Windsor to Brooklyn – the Hawkesbury River ride

Day 1: Windsor to Wiseman’s Ferry

Date: 2nd April 2010

We planned this Easter weekend ride with our friends Bel and Dan in 2010. From Sydney we caught the train to Windsor and left about midday towards the Sackville ferry. Not long after the ferry we turned left onto River Road which followed the Hawkesbury until Wiseman’s Ferry. It’s a nice ride (as most riverside routes are); undulating but no daunting climbs. There’s a lot of waterskiing in this part of the river, and the riverside is dotted with caravan parks if you want to camp anywhere along there.

The Sackville Ferry

The Sackville Ferry

A man who was chatting to us over his front fence recommended we go to Del Rio, which is a “riverside resort” with camping and a bar, not far over the river from the Webbs Creek ferry. It wasn’t the most peaceful location, but it did have hot showers and a bar. We were cooking our own, but the bar also did food. I wouldn’t really recommend it if you are looking for something peaceful.

Day 2: Wiseman’s Ferry to Mangrove Mountain

Date: 3rd April 2010

In the morning we went back over the river on the Webbs Creek ferry, then again on Wiseman’s ferry. Wiseman’s Ferry Road follows the river downstream for a while until Spencer where we had lunch. Then it leaves the river and heads up Mangrove Creek. This is an OK ride until the road leaves the creek and heads up towards Mangrove Mountain. There are a few kilometres of a constant hard climb before it settles into a bit of an easier climb. Check the elevation profile at the top of the post from about 95km – it’s steep.

Even though the distance covered was short for a day of riding it did take us most of the day, although we regularly stopping for coffee breaks and the like in the morning.

There’s a shop at Mangrove Mountain where we bought a drink and some water and asked about camping. There are no caravan parks or campsites around, but she recommended the football field which was a short ride up the road. This turned out to be ideal – nice grass to pitch on, quiet, and fairly secluded. After a good meal, some wine, and some very tasty scotch supplied by Dan we slept well.

Day 3: Mangrove Mountain to Brooklyn

Date: 4th April 2010

We had camped quite close to the top of the hill. It’s about 4km to Central Mangrove, then almost all downhill from there for the rest of the way. We stopped at Peats Ridge for delicious hot crossed buns and a bad chai latte, then enjoyed a quick downhill run (some of it quite fun) to the Pacific Highway and on down to Brooklyn. At Brooklyn we had a couple of celebratory beers and fish and chips for lunch, before catching the train home.

Dan, Bel and Wally on Wiseman's Ferry

Dan, Bel and Wally on Wiseman's Ferry

The route we took for this ride came from http://www.cycleaustralia.info/cycling/hawkesbury.htm. It also marks a side trip to St Albans, which would probably be worth it. There’s an excellent pub there.

Even though there were shops along the route we took most of our food with us as it was Easter, but there wasn’t really a need as most shops seemed to be open even on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I would recommend carrying a fair bit of water. We had no problems refilling in cafes generally, but at Mangrove Mountain (at the top of a long climb) the only water to be found was bought at the shop.

For camping, there are a plethora of caravan parks along the Hawkesbury, but after that not much. There is the Mill Creek campsite in Dharug National Park which is nice, but I would recommend the football field we used at Mangrove Mountain, as Mill Creek is a few kilometres off the route. The football field is on a side road, but signposted from the main road. Other than that there are probably a heap of places you can free camp in Ourimbah State Forest and the like.

It was quite scenic for nearly the entire way. Where we weren’t following the river we were either too busy climbing to notice anything, or going through state forest or national parks. There were some great views from the Pacific Highway.

With an early start and a late finish you could easily do this as a two day trip.

Newcastle to Taree: Day 3

Booti Booti to Taree
Date: 21 April 2008

I awoke after around twelve hours sleep to find a beautiful sunny morning. Since my plan was to visit relatives in Forster I let Tom go on his merry way and took it fairly easy in getting going. I spent a bit of time at the beach and gave my things a chance to dry. If you’re ever around Booti Booti I can recommend camping at The Ruins campground. It’s a nice NP campground with a beach and good facilities.

