Why should cyclists visit Melbourne?
No trip to Australia is complete without a visit to Melbourne, the country’s sporting capital. Cycling in Melbourne has become very popular and a solid cycling scene has built up over the years. There are plenty of bike shops and miles of improved infrastructure, bike trails and paths, making Melbourne an increasingly cycling-friendly city.
The city is famed for its coffee, with a slightly unfair reputation of being predominantly flat. But whatever kind of riding you’re after there’ll be something for you, with both hilly and flat cycling routes around Melbourne to suit all abilities.
If you’re into cycling, Melbourne has it all.
The local cycling scene is friendly and inclusive. There’s never a shortage of fellow cyclists offering help during unexpected roadside mechanicals, and if you need to hire a bike in Melbourne there are plenty of bike shops and rentals offering road bikes, city bikes, e-bikes and more.
Base yourself in the central business district (CBD) for easy access to an excellent network of cycling trails and bike paths in and around Melbourne, most of which are doable on a hybrid or road bike with slick tyres. If road cycling is more your thing then head to the iconic Beach Road where you can join in on one of Melbourne’s many bunch rides or enjoy the safe cycling hotspots of the Yarra Boulevard and Albert Park Grand Prix circuit.
To get your hill fix, look further to the city fringe and you’ll find plenty of climbing options like the infamous 1 in 20 in the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne’s east – there really is a bit of everything for every level here.
There’s lots more information on Melbourne’s cycling routes, where to stay and bike hire below - so read on!
By Chris Grabyn
Want more info on cycling the state of Victoria more generally? Read this.
Cycling routes in Melbourne
Where are the best cycling routes in Melbourne?
With over 2,000 kilometres of trails in and around the city and out into the suburbs you’re never short of options for both urban and rural bike rides in Melbourne. If you’re after proper alpine climbs they’re not too far away either.
There are several Melbourne cycling routes popular with locals, including the Beach Road, Dandenong Ranges, Mt Pleasant Loop and Yarra Boulevard. Take in the city’s beautiful coast, riversides and creeks, and explore wild, rural bushland that’s home to kangaroos.
Because of the range and variety of tracks, trails and routes on offer, cycling in Melbourne can sometimes feel like you’re right out in the countryside rather than a huge metropolitan city. But if city riding is your thing, there’s a route for that too – with 31 kilometres of uninterrupted cycle path from the city centre’s South Bank along the bay’s edge to Mordialloc.
We’ll cover some of the best bike routes in Melbourne named here in more detail below.
Geography of the city / Melbourne region
Melbourne’s topography means if it’s hills you’re after, head to the eastern side of the city for the best cycling climbs. The Dandenong Ranges has many climbing options and is a stunning place to ride a bike, with its towering eucalypt trees and tree ferns.
The inner and outer north eastern suburbs offer an array of rolling punchy routes and loops where you can rack up 500 metres of climbing per hour. The “Tour de Burbs” bunch ride, one of Melbourne’s group rides, meets every Tuesday and Thursday nights tackling the hills of eastern Melbourne. Join the ride at the intersection of Chandler Highway and Yarra Boulevard to get your midweek hill fix.
For short but solid climbs look 50 kilometres southeast of the city to Frankston, the gateway to the Mornington Peninsula, and the Mount Eliza area. This is also home to the popular Two Bays climb, at two kilometres with a 5% average gradient.
If flatter routes with gentle rollers are more your thing, head to the bike paths in Melbourne’s southern and south eastern suburbs. Routes along places like Port Phillip Bay will keep you smiling!
What are the roads like?
For road bikes in Melbourne, the city’s roads are generally in good condition with clearly marked cycle lanes, trails and bike paths.
You can’t ride a bike on the city’s freeways (not that you’d want to in the first place), but there are plenty of minor roads when planning your bike rides in and around Melbourne, instead of relying on the larger main routes. These, along with the shared pedestrian zones, keep cyclists away from busier roads in the inner-city suburbs.
It’s worth remembering though that Melbourne is still like any busy capital city. There definitely are some impatient motorists (we like to call them “bogans” over here), so you still need to be aware that you may cop the odd horn.
What are the must-do cycling climbs/routes?
Here we’ll cover some of the most popular and iconic Melbourne cycling routes and loops. For the purpose of this guide we’ll start some of the bike routes from South Bank in the city. For the rest you'll likely find there's a bit of travel involved with getting out of the city centre to the start of the ride; but I think it's worth it!
Yarra Boulevard – Kew
13 kilometres single loop with 200 meters climbing per single loop (repeat as many times as you like).
