[R]evolution’s ultimate guide to touring Tassie’s best riding spots – the 2021 edition!
Sure you wake up in the morning, pack your bike and jump on a plane from any major city in Oz and be out on the trails in Tassie that afternoon enjoying a quick holiday. However, if you can make time, spending a full week or two touring Tassie, sampling a heap of their awesome riding and relaxing destinations, is something we highly recommend.
You’ve probably have read plenty of Tassie articles across our pages over the years, and for good reason, the place is bloody awesome, and one of the things we love most about visiting Tassie is that there’s always new places to ride and things to see. In this article we’re going to update you on the latest and greatest that Tassie has to offer. So pack your bike and start planning your itinerary today…
Words // Rob Potter Photos // Matt Staggs
Wild Mersey Mountain Bike Trails
Less than 15 minutes’ drive from the Spirit of Tasmania terminal in Davenport is one of Tasmania’s newer riding destinations.
The Warrawee Reserve, a couple of kilometres from Latrobe, is home to the first stage of Wild Mersey Mountain Bike Trails. The network offers an awesome assembly of different riding experiences over a network of less than twenty kilometres, excellent trail-head facilities and a location bordered by the Mersey River that, during the warmer months, is a great place to wash off the dust with a relaxing post-ride swim!
Latrobe itself is a super-busy little town with an interesting array or shops headlined by the quirky Reliquaire. The trails of Warrawee include a fun green loop straight out of the car-park. Further into the network, you’ll find a wilderness style trail ride and a gravity zone offering three descents with a fairly direct climb. “Session Sauce” lets you lap these descents as many times as your legs will allow.
“High Voltage” (along with “The Local” at MBP) is an excellent intermediate jump trail made up of entirely rollable and very case-able table-tops that make an excellent introduction to jump-trails. This is useful if they’re in short supply where you live to avoid over-committing to the more challenging and potentially higher consequence options you’ll find in some of the other destinations.
When you’re done with the descents, there’s a pleasant car-free bitumen river-side road that’ll take you back to the trail-head.
If you can coax one more climb out of yourself, take “Off the Hook”, a gentle descent that departs part-way up the gravity climb, back to the car park. Or for those more into pedalling than me, there’s the opportunity to embark on the 10km Railton Express, which allows riders the opportunity to access by trail the town of Railton, another 6km of green trails and an asphalt pump-track. Railton is the second stage to Wild Mersey Mountain Bike Trails network. For most riders, we’d recommend driving to Railton for a pump-track session (since you had room to bring the hard-tail!) and a beer (and some take-aways..!) at Seven Sheds Brewery.
As I hinted, Wild Mersey Mountain Bike Trails is currently under development with Trailscapes working on the third and final stage which will add another sixty-ish kilometres to the Wild Mersey network which connects to another quirky town and gets into some more demanding terrain and bigger elevation ranges. Completion is scheduled for September 2021.
Blue Derby Mountain Bike Trails
Getting to Derby from Wild Mersey will take a little over two hours via Launceston and Scottsdale. We’d recommend a stop in Launceston for any bike supplies you’ll require that you may not be able to source in Derby (Evolution Biking and Vertigo MTB will have non-proprietary parts), Scottsdale for groceries, Little Rivers Brewery and pastry goods from Scottsdale Bakery.
There’s an ever-increasing range of accommodation options at Derby but for many, the riverside camping, essentially in the centre of the town, is one of the major appeals.
At this stage, Derby doesn’t need an introduction but depending on how long since you last visited or for those that haven’t, there are some relatively new trails that are worth mentioning.
Any of the trails developed prior to the last round of the Enduro World Series (EWS); Kumma-Gutza (epic line choices and higher speed than a lot of the tighter trails), Roxanne (for some semi-jank), Deadly Bugger (fun way to get to Derby Tunnel) and Derby Tunnel are all must-rides, as well as the classics of Trouty, Detonate, Black Dragon and Return To Sender.
The Blue Tier descent demands a mention here and is a must ride if you can spare the day it requires. The trail experience is pleasantly punctuated by lunch at the Weldborough Hotel and post lunch shuttle bump to the start of Atlas; a highlight of the Blue Derby network but difficult to access by trail (Premium MTB have just added a shuttle drop to the high-point of Atlas which is the best alternative). Following Atlas, you’ve got some options but if, at this stage, you’re up for a rowdy EWS experience, Krushka’s link to Trouty will take you back to town, rapidly. If not Krushka’s descent is recently revamped and a mellow, super-fun alternative.