Forster was only about 15km away, but within Forster itself there are a number of hills. The people I was visiting lived right at the top of these, so I felt I deserved the tea and hot crossed buns that awaited me there. Their verandah had a lovely view of the beach and I would have been happy to stay, but the view became that of a dark imposing storm making it’s way towards me. In a bid to defeat it I jumped on the bike and headed towards Taree, but it wasn’t long before I was riding in steady rain. It was still a nice ride along the river though. I stopped in near a place called Darawank for lunch out of the rain.

Darawank rest stop

Lunch stop out of the rain at a rest stop near Darawank

I had a bit of trouble with the rain covers on my panniers, so riding along the highway was slow going. My vaude panniers keep everything dry, but raincovers can just be a pain in the arse in heavy rain. They fill up with water, fall off, and generally don’t always behave as they should. However Pacific Highway has a wide shoulder and it’s not a bad place for a cyclist. It’s little boring and had heavy traffic though.

Anyway I made it to just past Taree to a place called Cundletown and checked in to a Caravan Park on the Dawson River. It was one of the more scenic camping spots I’ve stayed at, even though it was in a Caravan Park.

Newcastle to Taree: Day 2

Bob’s Farm to The Ruins, Booti Booti
Date: 20 April 2008

My first full day of riding started early because I wasn’t particularly comfortably sleeping and felt a need for some water. I arose at around 4am and rode the rest of the way into Nelson Bay, stopping at a servo to refill my water bottles which I had foolishly neglected the day prior. In Nelson Bay I grabbed a big subway breakfast and chatted to a crazy old man about the floundering mullet in the water. There was also some time for more sleep before the ferry to Tea Gardens departed.

The ferry ride was not uneventful, with a stop to watch some dolphins partway. I also met a guy, Tom, who was riding to Byron Bay and had the same route planned for the day as myself through Myall Lakes and Booti Booti National Park. We got off at Tea Gardens and headed along Mungo Brush road. We stopped at Dark Point which was an aboriginal site, but looked like a whole heap of sand dunes on a beach.

Dark Point

Dark Point

At Mungo Brush we lunched and I had a kip, then left Mungo Brush road for some adventure. We had both planned to head down a road between Mungo Brush and Seal Rocks road which was marked as a walking track on some maps and a road on some others. It turned out to be an unsealed road which had been closed since 2005 and was in not a great condition. It was very rocky for the most part, and about 30cm deep in water for the rest, and we had to go about 10km at close to walking pace. I never fell in the drink, but Tom got a little wet. The rest of the way to Seal Rocks road it was good graded dirt road. My pannier rack broke at one stage, but I fixed it up with zip ties. Always keep some handy. Tom had some gear trouble, but otherwise it was a mishap free adventure.

Mungo Brush to Seal Rocks Road

Tom getting wet on Hawksnest to Seal Rocks Road

After that it was Seal Rocks Road then onto Lakes Way and a bottlo. I was getting fairly tired towards the end of the day and Tom, who was a stronger rider, wanted to push on to the campsite at Booti Booti. He left me as it started to rain and made it to the campsite ahead of the coming storm, but I managed to get caught in a huge deluge. I was very glad when I finally pulled into The Ruins campground at Booti Booti and got out of the cold rain.

Newcastle to Taree: Day 1

Newcastle to Bob’s Farm
Date: 19 April 2008

I had just finished my job at Qantas after 5 years, and had no plans to work again for a few months in order to get a reasonably long holiday, including a planned month long bike trip in Europe. To celebrate my unemployment and to get a bit of riding practice in I thought it might be a good idea to ride from Newcastle to Coffs Harbour, arriving in time for the Australian Ultimate Championships. I had a time limit of a few days, so the plan was to get to somewhere between Taree and Wauchope (apparently pronounced “war-hope”) and catch a train.

On Saturday afternoon, still with somewhat of a hangover, I caught a train to Newcastle, the ferry to Stockton, and started pedalling towards Nelson Bay.  I made it most of the way but was pedalling in the dark for a while so camped next to some grape vines.  I was too lazy to set up the tent, and just covered myself with my hoochie thinking the weather to be fine, but it rained a little so wasn’t completely comfortable.

The train is part of the Sydney CityRail system so is not particularly expensive and you can take your bike on it easily. The ferry is pretty much just a river crossing and it’s a very regular service.