Bicycle NSW Member Charlie Bellemore spent nearly 4 weeks in the saddle in November 2023, exploring a huge swath of southeastern New South Wales.
Charlie’s tale of his marvellous adventure is sure to encourage more bike riders to check out the back roads of the Monaro High Country. Although Charlie cycled over 1000km, his e-bike took much of the strain – these kinds of trips are no longer only for the fit and fearless!
A more detailed day-by-day account of Charlie’s trip can be found here, with maps, additional photos and a lot of really helpful advice.
Getting to the start by train – without the bike…
My e-bike ride through the Snowy Mountains region used quiet roads and passed through dozens of small towns. I hope more people will be inspired to try regional tourism on two wheels. The other reason for the trip was to promote the use of public transport.
Unfortunately, Transport for NSW will not allow e-bikes to be transported on XPT trains between regional towns. So, I freighted my e-bike to the start of my trip at Bungendore while I caught the train from Coffs bike-free!
The great thing about train travel are the people you meet. I sat next to Jules, a devotee of obscure alternative bands from the 1970s to contemporary times. I stayed at the Lake George Hotel, is a short distance from the station and a great spot. The owner was a former Wallaby rugby player Richard Harry and he has displayed a myriad of international jerseys one of the walls in the pub.
First big ride - Bungendore to Canberra
After loading up the e-bike, I had a quiet cycle around the town to check the weight distribution of the panniers. I then took Hoskinstown Road and Captains Flat Road to Queanbeyan. Both beautiful and relatively quiet. There are plenty of good cycle paths into and around Canberra and great accommodation choices. I stayed at Canberra Avenue Villas self-contained unit with good kitchen facilities.
Heading south to Bredbo
On the road to Michelago (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
Queanbeyan to Bredbo was a longer trek than planned. I started off following the road out of Queanbeyan to Googong where there are great cycle paths due to the recent housing development. But the road petered out just before the left turn off to Burra so I was back on the main road for a short distance. It’s very eye-catching countryside so take your time riding along this part. Riding on from Burra, there are a number of hills and descents leading onto an unsealed road to Michelago.
All up a 75km day turned into 100km due to the error on Google Maps. It’s worth a lunch stop at Michelago to see the the old railway station. I stayed at the Bredbo Inn and I can totally recommend the homemade lasagne – perfect after a wet and cold day.
The countryside around Bredbo (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
Locked gates on the way to Cooma
The next day, I tried the route indicated on Google Maps from Bredbo via Chakola to Cooma. Again, I was stopped by a farmer’s gate locked blocking my path and had to retrace my tracks to Bredbo. So the only route was via the highway. My only advice is taking your time, stick to the verge and if in doubt just pull over if there are large trucks passing through.
Cooma was an interesting place to stop with some beautiful Victorian era buildings such as the post office, courthouse and gaol. There is even a Correctional Services Museum!
The cafes are excellent. My pick was the Lott Café for breakfast. The pizzas on Sunday night at the Alpine Hotel are hard to beat.
Cooma to Jindabyne
The main highway is the only way to get to Jindabyne but after the Adaminaby turn-off, truck traffic dies off and it becomes pleasant for riding. I had an early lunch stop at Berridale where there are toilets, shelter and a nice park. The rest of the trip was pretty good with some decent ascents getting to Jindabyne. The sheep properties are quite beautiful up here.
Sculptures on the road to Jindabyne (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
Be careful approaching Jindabyne as the road narrows past the dam and there is a narrow verge.
I checked in at the NRMA caravan park where you can rent a studio with lockable bicycle storage. I stayed here for 4 nights and I would recommend this place to stay for its location; facilities and bike friendly managers.
A big day out to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko
Four nights in Jindabyne not only gave me time to relax but also to get the best weather conditions to go to Mount Kosciuszko. Ensure you let National Parks know you are travelling up there if solo. You can hire an emergency beacon transponder from them. I took a change of warm clothing and enough food/water if I got caught up there overnight. Weather conditions change quickly.