Yarra Boulevard is a cycling oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of the inner-city suburbs. This fast, short and undulating route is a punchy training favourite for those looking to get some high intensity vertical meters on a quiet road and great location near the city.
This route is as long as you choose to make it – do it five times and you will hit 1,000 vertical meters in around 65 kilometres.
You tackle this route during the Mt Pleasant Loop, covered below, but there it is broken into two sections. Here we look at the route in isolation.
Getting here from the city is probably best using the same start as the Mt Pleasant Loop, at Federation Square.
Once on the “Boule” you’re met with a fast, curving, undulating stretch of road that is around 13 kilometres long in total with the in and out loop. Go hard or go easy and enjoy the views over Abbotsford Convent, the Yarra River and amazing city skyline views from the top of the last northbound climb (known as the Wurundjeri Spur Lookout and seen in the banner photo to this guide!).
Repeat as many times as you like and if you feel like a mid-sesh caffeine hit take the turn down Boathouse Road for a stop at the picturesque Studley Park Boathouse, which sits right on the Yarra River.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Flying Fox colony which numbers more than 10,000 - you’ll know when you pass them as they can make a racket!
Altona Beach - Williamstown Loop
50 kilometres with 172 metres of climbing.
This leisurely flat route offers panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay, Point Cook, the You Yangs and Altona beach. Ride on the water’s edge as it hugs the south western coast of metropolitan Melbourne.
A leisurely route exploring some of Melbourne’s historic industrial towns, beautiful bays and legendary Williamstown ice cream.
Start at South Bank and take the bike path through the Docklands and Melbourne’s port and onto Footscray before switching to dedicated bike lanes on the roads.
Ride under the Westgate Bridge then follow the Yarra River to Newport where you leave the river and enter Williamstown. Take a right turn at the roundabout in the heart of Williamstown to head west cycling through some of Melbourne’s historic industrial areas. After eight kilometres take a left turn and head straight towards the bay through Altona.
From there you’ll turn left onto a lovely stretch of road along the Esplanade past Altona Beach and Pier with city skyline views across the bay. Cross the Kororoit Creek causeway and rejoin one of the many cycle paths in Melbourne, following the creek to its mouth and bay, then through to the stunning wetlands of the Jawbone Flora and Fauna reserve.
This historic marine conservation area offers panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay, Point Cook, the You Yangs and Altona. Enjoy its wildlife and marine fauna, then pop out on the Williamstown Esplanade.
Ride past Williamstown Beach and follow the road around Point Gellibrand to come into the historic Williamstown waterfront precinct. This is a perfect place for a break whatever time you arrive, with heritage buildings and spectacular views of the city skyline. There’s also plenty of coffee, brunch, burgers or fish n chips on offer. Make sure you leave enough room for the legendary Williamstown ice cream!
Leaving Williamstown, you follow the river back to Newport and take the same route back to the city.
61 kilometres with 230 metres of climbing.
This is an iconic road cycling route known as the “Route 33 Beach Road ride” as it follows State Route 33. It’s a relatively flat course that hugs the bay and offers fantastic views almost the whole way around: over to Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula on the way out and the city skyline on the way back.
The route has two natural turning points in Black Rock and Modialloc nine kilometres further down the road. We’ll cover the “Mordi” version here.
Starting at South Bank, in the City, it’s an easy spin along the bike path to Port Melbourne and the Station Pier. Take a left when you get there and follow the road all the way to Mordialloc cycling through St.Kilda, home to the famous Luna Park amusement park and a Fairy Penguin colony. From St Kilda it’s on to Brighton Beach, with its collection of 82 brightly coloured wooden beach huts from the early 1900s (known as Beach Boxes), and Black Rock, where the wreck on the HMVS Cerbrus is located.
Turning around at Mordialloc you can make a pitstop at the Tour de Café for a well-deserved coffee and doughnut.
It’s the same route back to the City. You’ll enjoy views across the bay over to the You Yangs and the city skyline comes into view as you roll over a gentle hill at Brighton. If you feel like another coffee, why not call into one of the many café strips you pass by. You won’t be the only one in lycra!
Pick a day with fine weather and light breezes and this will be a fast, fun ride, among thousands of other riders doing exactly the same thing.
The Crucifix - Dandenong Ranges
70 kilometres with 1,830 metres of climbing.
Love a climb? This is the route for you, taking on the four major climbs in the stunning Dandenong mountain ranges. Steep and punchy on the up, fast and flowy on the down, you’ll cycle in lush temperate rainforest with towering mountain ash trees and tall ferns for company. Magic!
This stunning route is the most famous in the Dandenong Ranges, with a few sharp hairpins and steep, tough mountain climbs.