The investment in trails has been followed by steady investment in the town. While it used to be the case that while the riding was excellent in Derby there wasn’t much to do (or eat) when you weren’t is changing. The Dorset Hotel is within a walk or pedal from wherever you choose to stay or camp in Derby and has excellent food and a big selection of local beverages, as well as the usual suspects, most nights of the week. If town is heaving, wherever you choose to eat, be sure to book as at peak times demand still exceeds supply. The Hub is the other go-to for pizza and again a great range of super-tasty local liquids.
For breakfast or your first morning coffee head to Two Doors Down. The most interesting of the additions to the non-riding activities available in Derby is the Floating Sauna on Lake Derby. This has been incredibly popular since its recent opening Finish a day’s riding, then alternate between the searing temperatures and relaxation of the sauna and invigoration of jumping in the frigid lake. Visit https://floatingsauna.com.au/ for bookings and information.
St Helens Mountain Bike trails
St Helens, or rather Snellens, is a short 50 kilometres on the A3 from Derby with half that distance also spanned by the Bay of Fires Trail (BOFT).
The drive between St Helens presents a few solid non-riding opportunities too. With a simple turn onto the C428 you’ll find the Pyengana Dairy Farmgate Café for an award winning cheese fix/re-stock, the Pyengana Pub in the Paddock, because where else can you share a Boags Draught with a pig called Priscilla, and for more nature, the 90 metre high St Columba Falls is just a little further up the road.
The BOFT is worth a ride, particularly if you’ve been shuttling or lapping descents. It offers a nice contrast where you are legitimately on a journey through some of the most stunning natural environments you’ll encounter. Be prepared for the pedal though. For the (solo) road-tripper, logistics get a little messy. Generally you’ll find it easier to drive to the end of the trail, in the BOFT case, Swimcart Beach and from the rearrange a shuttle back to the top/start of the trail. Gravity Isle or Vertigo MTB will make it happen for you here. If you’ve got a non-riding partner or too injured/tired/altruistic riding buddy, they could also drop you off at the high point on their way through…
The BOFT literally finishes on the beach, a short pedal from the semi-town of Binalong Bay and amongst many of the most beautiful beaches you’ll find on our little blue earth. There’s also a heap of free campsites with stunning ocean-side sites you won’t believe are real. This area is definitely worth some of your time for a reflective pause, fishing, diving (licenses required for most fishing), walks and occasionally waves.
There’s some distance (in ageing downhiller terms) between the terminus of the BOFT/Binalong Bay and the town of St Helens where you’ll find the second half of the St Helens Mountain Bike Trails, so it’s worth considering basing yourself in or near the town, particularly if you plan on multiple days riding the network.
The St Helens Stacked Loop Network is a fun mix of a family-oriented loops, a handful of shuttle options based mostly around jump trails and a recently commissioned adventure trail to a beautiful waterhole/swimming-if-its-summer-spot.
The Snellens network performs really well in wet weather so if some of that’s forecast during your visit, it’s worth aligning your visit with or shortly after the precipitation.
For shuttles, look to Gravity Isle or Vertigo MTB depending on what product/trails you’re after.
When you’ve finished riding, St Helens offers a HEAP of other activities that have made the town a popular holiday destination for decades before the added appeal of a solid MTB trail network. For a feed, Skippers on Marina Parade (the wharf) is a floating fish and chip shop specialising in local fish and is mere metres from where the town-link deposits you back in town. The Social on Quail Street is our pick for ridiculously good burgers, burritos, toasties and the like in a super-chilled, dusty (thirsty) MTB’er friendly beer garden with an epic range of beers.
Depending on which way the wind is blowing, the swell direction and your intentions, St Helens point, which is an easy 15-minute drive on the C851, offers a bunch of surf beaches; Blanche, Beerbarrel and Maurouard that each face different directions as well as Peron Dunes.
Maydena Bike Park
However you choose to do it, getting from the east coast to the Maydena Bike ark (MBP) is going to be the bigger gap between trail destinations in your MTB itinerary. It is also a great opportunity to do some other stuff including visiting some of the justifiably popular tourist destinations on the east coast and even Hobart.
The most direct route from St Helens to Maydena is straight across the middle of the Island following the A3, A4, 1, A5, B110, A10 and the B61. This is a fine idea if you’re running short on time or single-mindedly focussed on riding. If that’s not you, embarking on the Great Eastern Drive, detouring to the stunning Freycinet National Park, spending some time in and around Hobart, particularly the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), before heading up the Derwent Valley toward Maydena Bike Park is strongly recommended.