The ride is 100km return so be conservative with your battery. I used quite a lot of the battery climbing up to Charlottes Pass so I decided to turn off the battery on the walking path up to Rawsons Hut. This is where you have to secure your e-bike and walk the remaining few kilometres to the summit. The ride was one of the most challenging climbs but at the same time the most beautiful journeys you can make. Every corner presented something new and the views were breathtaking.
Bike stop on Summit Walk, Mount Kosciuszko (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
Ensure you have time to visit Seamans Hut. The summit walk can be difficult in a few parts with loose stones but it is generally an accessible track. There was still snow about and I had to traverse through it in two sections. The view from the summit was beautiful and there was an amazing panorama of snow topped mountains to see.
Charlie takes a selfie on the summit of Mount Kosciusko (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
I had two bars out of five left on my battery and I needed that for the descent as there are three big hills back to Jindabyne. The rest of it is a wonderful descent. I left Charlottes Pass at 3.30pm. Most of the traffic had gone for the day.
I was passed by cyclists from the local Jindabyne club and they were friendly and positive. I had a lovely chat to a bus load of people from Sydney and they said they passed me three times as they stopped at Perisher Valley, Smiggins Hole and outside of Jindabyne! They were all keen to know how long it would take me descending from the mountain. It was a bit over two hours.
Heading south to Nimmitabel
I left Jindabyne via the Snowy River Way to Nimmitabel. It’s a good road with limited traffic and I had excellent weather conditions. This leg was about 85kms and was marked by beautiful rolling countryside for the first 20kms. The Monaro High Country has some expansive sheep properties and solid stone homesteads.
Next step - tackling the infamous Beloka descent ranging from 11-17 % in parts. Although it’s only a few kilometres long, it is one of the steepest and challenging descents you can make in cycling. The graffiti painted on the road with quips of “shut up legs” or “are you ready?” sums up the challenge of climbing this section.
I had to stop for my morning tea break at a delightful church called St James Church Boloco, set in an isolated part of the country. The building made from stone and slate roofing dates from around 1873. It’s one of the first churches in the Snowy Mountains.
St James Church in Boloco (Image: Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
The ride into Dalgety was fabulous as the descent allowed for expansive views of the Snowy Mountains countryside.
Dalgety itself although not large has many fascinating reminders of what an important hub the town played in the sheep industry in the Snowy Mountains. It’s hard to believe Dalgety was considered a possible site for the nation’s capital in 1904. I’m glad they shelved that idea! I had lunch at the Buckleys Crossing Hotel (1889), a friendly pub with great counter lunches.
Taking the Springfield Road to Maffra, the temperature started to climb. Although I had enough water, I was looking to get out of the sun when I stumbled on a group of cyclists from Canberra. The group was completing a 5-day cycle trek via Cooma and other places. These riders were most welcoming, offering me a hot cuppa and home-made biscuits. They were a great bunch of men to meet.
Afternoon tea with a big group of friendly bike riders from the Eros Esra Cycle group (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
Re-energised, I pushed on, only to be stopped by a mob of sheep! The wind farms nearby are massive and a reminder of the transition period we are experiencing in the energy industry.
Eventually, I got to Nimmitabel after a fair bit of climbing and stayed at an old pub called the Federal. I managed to stay in the room writer Miles Franklin preferred. The pub itself has not much changed over its 100-year-old history. Touth, the barman, is well worth having a chat to and a reciter of bush ballads and poetry.
After breakfast at Bertie’s Café, I cycled south towards Bombala over two highway stretches. The first being the Snowy Mountains Highway - I recommend you pedal very carefully. It was busy and in places the edges were not great.
After turning right onto the Monaro Highway, things got quieter but there were still trucks hurtling by on occasions. Again, the scenery is spectacular as you pass sheep property after sheep property. Farmers wave as they pass and the place has such a close-knit feel which I was to experience in many of the small towns I cycled through.
