The Wollongong area offers the most connected scenic cycling paths around Sydney. The most popular trail starts at Thirroul and heads to the Gong lighthouse (15 km). From there a more urban trail heads down to Port Kembla and Lake Illawarra. There you can ride around most of the lake (50km) but most people head to Shell Harbour and maybe on towards Kiama. Great views and just about all shared paths. It’s 60km from Thirroul to Kiama and a you catch a train back. A trail near Kiama is Swamp Creek Rd and in Royal National Park is a mtb track called Lady Carrington Drive
Thirroul to Wollongong
A wonderful two lane 16km shared path ride from Thirroul & Bulli to the North Wollongong surf club and to the famous Lighthouse.
If you are coming by train or car, easier to park up near Bulli or Thirroul or better still enjoy the train ride to those places.
There are no tricks to this trail, its good for narrow wheels, there are hardly any road crossings, its dead flat and there are places to have a coffee. Bring your kids, ride there and back for 30km of activity. It can be busy on good weather weekends but if you ride easy, the scenery will make up for the moderate crowds on some sections of the path.
On the way you will pass Woona, Towradgi and Bellambi rock pools plus the following Surf Life Saving Clubs; Bulli, Woonona, Corrimal, Towradgi, Fairy Meadow and North Wollongong. So take your swimmers and towel on a hot day.
Notes: If you are a good rider, you can just ride past the lighthouse and head all the way down to Port Kembla on a pretty reasonable bike path.
Stations: There are lifts at Nth Woolongong and Thirroul and a bridge near Bulli to cross over. If you want to go one way, getting to the train station at North Wollongong requires some slow footpath skills.
See below: Port Kembla Oak Flats to Kiama Lady Carrington Drive
An adventurous trail that runs all the way from the Lighthouse at Wollongong down and around the BHP steelworks and ends up at the beautiful coast line near the Port Kembla Heritage Park. From there you can ride up the steep Lookout 66 or even venture on to the northern end of Lake Illawarra. Its 22km from Wollongong Lighthouse at North Wollongong to Lake Illawarra and that’s one way.
The surface of the trail is mostly old concrete with a few bumps. The trail is quite wide most of the way and there are relatively few road crossing. I saw quite a few road bike riders on the trail so it isn’t that bad and on my MTB I really enjoyed it as I like the grunge of the old steelworks. I wasn’t alone on a sunny day in winter, there were lots of walkers and road cycle teams in the area. Its worth a go.
If you only want to do the best bit of the trail, you could start at Lake Illawarra and ride around to the Port Kembla Heritage Park and maybe just ride up Foreshore drive a little to see the steelworks. I started this trail at Lake Illawarra using my eBike and rode all the way to Thirroul on the fab trail from North Wollongong. By the time I had returned, it was 65km.
Many good riders ride from Thirroul to Kiama and catch the train back.
Note: On the way back I took a shortcut down King Street in Warriwong. This was hideous, the road was really busy, the footpaths were minute and the gutters were like hurdles at the olympics. But it did save some time. I thought I would go down Lake Rd but this was impossible to get to with barriers everywhere and then it was a very big hill once I got there.
Oak Flats to Kiama
If you have ever driven into Albion Park on the freeway from Sydney and wondered “What am I doing on this mongrel of a road?”, five minutes drive away is a very lovely and peaceful trail along the southern shores of Lake Illawarra.
This trail starts at the northern end of Central Avenue in Oak Flats on the edge of the lake. The shared path then follows the edge of the lake all the way to Shell Harbour Rd. You could get your kids bikes out and let them ride for 6km each way and you would have a very welcome break to your day of driving pain.
From the shores of Lake Illawarra, you cross Shell Harbour Rd and jump back onto shared bike trail and head to Shell Harbour itself. At the end the trail fizzles a little and you roll downhill on the road into the harbour. This is now 12 km from the start point. Now you can refresh in the cafes and return to the car.
If you have your Opal Card and Trip Viewer App to see the train timetables, I highly recommend adults riding all the way to Kiama or Bombo which is a super trip with just a small dose of road sections. Initially you need to ride through Shell Cove as per the maps. This is a lovely new suburb and there are two different collections of paths that will take you up near Shell Harbour station. When you get to Dunmore Rd, turn south and roll downhill to the retired Dunmore Railway station at the bottom of the hill. Cross the railway line carefully and then follow the trail through the marshlands to Minnamurra. Cross under the railway line into Minamurra and ride on the west side of town till the trail disappears.
