Hot, humid & hilly


β€œIn the first week of January, the new year gave to me,

Three goannas running,

Two brown cuckoos feeding

And a brown snake near a gum tree.β€πŸŽΆπŸŽΆ

The Billinudgel Nature Reserve* is an untamed patch of undulating bushland between the Pacific Highway and the coastline of Northern New South Wales on Australia’s east coast. It is 850kms north of Sydney and 160kms south of Brisbane. When I was planning our ride from Currumbin to Brunswick Heads, I used Google Maps. It estimated the journey would be about 60kms each way and 3hours 20mins pedal time.

For the section between Wooyung and Brunswick Heads, I’d expected to travel via the old Pacific Highway, a dual carriageway bitumen road that sometimes mirrors, sometimes criss-crosses the more recently built Pacific Motorway (M1), running from Ballina to Brisbane. Google Maps, however, had other plans for our first overnight bicycle tour. It was taking us through the Billinudgel Nature Reserve.

We were to turn right at Jones Road after Wooyung and follow the road until we met the Nature Reserve. I really didn’t know what to expect. There was nothing on the internet about the Billinudgel Nature Reserve except a two line description on the NSW Government website, a management plan for the Reserve from November 2000, and an entry on for a mid-week walking group from 2013.

Although Google Maps showed a series of trails through the Reserve, I had no idea of their condition or whether they were suitable for mountain bikes only. We were at the beginning of either an enjoyable shortcut clear of busy roads or a very long diversion that would see us having to turnaround and take to the traffic.

But… the spirits of good fortune were shining and our touring bikes traversed the unsealed trails, in all their variety.

There were gravel tracks, sandy tracks, muddy bogs, and long grass that made me talk excessively and loudly to announce our imminent arrival to any snakes lingering in the grass. We rode through dry sclerophyll forests with eucalypts and banksias. We pedalled amongst coastal wetlands with melaleuca swamps, tree ferns, water lilies and bracken water stained by tea tree tannin.  And yes, there were three goannas running, two brown cuckoo doves feeding and a brown snake sunning near a gum tree. We heard black cockatoos flying overhead with their eery call and pale faced rosellas scooping a flighty path through the eucalypts.

The Billinudgel Nature Reserve may have been hot and humid and hilly, but it was teeming with life. And I think my life was made richer from riding through Billinudgel’s bushy belly.

*”Nature reserves are considered to be valuable refuge areas where natural processes, phenomena and wildlife are protected and can be studied. Nature reserves differ from national parks as they do not include provision of recreation opportunities as a major objective of their management.” Billinudgel Nature Reserve Management Plan.

20160104 7 Billinudgel nature reserve IMG_1086

Entry to the Nature Reserve

Scroll over or tap each photo below to read its caption….

20160104 10 dry sclerophyll IMG_1097

Narrow trail descending.

20160104 14 coastal wetlands IMG_1105

Trail through coastal wetland.


36 Comments on “Hot, humid & hilly

    • Thanks Iris. It was quite a treat being able to ride through this tract of bushland with all its wildness still largely intact. And lovely to share the story with you πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  1. When I finally do get a bike more suited to unsealed roads I will definitely be giving this one a go. What a great nature ride! The diversity of vegetation and the wildlife sound very appealing. Riding through natural surroundings must be a real buzz! Thanks for sharing, Gail. I loved this post. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I can recommend this trail for sure Jane. You would love the variety of habitat. In preparing this post, I delved into the Reserve’s management plan and learnt about how much diversity there is across the 789 hectares this tract of bushland covers. It also has culturally significant sites such as a double Bora Ring and midden sites, which were discovered there in 1977 but I’m not aware of where they are in the reserve.
      The trails are very well signposted too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Robyn! I didn’t know about the Reserve either until my encounter with Google Maps πŸ™‚ The trails don’t seem to be used that much maybe because it’s not near any major towns and perhaps also because of its status as a Nature Reserve rather than a National Park. I’m glad you ‘got’ the tune for the musical prelude πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Very exciting Gail! Hope you will post more about this overnight adventure. You always motivate me to ride more. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s wonderful Roz! It’s been humid weather this past week but still great to be moving around on two wheels… somehow always brings a refreshing breeze.
      There’s definitely a couple more stories to squeeze out of my first experience at bicycle touring πŸ˜‰ Thanks for reading.


    • Good tip on the Google search.
      I read about the ceremonial site too… when I was preparing this post. The Reserve’s management plan mentions a double Bora Ring (a place for ceremonies) and also some Middin sites – where First Australians would have left the shells and bones from their meals. These culturally significant sites were discovered in 1977 and listed but I’m not aware of where they are in the reserve. Billinudgel not only turned out to be a fantastic ride but also a culturally interesting piece of land.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Brenda, it’s great isn’t it… to see cycling from other places in the world. I enjoy seeing the contrasts. Now that it’s snowing in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere, I find the snowy landscapes a delightful relief from the humid weather we’ve been experiencing. I’m very happy to know this post delivered a little bit of sunshine to England’s North East πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    • It’s the same for me Doug πŸ™‚ When I’m looking at blog photos and stories of snowy landscapes from the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year, I enjoy a brief reprieve from the hot, humid weather.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Gail

    I’ve just been catching up on your last three posts – thank you for sharing your cycling adventures, and writing in such an appealing way. The Bilinudgel cycle looks great. Not suited to our little Brompton wheels unfortunately – we can manage gravel roads if they don’t have too many soft sections, but sandy patches are our undoing. The other activity that comes to mind is a winter ramble, particularly as we frequent that patch of coastline. Thanks for the idea!


    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jen, thanks! πŸ™‚
      Yes it’s definitely not Brompton territory in the Billinudgel Nature Reserve. But the coastal trails beforehand are well-suited πŸ™‚ And, in the winter… very pleasant.


    • Jen – I did the β€œOptus trail” through this nature reserve on an almost fully loaded folder – but 20” wheels and 5cm wide tyres – unsure if the writer took the track closer to the beach (not Optus trail) or Optus trail.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Derrick – yes it was the Optus Trail and that’s great to know that you made it through on your folder with the 20 inch wheels. The trail was quite different when I rode it with my brothers in March 2020 – very wet, muddy and quite rutted compared to my 2016 ride. Still a good alternative to being on the roads. Cheers Gail.


    • There was a lot of variety in the landscape Paula and great to ‘discover’ it. The conditions were very hot that day though so I’d like to return there in the winter.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gail,
    I have heard so many wonderful things about Australia. It is one place I truly would love to visit. You just made it even more appealing with your pictures. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure! Australia has many different landscapes to experience. This story is from the sub-tropics around latitude 28S, hence the humidity. I hope your bicycle travels seeing you spinning your pedals around this big island continent one day πŸ™‚


  5. Gail – cycled through here in 2018 on a tour on my folder. I did the Optus trail which is farther away from the coast – did you do that one or the route right next to the beach?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Derrick, yes I later found out that it was the Optus Trail. I rode that track again in March 2020 (again on the Vivente Tourer) and the track was quite rutted and very wet, and muddy, after some big rains. We avoided it for our return journey on this 2020 trip though by riding back on the beach at low tide. A lot of fun.


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