Long stretches on the narrow shoulders of the Monaro Highway (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
Bombala is at the end of the disused train line from Queanbeyan. It is well maintained by the local historical society and will hopefully be a rail trail one day! I stayed with friends in Bombala but there are several accommodation choices, and it seems a popular destination for motorcyclists on weekenders. The local Historic Engine and Machinery Shed was open and the steam engine restoration group was in full swing when I arrived. If you want to experience a great café venture into the Cosmos café.
A side trip to the Victorian border
The ride to Delegate was a (relatively!) short 46km. Another beautiful day in magnificent high country with sheep grazing everywhere. I passed a large pine plantation, the main employer of townspeople, before taking a quiet road past the Bombala Racecourse to the Platypus Reserve. This is a conservation area for the protection of the beloved platypus. I watched and waited with another traveller in a caravan but we had no luck, only ripples in the water. I often reflect on the kindness of travellers as this man offered hot water if I needed it for a cuppa before I headed off.
One of the things you are wary of is bike mechanical failures. I had a massive rear flat tyre on the road to Delegate and I was very careful repairing it with a new tube and checking the inside of the tyre for glass or other debris. Thankfully the CO2 cartridge worked but I rode cautiously into Delegate.
I stayed at a wonderful Nurses Cottage at the old hospital in Delegate. It was clean and had great facilities. This was the best accommodation I had on the trip so far. You pay at the local museum. The museum hosts a great collection of First Nations artists’ works.
It was here I learned of the Bundian Way, a traditional walking track going from Mount Kosiouzko to the south coast at Eden. The Delegate Hotel is the place to have a drink and meet people from the surrounding properties late afternoon.
The next day I cycled down to the Victorian NSW border where again it was wonderful to see a large herd of cattle feeding alongside the road whilst four fantastic cattle dogs kept them in tow.
Cattle on the Long Paddock towards Victorian border (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
One of the curious things you notice travelling here is the history of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal history. I visited the earliest known settlers’ hut in the Snowy Mountains, whilst further on was a small stone cairn with a brief mention of Aboriginal people being dispossessed of their land.
Luck was on my side when I returned to Delegate late afternoon. I sat near a small stream in the park and up popped a platypus’ head before ducking down again.
I cycled back up to Bombala where I went Bombala Cycles and Chainsaws shop in town to get a spare tube for the bike. Here I met John and Joanne who are cycling enthusiasts. We discussed the work by the local cycling club to develop cycleways around town as well as the big Monaro Rail Trail project. I do hope they can get enough funding and political support for the venture. It would attract cyclists from all over the place and would be an excellent tourist boost for the towns along the old railway line.
Cross country to Numeralla
The 60km trip back to Nimmitabel was marked by long ascents and some great descents. There was a little rain about which made the day a little tougher. A highlight was a wonderful, unsealed road, Old Bombala Road, where you caught glimpses of the Snowy Mountains with snow on the peaks and followed the old railway line to Nimmatabel. Make sure you stop by the Maclaughlin Railway Station, an abandoned sheep pens and boarding area for goods trains heading north to Goulburn. I lunched at the Lake Williams Reserve where I met Michelle, a keen cyclist from Melbourne. We talked about the future rail trail to Bombala.
Old Maclaughlin Railway Station near Nimmitabel. The community is planning a 200km cycle trail along the disused rail corridor from Bombala to Queanbeyan. The trail will run through Queanbeyan, Michelago, Bredbo, Cooma, Nimmitabel and Bombala, bringing the enormous economic and social benefits that other rail trails have delivered for regional communities. Bicycle NSW’s article is here (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
I decided against cycling from Nimmitabel to Numeralla via Cooma due to the volume of traffic especially logging trucks. Taking advice from some locals I left Nimmatabel heading on the old Bega Road turning left towards Kybeyan.
This unsealed road leads onto Countegany before taking a left turn on the Cooma Road to Numeralla. The road is fairly corrugated and sandy in parts but there was virtually no traffic on the road. I had a farmer stop and ask me if I was ok during my morning tea break which I really appreciate people looking out for you. I arrived at Numeralla after some great descents and some tight hill climbs.
