Ride - The Fernleigh Track Rail Trail.
Distance - 30 km (return).
Terrain - Sealed for the full distance.
Difficulty - Easy - a perfect family cycle. The track slopes gently uphill from both ends with the high point at Whitebridge.
Highlights - Hearing the bell-birds sing.
Website and map - Click here.
The Fernleigh Track is one of the few rail trails of any length in New South Wales. Sadly, the state David and I call home has lagged behind in the construction of cycling trails forcing us to spend too many of our tourist dollars interstate and abroad in the search for great, leisure bike rides. The Fernleigh Track however, is an exception. The trail is an easy 30 km return trip and close enough to Sydney to be able to drive to it, cycle it and return home in a day, especially if you live on the northside - or better yet indulge in a night or two at Newcastle and explore one of Australia's most underrated cities.
David and I recently spent a couple of nights at The Charlestown Executive Apartments, Newcastle which is about five minutes drive from one of the trail access points at Whitebridge. Our stay was the perfect opportunity to re-acquaint ourselves with one of our favourite rides.
|The start of the trail at Belmont.|
The trail runs from Belmont near Lake Macquarie to Adamstown, a southern suburb of Newcastle. It follows the route of an old railway line used initially to transport coal and later on - passengers. For most of its 15 kilometre length the trail runs through a bushland corridor, populated by small native animals and birds such as possums, bandicoots, echidnas and rosellas. Apart from the rosellas, you have to be lucky to spot any of these shy little creatures but you cannot miss the unmistakable musical chimes of the native bell birds. Their bell-like calls will follow you for much of the ride.
The bushland scenery, especially the blue gums, provide plenty of shade on a hot day and if you are into old railway relics there are enough former station platforms, signage and old railway tracks and sleepers to keep you interested.
A few kilometres from Adamstown the trail crosses under the Pacific Highway through an old railway tunnel. The tunnel is lit well enough that you don't need a torch but dark and long enough, at 181 metres, to add a bit of adventure to the ride.
Which direction is best?
|Much of the trail runs through a bushland corridor|
Facilities on the Trail
There are access points with parking at Belmont, Jewells, Redhead, Whitebridge, Kahibahand Adamstown. Water is also available at each of these except Kahibah. There are a few other minor access points but because the trail follows a bushland corridor don't expect to be able to access it from all the nearby streets. Click here for a map of the trail showing the access points and facilities.
|There are storyboards at several locations to keep the history buffs happy.|
Cafes are few and far between. Unless you want to leave the trail and go searching for nearby shops plan to take a packed lunch or eat at Adamstown. The Gates Hotel on Glebe Road is just past the end of the trail and has a nice outdoor beer/bistro garden. There are also a couple of cafes in the surrounding streets.