Nick and Toby have the recipe for an absolute banger of a weekend. Step one, bunk off work. Step two, get out of Sydney. Step three, shove as much adventure gear as you can in the back of the car. Step four, pack coffee – plenty of coffee. Join the boys as they break out of the city for a South Coast blow-out at Sussex Inlet.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Dhurga Nation, the traditional Country of the Dhurga people who have occupied and cared for this land and water for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
We’re rolling along the local trails on a Wednesday afternoon, unwinding after two very different but very long days at work. Daylight savings is about to end, so we have to make the most of it while we can. Toby’s on a dual-suspension mountain bike, and I’m on my trusty, rigid, Surly Troll. Two vastly varied bikes that are achieving the exact same thing – getting us stoked on a school night.
Chatting on the flats, racing on the downhills and puffing on the up, we slowly made our way around, discovering new sections of trail we’d never ridden before. Bliss.
It wasn’t long before we noted that it’d been a while since we’d got out of Sydney and we decided this was necessary as soon as possible. I immediately planted the seed that Toby was to be ‘sick’ on Friday so we could get an early start and maximise the holiday. By Thursday night, I got the call to ask how many bags of coffee beans he should pack. Easy convincing.
Getting The Shits With Sydney Traffic
The boot was packed before dawn the next day, filled with kit to hike, ride and hit the water – we were headed South, to places that had all three on offer; more often than not, without even driving to a new spot. Snacks up front and thermos in the middle, we hit the road.
We only made it to the outskirts of Sydney, to Royal National Park, before we were over sitting in the slowly moving traffic and listening to the roof racks whistle over the tunes on Triple J, so we decided to pull over for a ride. The trails kept on flowing, gentle berms carving a path through the overarching trees down to the train tracks. It was smiles all round and we were only five minutes in.
We crossed the tracks and Toby accelerated, pumping on rollers and berms while I kept cruising, taking in the smaller details. The trail split a few times and I realised we hadn’t spoken about which forks we were going to take. But that’s not really a problem when all of them lead to fun opportunities for grinding gravel.
After five minutes of looking around, I couldn’t find him and went for the ‘choose your own adventure’ strategy of not thinking too much and just rolling along to wherever looked interesting. I popped off roots, had my legs whipped by shrubs, pushed the bike up steep rocky sections and almost took myself out as my handlebars came way too close to a very substantially sized tree. It seemed that regardless of where I turned, the trail wouldn’t end, and would just take me further into the bush. This wasn’t something I was overly opposed to.
Back On The Road
An hour later, I was back at the car, to find Toby all sweaty, he’d had an equally fun time, just at a far quicker pace. Horses for courses, I guess. We packed up, had a big gulp of water and kicked on again. Arriving at the beach house a few hours later, we quickly unpacked, got the percolator on the stove and planned where we were to ride next. After heavy caffeination, we decided to head down the dense bush that skirts the lake, just across the road and see how far we could get.
‘This place used to spook me out but maybe we can get over to the other side’, Toby said.
Golly, he wasn’t wrong. The thick foliage had us almost at a standstill, pushing more than riding – as any good bike adventure should feature. The bracken, socketwood and mangrove-esque foliage made it tough going, with the cushy ground allowing our tyres to sink, making our slow riding even slower. After what felt like an age of serious commitment, the mosquitoes got the better of us and we decided to turn around before the sunset to avoid being completely lost in the dark and mauled by the local insects.
Down To Sussex Inlet
The next morning, we ate a big brekky and got in the car towards Sussex Inlet, a stunning part of the world where the dreamy Aussie bush meets the rugged sea. The swell was a beautiful and clean four foot with the typical lack of crowds for that area. Toby got right into his wettie, sweeping up his fins and handplane as he ran out of the carpark and down the track towards the water.
I opted to stay on dry land and ride a bit. I jumped on Mapy.cz (best GPS and mapping app in my opinion) and saw extensive fire trails through what was predominantly Forestries NSW owned land.
The trail began with broken asphalt and slowly became more gravel before descending to the depths of potholed dirt with large sticks to bunnyhop. It became quite the obstacle course, cutting and swerving between puddles, bigger rocks and the red-belly black snake that slithered across the path as I hammered downhill. I imagined these motions to be similar to what Toby was simultaneously doing, gliding down the face of the swell as the water curled over him.
The tall gumtrees blocked most of the rays, leaving plenty of guesswork as to the terrain, as I weaved to the tune of plovers, black cockatoos and kookaburras – going no place in particular. I just sat, spun my legs and enjoyed the sounds of nature, mixed with the crunching of rubber on gravel.
To The End Of The Road
I met a bloke named Tommo in his filthy 4WD and we had a very animated chat about how much fun we were having and that he couldn’t wait to surprise the kids with a new doughnut for them to be towed in behind the boat. Before leaving, he pointed to a small parting in the trees and suggested I follow it ‘til the end.
It was just wide enough for my wide bikepacking handlebars and it lead me down a rooty and winding section of singletrack to the water. What a sight – perfect peeling waves, with dolphins breaching behind the swell, yet there was not a single person to be seen. They were all around the corner, you see, going to the same places everyone else goes to because they’re easily accessible and close to the shops.
I ‘worked’ for this (loved every minute) and now it was paying dividends. I rode down the sand and parked up in the sun, with my thermos in my right hand and book in the left. I pulled my mud-covered Blundstones off and lay back, letting the warmth engulf me as the waves crashed in the background.
Bloody good day, that was.
- Thermos (for coffee)
- Percolator (for coffee)
How To Get There
Drive south from Sydney, through the Royal National Park. Sussex Inlet approx 200km of driving, so make sure you’ve got a decent thermos and some snacks.