Numeralla is a beautiful country village where you can see the most amazing night sky. I stayed at Roo Haven and Helen is an outstanding host and keen astronomer.
Local horsewoman and shearer on the main road at Numeralla (Photo: Charlie Bellemore)
Onto the urban pleasures of Braidwood via Captains Flat
The ride to Captains Flat was a serious hill climbing day. The first 5 kilometres from Numeralla is 910 metres climb to Peak View. I stopped at the Peak Hill Rural Fire Service Station and paid my respects to the American pilots killed in the plane crash during the terrible bushfires of 2019-2020.
The road to tiny Jerangle was unsealed and parts of it were quite sandy so the going was slower than expected. I had an enjoyable lunch under a tree outside a small primary school. Entering Captains Flat is quite steep and the scars of the place being a mining town can be seen everywhere. There is a lot of work being conducted to rehabilitate the landscape over the next few years.
I stayed at the Captains Flat Hotel, a wonderful 1930s styled building with heaps of character. I was lucky I rode to here on Saturday as the Bowling Club was open for meals and drinks on this night only. The hotel was actually closed as it was being used as a backdrop for an upcoming movie to be released next year. Thanks to publican Greg Durr and colleague Beau for showing me around the place.
Braidwood was the next stop. Climbing steeply out of Captains Flat and attacked by a resident magpie, I turned left along Harolds Cross passing Tallangandra National Park. It was a magnificent, forested road where I spotted a wombat! I turned off this road and headed towards Bendoura which led onto the Cooma Road heading towards the Shoalhaven River.
Arriving in Braidwood felt like being in a large urban area after days of rural idyll. Booking into the Royal Hotel, I walked into a film set for the ABC’s Backroads Program. Heather Ewart was interviewing the publican and a few locals about life in Braidwood. Make sure you spend time wandering through the shops along the main street in Braidwood especially the Kerosene Lamp Shop and the Toy Model car shop. There are lots of good cafes and eateries here.
The journey’s end at Berry
The first 20km climbing out of Braidwood to Nerriga are beautiful with rolling hills sheep and big skies on a sealed road. The rest of the 35km trip was on unsealed road which is used by trucks as well so caution is needed with your cycling.
When you come into Nerriga the extent of the bushfires and how close they got to this place was quite scary. The Nerriga Hotel where I stayed was the last place of refuge for the townspeople during the 2019-2020 bushfires. It’s worth spending a moment reading the information board and relics from the bushfires outside the hotel. The accommodation was comfortable and the meal provided by the owners a lasagne was one of the best meals I enjoyed on the trip.
Although the 68km trip down to Nowra seemed easy, there were a few tight hill climbs before the descent. I had a stop at Tianjara, a beautiful waterfall in the Moreton National Park. Caution was needed as trucks flew past on the potholed final descent to the Fleet Arm Museum at Albatross Naval base. Nowra has loads of accommodation, restaurants and cafes. Greys Beach is worth a look.
I took the road to Bomaderry and then passed the huge Manildra factory along the excellent shared path that follows the Shoalhaven River out towards the head of the Shoalhaven River. After a visit to the Botanic Gardens, I finished my trip with a ride along the Coolangatta Road to Berry.
The old Butter Factory in Berry is now a boutique confectionery shop and ice cream café. The ice cream was wonderful!
Berry was a great place to finish up because you can roll your e-bike on to the train back to Sydney.
So ended my cycle trip of well over 1000kms and I would recommend you take the time and visit the many wonderful small towns in the Snowy Mountains region.
Before you head off on a big bike adventure….
Would you like to know more about Charlie’s trip? Head here for maps, a day-by-day itinerary, additional photos and a lot of really helpful advice.
For inspiration for other parts of Australia, check out the Bicycle NSW Rides Compendium.
And don’t forget to make sure your insurance is up-to-date. Join Bicycle NSW now for the best comprehensive bicycle insurance and enjoy many other Member-only benefits. You will also support our regional campaigns for safe, connected bicycle infrastructure including making is possible to roll on bikes on trains.