Update! New timelapse video coming soon (old version was a bit shakey). Stay tuned.
Route: City to Belmont via the Fernleigh Track
Distance: Approx. 22km
Map: See brochure photo below and this map by Newcastle City Council
Public Transport Access: Adamstown Station
If you haven’t ridden the Fernleigh Track yet, stop whatever you are doing and go cycle it. I took the timelapse footage above the other day to give you an idea of the route. Seriously, it has to be one of the best rail trails in NSW – a completely sealed surface follows the abandoned Adamstown to Belmont railway line which dates to 1880, initially constructed to haul coal from the mines in East Lake Macquarie to Port Hunter. Passenger services began not long after. For some history, see Wikipedia. Following the closure of the line in 1991, construction on the shared path began in 2003 and was completed in 2011.
The 15km ride links the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie local government areas (see second map below) and passes by numerous coastal villages, taking you through a range of different vegetation communities from temperate forest to coastal heath to paperbark swamplands. Arguably the best feature of the track is the beautifully engineered 181 metre long Fernleigh Tunnel which passes beneath the Pacific Highway. Other features include old platforms and exposed railway lines.
Fernleigh Track tunnel, photo by Ross Beckley
If you’re not within bicycling distance of the track, it can be easily accessed via the main northern railway (Sydney – Hamilton [formerly Newcastle] service) by alighting from Adamstown Station and heading south by about 350 metres along Park Avenue.
If you’re after a spot of lunch, you might like to stop at the town centre of Whitebridge which is about halfway along the track from both directions. Alternatively, if riding from Adamstown, Belmont town centre has plenty of eatery options, though Deck 56 on the foreshore has ample room for bike parking.
As well as being great for recreation, the track offers a vital off-road link for utility bicycling and commuting by providing a safe, direct and not-too-steep connection. From Adamstown, the route to Newcastle CBD (about 7km or 25 minutes) is mostly clearly sign-posted, although mostly on-road as shown by the green line in the image below. Still, it is arguably quite a safe route, taking you through the back streets of Newcastle along flat and typically smooth roads.
At the intersection of Park Avenue and Glebe Road (the Adamstown Station railway crossing), the safest–though far from convenient–way to cross this busy road is to cross the tracks, use the refuge island immediately after the railway crossing, and then cross the tracks again so you are heading eastbound on Glebe Road on the shared pathway.
The sign-posted bicycle route to the City from the start/end of the Fernleigh Track. Red = shared path, green = on-road route.
The image below is from Lake Macquarie City Council’s brochure available on their website. In the not too distant future, one should be able to cycle completely off-road from Adamstown to Swansea (see map below) once the Fernleigh Track is connected to the Pacific Highway cycleway south of Marks Point. Now that would be amazing – our very own bicycle highway!