The MBP now in its third year of operation and once they get a season without a biblical event (floods, fires and the ‘rona) will no doubt assume it’s rightful role as the premier gravity destination in the southern hemisphere. The diversity of trail offerings and elevation range they descend at MBP just can’t be matched outside of North America.
While it’s earned well deserved recognition as home to some of the gnarliest terrain and trails, as well as some of the best build jump trails you’ll find in Australia. Recently the Park has been working to increase the amount of beginner trails. The now stretch right the way down to strider bike friendly, building a new dirt jump area, refining the climbing trail so that it accesses more elevation more easily and even adding a couple of air bags. They’re also working on a lower mountain shuttle drop off that will add options for those not ready for the full 820 metres vertical, or who prefer the jump and flow style trails the lower mountain offers, or for those days when the top of the hill is under snow, a little wet or cold.
When you’re not logging more vert than is possible anywhere else in the bottom half of the globe, there’s a whole bunch of other things to do. Mount Field is just down the road with a massive range of walks, waterfalls and peaks to visit. The Tyenna River runs almost right through town and is regarded as one of the better trout fisheries in Tasmania, and the monumental Gordon Dam (that you can abseil down! www.aardvarkadventures.com.au) is another hour or so up the road past the infamous Lake Pedder.
Accommodation options are diverse in town, as long as you’re after an Airbnb. Food options in Maydena are limited at the moment however that is set to change soon. MBP is in the process of developing a restaurant to address this and supplement their set-up at the park base.
West Coast Mountain Bike Trails
There’s not much purpose-built riding on offer on the West Coast, but that is about to change significantly. There are currently two large-scale trail projects underway that together will add another epic sixty-ish kilometres of trail to the twenty or so kilometres that we’d recommend riding at the moment.
In the interim, closing your Island loop with a slight deviation to the Western extremity is still warranted.
The Oonah Hill trail, just north of Zeehan, is only about 5 kilometres in length but if you ride it as a loop will end up just under ten. It is shuttle-able if you have a suitable vehicle (4wd). The trail is located in an epic button-grass landscape (and the site of one of the upcoming developments) and provides a gravelly flow descent that justifies the visit.
Sterling Valley, an historic route that covers most of the distance between towns of Tullah and Rosebery, is as far from the Oonah Hill trail as you could imagine. Enclosed completely in rainforest, the trail is an old bench that has deteriorated to create one of the best, if not all too short, natural descents. You’ll find it filled with rocky, root crossed chutes and high-speed loamers. It’s always easy to forget the up, but there is a climb too that departs the Murchison Highway near the Anthony Road turn-off. It’s a bit tricky, but it’s also possible to pick up the trail at the high-point to enable shuttles or e-laps, if that’s your thing. As always, Trailforks is your best bet.
While riding options are presently limited, there’s a lot to do and see on the West Coast. It really is like an overseas holiday without leaving Australia. Almost every stretch of road will reveal epic landscapes. On a clear day, the Anthony Road, which runs north-south between Tullah and Queenstown, is a must.
All of the towns have long (by Australian standards) and turbulent histories, which even for the usually disinterested, will captivate attention and imagination. The mining museum at Zeehan, mine tours in Queenstown, Ocean Beach (which you can ride to, at least from the car park), Montezuma Falls and its precarious suspension bridge, the West Coast Wilderness Railway, rafting, walking, fishing and mountains can keep one more than occupied indefinitely.
Epic camp locations are many, but since you’ve come this far visiting the Corinna will be a highlight of any trip and fits neatly if you’ve ridden Oonah Hill and you’re heading back to the North West Coast/Spirit of Tasmania/Big Island. Corinna is perched on the banks of the Pieman River about an hour north of Zeehan. In summary, you need to catch a barge, called the Fatman, to access the settlement! Corinna offers campsites and cabin-style accommodation sympathetic to the historic and wilderness tones, has kayaks for guest use on the river, and has a couple of boats on which you can cruise the Pieman.
Closing the Loop
Right, so assuming you’ve taken the best advice you’ve ever received and visited Corinna, you’ll find yourself about two and a half hours from the ferry and the prospect of heading home.
The best route is B23, A10, B18, C112 back to the number 1. The drive takes you through rainforest and patches of now familiar button-grass plains, before exposing the alien-to-most landscape of the Savage River Mine, a modern incarnation of the extractive history of the region and a reminder of the demands our consumption places on far-away places. After about two hours you’ll hit the coast at Burnie, and industrial and port hub.
If you have time to spare, a slight detour to Ironcliffe Road in Penguin gives access to the trails of the Dial Range. The Montgomery Loop and recently opened Iron Tor Trail will yield a pretty solid climb and epic descent to wrap up the adventure. [R]