Australia is one of the great cycling climbing countries.
A testament to the importance of cycling climbing in Australia is that most of its top climbs have Tour de France-like kilometer markers on them - something found in only a handful of countries, predominantly France and Italy. PJAMM Cycling traveled to Australia in April 2022 to document the Top 10 Australian Bike Climbs.
As the switchbacks of Corkscrew Road twist and rise up to the summit, one could easily imagine they are on a historic climb of the Giro in the Dolomites. Similarly, the long and steady ridgeline road up to Mt. Hotham has echoes of an Alpine summit somewhere deep in the high peaks of France. However, the steep inclines from the gold mining town of Dargo, and seemingly vertical pitches from the farmlands of Cherryville, are distinctly unique. Far from the famed cycling roads of Europe, Australia brings an unparalleled cycling experience unique from any other riding in the world.
An hour outside of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road pierces the coastline for kilometers upon kilometers of breathtaking coastal views. This epic memorial to the fallen soldiers of World War One creates an unforgettable first ride upon landing Down Under. Continuing east from Melbourne, the expansive desert eventually gives way to the fertile farmlands of Adelaide. Here, we ride some of the same roads the pros race on during the Tour Down Under. Blessed with good weather, friendly locals, and an array of well stocked bike shops and tasty eateries, it’s impossible to leave with anything but a yearning to return to Adelaide. North of Melbourne are the big mountains of Australia, wired with a vast network of roads connecting the many ski villages in the region. These climbs south of Canberra and north of Melbourne all have a very remote feel to them. On many occasions, dirt roads will be driven to access the climbs which predominantly have Alps-like kilometer markers.
It’s tough to think of anything lacking in Australia. While massive eucalyptus trees create a tunnel of foliage on some climbs, thin air and high mountain grasses surround the road on others. One is bound to see more than a few darting kangaroos and maybe a few koalas if luck is in the air. Through all of this twist pristine, well cared for, and safe roads populated with relatively few cares and many cyclists. It may not be accurate to describe Australia as a “hidden gem” in the cycling world, but it certainly can’t be justly defined as “well-known” either. Australia currently straddles the spectrum somewhere in between right now, and is well worth the long flight over to experience.
AUSTRALIA’S HARDEST BIKE CLIMB
Ride 12.3 kilometers gaining 960 meters at 7.8% average grade.
Mt. Baw Baw is the hardest bike climb in Australia. The first 5.5 kilometers are a warm up at 4% average grade, while the next 6.2 km average 11.5%, before dropping down to 4% for the final 600 meters to the finish at the Mt. Baw Baw Alpine Resort.
SECOND HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN AUSTRALIA
Ride 17.6 km gaining 1,156 meters at 6.6% average grade.
This climb is on the Australian island state of Tasmania. Tasmania is home to the first environmental political party in the world, and 42% of its land is protected in some way. This bicycle climb is almost entirely in Wellington Park (617 acres; established in 1993). We begin the climb a short distance west of Hobart (pop. 229,000, the largest city and capitol of Tasmania; the smallest but second oldest Australian state capital).
#3 AUSTRALIAN BIKE CLIMB
Ride 16.8 kilometers gaining 1,069 meters at 6.4% average grade.
Donna Buang begins ascending just outside the former gold mining town of Warbutorn. Throughout this one you’re surrounded by dense forestation, making you feel as though you are in the middle of the jungle, but this climb really isn’t far from central Melbourne. The climb stays right around the average gradient mark of 6.4% for the duration, making the 3500 foot climb disappear beneath your wheels without any tough pitches to speak of.
#4 AUSTRALIAN BIKE CLIMB
Ride 13 kilometers gaining 970 meters at 7.2%
Dargo is ranked the fourth most difficult bike climb in Australia behind only Mt. Baw Baw, Mt. Wellington, and Mt. Donna Buang. The climb has its section with the steepest kilometer at 12.2% beginning at kilometer 3.2.
Ride 29 kilometers gaining 1,370 meters at 4.5% average grade.
Another extraordinary, must-do bike climb in Australia’s Victorian Alps along the Great Dividing Range, 350 kilometers northeast of Melbourne. Be prepared for a cool ride, particularly towards the top -- Mount Hotham has never recorded a temperature above 30°C (86°F) and it is one of the few locations in Australia that records temperatures below freezing