintree Conservation area, one of the most pristine natural environments and low-land jungle in Australia. From here, the highway ends – adventure-seekers with good off-road bikes can continue toward Cape Tribulation along some of the dirt roads that are used by 4×4 vehicles for access, but for the rest of us it’s time to cut back toward Route 81, and continue north to the ‘end of the road’ at Cooktown. The 350 kilometer stretch is perfect for those who are only planning on a weekend trip, but still want to experience the remote beauty of the north-east.
For longer and more experienced cyclists, it’s possible to head south and stay pretty much on the coast the entire way down to Victoria. Ultimately, the only limitation is how long you want to be pedaling, and what sorts of landscape you’re more interested in – heading south means taking in the seaside resorts of Airlie Beach, where young hostel-goers keep the music and the booze flowing, all the way down to Brisbane where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in any of the gourmet cafes that make up the liberal-minded town (with plenty of second hand bookshops), before continuing onto Sydney or even Melbourne. The beauty of heading south is that you will never be lacking in infrastructure, which becomes an issue during the summer months in Australia when water becomes a huge issue.
That said, heading west from the east coast has a charm all of its own – From Sydney, the deeper inward you go, the more arid it becomes, passing through open pastures and local townships with Australian aboriginal names like Cubba, Dubbo, and Mootwingee. Following A32 it’s a generally pleasant drive (although be wary of some truck drivers, especially in the early morning or evenings), and makes a broad loop, bending down toward Adelaide.
Adelaide, coincidentally, is also the starting point for the extreme cyclists who want to attempt a transverse of the Australian Outback. The A87 road heads north and becomes a bee-line as it makes its way toward Alice Springs. For the ambitious, the strong willed, and the well prepared it is perhaps Australia’s best kept secret in terms of cycling – that said, an ample supply of water should be carefully managed as communities become more and more spread out the further inland you travel. Preparedness also means knowing how far you can bike in a given day, and having some general knowledge about bike repair. At Alice Springs, most cyclists consider their trip complete, and take a train or bus back to Adelaide, though it is possible – and recommended, if you have the energy – to keep pedaling all the way to Darwin, the most northern town in Australia. The landscape between Darwin and Alice Springs is true outback, consisting of flat open baked desert, but as ecologically diverse as the wetter areas along the coast. Snakes, kangaroos, and a plethora of other wildlife manage to not only survive, but thrive in the arid wastes, and there is something equally irrepressible in the pride one gets by making it all the way from south to north, or vice versa.