There are tons of cycling routes in the Dandenong Ranges, but the Crucifix is the most famous. It’s not clear how the name came about, but it’s fitting given how tough it is as well as the vague resemblance to the shape of a crucifix.
There are various ways to ride the Crucifix, but this route starts at Upper Ferntree Gully as it means you can catch the train here from Melbourne’s CBD. Make sure you’re fuelled well for the start, as you’re straight off the train and into the first climb.
For best traffic conditions, start early to miss the tourist rush on the main Mount Dandenong Tourist Road. The Devil’s Elbows is the first climb of the route and it's a deceptively steep climb. It earns its name from its two sharp hairpins (one at 1.4 kilometres with a gradient of roughly 10%) as it winds its way through the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
From there you’ll ride through the villages of The Basin, Sassafras, Olinda and Mount Dandenong, climbing to the highest point in the range known as Sky High with a fully equipped cafe and stunning views back over Melbourne to reward your efforts.
Many local cyclists stop at the Proserpina Bakehouse in Sassafras for a coffee and sugar hit, and if you plan your stops well you could double it up with the bakery in Mount Dandenong too.
Visit in summer to enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures with rainforest cover, or for a spectacular show of warm autumnal colours, get here in autumn (March – May).
The main climbs to tick off on the Crucifix route are:
Mt Pleasant Loop
87 kilometres with 1,039 metres of climbing
This stunning, hilly route features some of the best suburban cycling in Melbourne. Leave the city behind and cycle the tranquil Yarra River, Banyule Flats, and rural bushland climbs amongst wild kangaroos, before tracing back to the city centre pub for a well-earned beer.
The route starts and finishes at a city centre pub and takes in the best of the north eastern suburbs, with some decent climbing.
Depart from the pub at Federation Square. The first half hour is a peaceful spin along the Yarra River and onto the mostly car-free Yarra Boulevard. Ride through to the café strips of Ivanhoe and Heidelberg and grab yourself a quick caffeine hit before the main climbs begin. From there the route really starts to shine and opens up into the Warringal Parklands and along Banyule Road and Banyule Flats Reserve, Melbourne’s largest intact grassy woodland. Only 25 kilometres in and you’ll already feel a world away from the busy city of Melbourne, with the best yet to come.
A few kilometres later make a right turn off Main Road in Lower Eltham for the start of the Mt Pleasant Loop. Now you really are on the fringe of the north eastern suburbs, so look out for kangaroos! This section is a hilly one with several sections over 10% gradient. The main climb on Mount Pleasant Road is 1.4 kilometres at 6.1% incline. For more kangaroo sightings, turn around at the top and return the way you came, or (as per the GPS file here) make the loop by turning left at the end onto Main Road and start the journey back to the city.
After this section it traces mostly the same route back. One climb to be ready for is Bolton Street – it’s a short pinch but has a max gradient of 24%! Work your way back along the winding Yarra Boulevard and the Yarra River and close the ride by passing by Melbourne’s famous Sports Precinct, housing Melbourne Cricket Ground, the country’s biggest stadium with a capacity of 100,000. The precinct is also home to the Rod Laver Arena, home of the Australian Open, and AAMI Park.
Take a left turn off the path to cross the Tanderrum Bridge over to the “G” (which is what us locals call the Melbourne Cricket Ground) and do a lap around the outside of it before arriving back at Federation Square ready for a well-earned beer or two!
Mount Baw Baw
95 kilometres with 2,733 metres of climbing.
This must-do ride for hill lovers is known as the toughest road cycling climb in the country, and reportedly the steepest public sealed road in Australia. It’s one for those willing to go cycling around Melbourne rather than in it, since it’s a 100 minute drive to the start point from central Melbourne. But make the journey and you’re rewarded by panoramic mountain views and endorphins aplenty after conquering this brutal climb.
Although technically not an inner city or suburban ride, no Melbourne road cycling guide would be complete without a mention of the stunning Mount Baw Baw route.
It starts in the historic village of Noojee which is a 100 minute drive from Melbourne’s CBD. The roads here are quiet and steeped in history; originally settled in the gold rush of the 1860s and famed for its timber Trestle Bridge which you'll pass as you come into Noojee.
You’ll find your climbing legs as soon as you depart Noojee. Climb into the tiny village of Tanjil Bren through a temperate rainforest of towering trees and huge ferns, with stunning views of the valley next to you. Don’t get too distracted – this historic timber town is the last opportunity to fill your water bottles!
Bomb downhill out of Tanjil Bren for a few kilometers and cross the bridge of Big Tree Creek before starting the Mt Baw Baw climb. It really is a tale of two halves: the first half a very manageable five kilometres at 4% average gradient, but then you hit the second half, at “The Gantry”. This second half of 6.5 kilometres is a Hors Categorie climb in its own right and has an eye watering average gradient of 12.6%.
