The Canberra roads every motorcyclist should explore
Hello reader and possible motorcycle enthusiast. If you’re looking for your next route in and around Canberra (hopefully one you haven’t traversed before), I’ve got a couple of stunning suggestions, as well as a few classics that every Canberran motorcyclist ought to ride at least once. I’ve lived in Canberra for five years now and have been discovering new roads for four of those. I started off on a bright orange Ninja 300 and have since moved onto a blue and silver GSX-R1000. But enough about me. Let’s get started.
1. Cotter Loop: Cotter Road, Brindabella Road, Uriarra Road
Starting off with one of the best-known roads in the territory, it is the famous Cotter Loop. This is where I first went when I got my learner license and it is generally a blast, if not a bit short. You can find this trio of roads just to the west of Coombs.
The road is generally in good condition, especially since part of it leads to the Mt Stromlo Observatory, a popular tourist location. There are some rough sections, particularly where Cotter Road meets Brindabella Road, but if you’re out for a casual ride you will have no problems. These sections have thankfully been redone, although, can still catch you off-guard. Tight turns, as well as long, flat straights, are common. Definitely the most appropriate for any motorcycle daredevil, this road will keep you at the top of your game. The loop gives you a taste of everything enjoyable on a motorcycle, whether you’re riding fast or slow.
This is one of the more scenic routes on the list as it lies close to the Brindabella mountain range and national park. The elevation change throughout the ride is very pleasant with many spots to pull over for a BBQ, a swim, or even just a stretch.
The approximately 40km loop will take you about 35 minutes, depending on how you ride.
2. Coombs to Tharwa: Cotter Road, Paddy’s River Road, Tidbinbilla Road
This is another classic. Leading on from the ‘Cotter Loop’, if you head south-west where Cotter Road and Brindabella Road meet you will shortly find yourself on Paddy’s River Road. You can follow this road all the way down to Tharwa. At some stage, the road will turn into Tidbinbilla Road, located very close to the similarly named nature reserve that is home to some unique animals and birds.
This road is mainly long sweeping turns, with a dash of shorter, tighter corners towards the north. If you’ve never ridden this road, in addition to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, you also have access to the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. From here you keep heading south towards the once-thriving Tharwa. An old servo, now converted into a cafe, which greets you with jolly employees and a cup of coffee. Tharwa has the added benefit of being five minutes away from Banks, Canberra’s most southern suburb. Good fuel, plus a shopping complex are nearby.
This roughly 30km stretch of road will take you about 30 minutes.
3. Coombs to Wee Jasper: Uriarra Road, Mountain Creek Road, Wee Jasper Road
My personal favourite out of the five. Uriarra Road was completely sealed in 2019 and now offers a stunning alternative to the Barton Highway if you’re thinking of heading north to Yass. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to discover the roads less travelled, you can head west which will lead you to Wee Jasper, a hidden gem of its own.
Although recently worked on, Mountain Creek Road only has a small section of brand new road, the section of road just after the border, on the NSW side. Further across the border, you will find a narrower road that paves the way until you reach your destination in the north. Similar to the ‘Coombs to Tharwa’ route, open fields, and long sweeping turns make up the majority of this ride. The last 30 minutes of this ride is your goal and once closer to Wee Jasper, you will begin to enjoy the lush farmland and pastures as well as the road. Almost twice as high in elevation as Canberra, Wee Jasper has a primary school and a set of touristy caves. Be warned, however, as opening times are unusual and you should double-check to see when they are open.
This is definitely the most farm like destination on this list as you will see many livestock and horses grazing on various farms around Wee Jasper.
4. Forde to Bungendore: Mulligans Flat Road, E Tallagandra Lane, Sutton Road, Federal Highway, Macs Reef Road, Bungendore Road
This route is lesser known about. It originates in Gungahlin and ends in Bungendore, one of the nicest places to get a pie around Canberra. Aside from a delightful pie, you can also enjoy the road that leads you to the pie. The roads are nothing out of the ordinary, but do provide an alternative route to taking the highway. Along the way, you’ll go through Sutton and Bywong, two fairly unimpressive locations. As you near Bungendore you will ride past one of Canberra’s many wineries, Lark Hill Winery. There you will find organically grown wine, which my parents assure me tastes very good, albeit a tad on the expensive side. Once in Bungendore, you can enjoy the aforementioned pie from Gunna Doo Bakery and make your way back to Canberra or ride on through to the coast.
5. Canberra to Bateman’s Bay: King’s Highway
Possibly the most iconic of all routes originating in Canberra, this road takes you all the way from the big smoke, to the touristy beaches of Bateman’s Bay and beyond. Along the way, you will stumble through Bungendore and Braidwood, before arriving in the seaside town of Bateman’s. The highway is most notable for its steep mountainous decline, between Braidwood and the bay. Think luscious rainforest borders this section of the highway, as it winds and curves its way from 643m elevation down to the beach. The journey is almost worth it just for that part. Be careful, however, as in the wet it is fatally dangerous. Regardless, the King’s Highway is a joy to ride as it takes you through the dry planes of Canberra, to the rainforest of Clyde Mountain, and finally the sandy beaches of Bateman’s Bay. A must ride for anyone with a motorcycle.
My Recommendation: Start in Coombs and take the ‘Cotter Loop’ starting in the north, once at the Brindabella/Cotter/Paddy’s River Road intersection head south to Tharwa, before heading back north and taking Cotter road back to Coombs
Bonus: Where Brindabella Road and Uriarra Road meet, at the ACT/NSW border. A very short stretch of road (~18km), which is very twisty and resembles the Clyde Mountain pass somewhat. The road turns from a hard surface to dirt at the border
So there you have it! Those are my top five picks of roads you should try the next time you head out on your motorcycle. If none of these roads tickle your fancy you can always head south out of Canberra and to the Snowy Mountains or to the Sapphire Coast through Bega.