Head down Charles Avenue and don’t miss the left turn off to Carlson Avenue. It was so steep at that point I wasn’t moving so I saw the painted bike sign on the road no problem at all. Now you will probably walk to the top of the hill and then its bye bye roads and off down the wonderful shared walkway around the headlands to Minamurra Lookout. From there its a mixture of quiet roads and shared path and hills all the way to Bombo Beach.
When you come to steps upto the highway, its time to get the NSW railway timetable app out of you pocket. Trains never run more than once an hour back to Wollongong. If there was a train leaving Bombo Rail Station in the next 20 minutes, I would contemplate not going any further and just catching the train back.
Walk up the steps using the bike rolling path and ride the separated pathway to the Bombo station about 200m away. Of course you are going to go on because who doesn’t want to see the Kiama Blow Hole. Cross the river on the trail and head sharp left and then UP. When I got the top of the hill near Kiama, I didn’t need to see an blow hole, I was the blow hole. That hill was steep.
Roll into Kiama, make sure you know when the train is leaving and where the station is. Its not hard to find. Enjoy the wonderful town and enjoy the train trip back to Oak Flats. All up its 30km and its one of Australia’s great recreational bike trails.
Train – bike ride idea: Ride from Bulli Railway station to Wollongong North railway station. Catch the train to Albion Flats Station. Ride along the south side of Lake Illawarra and then all the way to Kiama. Return by train to Bulli for a fab days riding of 45km.
Yes you can ride around Lake Illawarra and many do. For safer riding, start at Dapto railway station and head north along the Highway where there is a protected shared path. This will take you to Northcliffe Drive where you head east and then you turn towards Illawarra Stadium. Now you can ride along the lake all the way to Warrawong.
Head to Primbee and south and then to Oak Flats as per this map
At Oak Flats keep following the coast and start heading north around Maquarie Rivulet. Thats the end of the good stuff. You can now catch a train from Albion Flats to Dapto or you head onto the road system. If you head out west as per this map you will dodge the highway and motor way which is diabolical. It wasn’t too bad a ride on the ebike. Quite hilly.
The full lake is just under 50km. I recommend starting at Berkeley and riding to Oak Flats and then turning around and riding back. Great ride with the Oak Flats region being the pick. Port Kembla is also well worth a visit.
There is a side trip to the power station from Dapto here >>
A interesting side trail at Kiama is to head west from Minamurra through the northern end of Kiama, up and down two hills and then into the countryside. Here you can ride on a perfect concrete path all the way out to Jamberoo Rd. Great trail. Many good cyclists do extensions from here on the quieter roads, some even take the busy Jamberoo Rd to the really steep cliffs in the distance. See the path here >>
Lady Carrington Drive is a dirt road that follows the Hacking River up between a valley. The trail runs for 12kms each way and is not stressful at all in the climbing department until the very end. It is quite bumpy every now and again if you are not running suspension. So don’t bring your one gear bikes or your expensive road bikes on this trail.
To get to the start of the trail is easy. Go to the entrance to Royal National next to the Loftus Oval. Pay 12$ parking fees to the ranger at the gate. Head to Audley, park. It is very easy to get diverted by the “high tea and cakes” straight away in Audley. If not all your group wants to ride, they may want to join the many families hiring boats and playing french cricket on the grass and having picnics.
But that is not why you are here, you want to ride and its off down the trail which you get to by riding past the eating area and down the wide river. Get on the dirt road and its a hop skip and a 12km jump to Sir Bertram Stevens Drive in the south. In summary, my teenage son said it was the best Dad track he had been on, I quite enjoyed it too though I probably was going a little fast for my skill level. The really good thing is you don’t have to stop for anything except the occasional refreshment and a photo or two.
You can also do a little riding along the river in a northerly direction from the Audley River crossing. Very pretty.
Take some water and a puncture repair kit or spare tube. That applies to all bike trails.
Here are a bunch of photos from the ride
External Links: Official Royal National Park Trail Guide A Lady Carrington write up on a mountain bike website The nearby Loftus loop (connection is a very steep hill) Beginners MTB Trails around Sydney plus tips The 20km Royal National Park Coastal walk is nearby