April 17-23, 2022
Hi, my name is Andrew Hopper, and I had the pleasure of riding the Orange Villages Bicycle Trail (OVBT) over the Easter holidays in 2022.
OVBT is a thoughtfully curated 400km loop around the central west of NSW, with most of the ride on quality secondary roads, both sealed and unsealed, and only minimal traffic to contend with.
I chose the perfect time of year to ride, with (almost) perfect weather, and all the colours of Autumn on full display in the wonderful towns along the way.
I am an e-bike tourist, and I was well prepared for camping each night.
Jet streams in the early morning. Photo: Andrew Hopper
Day 1 - Orange to Molong (61km)
Orange was my start and end point, and it is a beautiful town to ride around, however, it’s not long before the climbing starts heading for the highest peak on the whole trip – Towac Pinnacle. Along this stretch, there are several wineries to enjoy.
From Towac Pinnacle it’s a lovely long downhill ride to Lake Canobolas, where you can enjoy coffee and cake, a dip in the lake, or just the lovely scenery.
The trail then continues along quiet backroads through the little townships of Nashdale and Borenore before the last stretch into Molong.
Molong is famous for its heritage listed main street which I explored during the afternoon, and its babbling brook that flows behind the old railway station. Photo: Andrew Hopper
My first night’s camp was at the Molong showground, which backs onto the first hole at the golf club
Photo: Andrew Hopper
Day 2 - Molong to Manildra (35km)
Day 2 proved to be slightly less demanding, with a relaxing 35km ride from Molong to Manildra.
The landscape changed as the route took me further west, with the colourful backdrop of Orange and Molong, giving way to more traditional Aussie bush, complete with gumtrees and screeching galahs and rosellas.
I enjoyed some exhilarating, long descents in this section. Photo: Andrew Hopper
I reached Manildra just before lunch. It’s not hard to miss with the enormous flour mill dominating both sides of the main road into town. Manildra also has its share of charming character buildings, including the oldest continually operating theatre in the country.
Home for the night was the Manildra showground with its first-rate facilities and hospitality. Photo: Andrew Hopper
Day 3 - Manildra to Canowindra (67km)
Day 3, a day of extremes weather wise. Starting in bright sunshine and concluding with an almighty inland thunderstorm.
The first 45km’s of the ride to the town of Cargo is on some of the quietest backroads I’ve ever ridden, which made for blissful cycling.
I was then rewarded with Cargo’s country hospitality with its quaint cafe and beautifully restored pub. The waffles and ice cream at the café were a real treat.
From Cargo, the ride got a little hairy with big downhills and more traffic than I’d experienced on the previous two days. Fortunately, the road shoulders were wide and with the required care, I made it to Canowindra by mid-afternoon.
Canowindra is a real step back in time with its 19th century buildings, resplendent with beautiful facades and first floor verandahs.
I pitched my tent at the local caravan park, but it wasn’t long before I was seeking shelter in the amenities block after a ferocious storm blew in. Fortunately, no damage was incurred, and it was the only bad weather for the entire trip.
Day 4 - Canowindra to Cowra (46km)
After a chilly and drizzly start, day 4 turned into the most magnificent day.
The road to Cowra was mostly flat and completely devoid of cars, and there was not a breath of wind. The most perfect of riding conditions.
Cowra is a great town to explore so after setting up camp at the caravan park around lunchtime, I spent the whole afternoon exploring the incredibly beautiful Japanese Gardens, followed by the fascinating POW camp display.
It was going on dark by the time I got back to camp, but what a day it was.
Day 5 - Cowra to Neville (85km)
There are two options for this section of the ride, and I decided on the shorter route with less climbing, known as The Woodstock Way.
This route took me through some wonderful little villages including Woodstock and Mandurama, however it also included some 20km’s on the mid-Western Highway, one of regional NSW’s busiest roads. Fair to say that section wasn’t relaxing however roadworks along that stretch reduced the flow and speed of traffic which was fortunate.
The longer and higher alternate route known as The Wyangala Views Way completely avoids the Mid-Western, as well as the aforementioned towns.
Despite taking the shorter route, this was still the most demanding day of the trip even with an e-Bike!
Instead of camping, I chose to stay in the self-proclaimed unique accommodation called Neville Siding. Neville Siding is a collection of old railway buildings and carriages, much of which is converted into accommodation. The hosts are incredibly hospitable, even coming back from Blayney with a pub cooked meal for me.
Day 6 - Neville to Millthorpe (67km)
This was my favourite day of the whole journey. Featuring 60km of car-free riding, beautiful weather, great scenery and two of the loveliest little towns you could ever hope to visit, Carcoar and Millthorpe.
The trail takes you via Lake Carcoar and Blayney Wind Farm.
My intention was to camp by the lake for the night, however there’s a reason the wind farm sits high above the lake, and the thought of a cold blowy night by the water didn’t appeal.
So, my plan changed to exploring beautiful Carcoar for a few hours and then pushing on to Millthorpe for the night.
What a treat both these towns were. Carcoar is the self-proclaimed “town that time forgot” but tourists have not forgotten it, with plenty of day trippers walking around and enjoying the beautifully maintained buildings, some dating back to the gold rush.
Millthorpe is another wonderful historic village to explore, with artisan crafts and chocolates, cafe’s, restaurants and wine bars all to be found down the main street.
While I intended to camp, the absence of any campground in town meant I treated myself to a “luxury stay” at one of the local motels. Coupled with a nice dinner at the Railway Hotel, it was a great way to spend my final night on the OVBT.
Day 7 - Millthorpe to Orange (38km)
The ride into Orange was leisurely, and uneventful. Unfortunately, there were not many vantage points for photographs, so it ended up being a fairly quick ride.
On the outskirts of Orange, there is the Gosling Creek Reserve, the site of Orange’s first water supply. It’s presently undergoing a regeneration program with native vegetation replacing an old pine plantation, and newly established bird hides with viewing platforms.
This was a nice spot to take a moment and relax before riding the last few k’s into Orange and concluding my OVBT adventure.
For more information on the Orange Villages Bicycle Trail (including maps), visit the Orange 360 website
Central West Tours also love sharing this gorgeous part of the world with friends and customers saying, "With the wind in your hair, fresh air in your lungs and so many hidden treasures to be seen by bike, it is one of the most perfect ways to explore the countryside." For more details visit Central West Tours.
For more about places to ride visit the Bicycle NSW 'Where to Ride' resource page HERE.
You can join Bicycle NSW to access more riding resources, retail and hospitality discounts, riding events and so much more HERE.