Find your rhythm and reward yourself with the summit of a truly great climb to make it worth all the grind. Find the Baw Baw Alpine village at the top and head straight to the Village Central for a well-earned drink and bite to eat.
The cruise back to Noojee is a lot more down than up so don’t forget to soak in the stunning surrounds!
For a shorter version of the route with less climbing, try this route from Icy Creek:
Distance: 65 kilometres
Height climbed: 2030 metres
GPX From Icy Creek
What are the key road cycling events in Melbourne?
There are two professional cycling events in Melbourne: the Herald Sun Tour and Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic. There’s also one key mass participation event for the general public: Around the Bay in a Day.
Herald Sun Tour
The Herald Sun Tour has been a fixture on the professional Australian cycling calendar since 1952. It gained UCI rating in 2005. The event runs over five days and is usually held in early February, taking riders through regional Victoria and the streets of Melbourne. It boasts a winners list with the likes of Chris Froome, Esteban Chaves and Sir Bradley Wiggins.
The event was cancelled in 2021 due to Covid-19, but organisers hope it will return for 2022.
Melbourne to Warrnambool
The Melbourne to Warrnambool is Australia’s oldest one day cycling race and the second oldest cycling race in the world! This 265 kilometre race forms part of Australia's National Road Series (NRS), attracting Australia’s elite cycling talent.
The race has been held recently in mid-February but the 2021 edition was changed to May due to Covid-19. The 2022 date is yet to be announced.
Around the Bay in a Day
For budding amateurs and weekend warriors, the crown jewel in the Melbourne cycling event calendar is the Around the Bay in a Day. Its course traces the outline of Port Phillip Bay.
The event is held in October and is organised by the Bicycle Network, which is headquartered in the city. You can pick a distance that suits your fitness and motivation, from a family-friendly 20 kilometres to the full lap of the bay of 210 kilometres. If you’re really keen there is even a 300 kilometres route.
MS Melbourne Run & Ride Festival
September hosts the MS Melbourne Run + Ride Festival, raising money for multiple sclerosis. The event includes 20 kilometre and 50 kilometre options and offers the very rare and unique opportunity to ride across the Westgate Bridge, one of Australia’s highest road decks at 58 meters above the Yarra River.
For events a bit further afield, they don't get much better known than the notorious Peaks Challenge Falls Creek event.
Where to stay in Melbourne (for cyclists)
There are plenty of bike-friendly places to stay in Melbourne for cyclists, but the CBD/Docklands/South Bank is a good place to start, with several different types of accommodation available. For example, the Travelodge in South Bank is a well known bike-friendly hotel in Melbourne.
Staying in the CBD gives access to the start point of several Melbourne bike paths, routes and trails right on your doorstep. Melbourne’s hub and spoke metro rail system also connects you by train to other cycling destinations like the Dandenong Ranges, Geelong and Gisborne (to ride Mt Macedon).
For hotel and accommodation options outside of the CBD, look along the bay to St.Kilda or the Morning Peninsula. Further inland you have the beautiful Yarra Valley which gives you easy access to the Dandenong Ranges, Yarra Ranges and the lumpy outer north eastern suburbs at the end of the Mt Pleasant loop.
Bike shops (and bike hire / rental) in Melbourne
There are lots of bike shops and places to rent a bike in Melbourne, with some bike shops also hosting group rides (Omara Cycles in Black Rock and Total Rush in Richmond).
The CBD area is where many cycling stores and bike hire in Melbourne are based, near to the beach, cafes and restaurants with options available for road bike rental, mountain bikes, e-bikes and city bikes in Melbourne.
Where to rent a bike in Melbourne
Blue Tongue Bikes
20 Rebecca Walk, Batman Park, Melbourne.
Offer city bikes and road bikes including e-bikes.
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
Offer road bikes.
385 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
7-9 Artemis Lane, Melbourne.
SC G01, G02/442-446 Docklands Dr, Docklands.
398 Lygon Street, Brunswick.
475 Riversdale Road, Camberwell.
149 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood.
74 Douglas Parade, Williamstown.
Offer city bikes, road bikes and mountain bikes including e-bikes.
St Kilda Cycles
5 Vale Street, St Kilda.
Offer city bikes and hybrid bikes including tandem bikes and e-bikes.
Port Melbourne Cycles
107 Bay Street, Port Melbourne.
Offer urban and road bikes.
Federation Square, Melbourne.
Offer hybrid bikes and city bikes, including tandem bikes.
815 Nicholson Street, Carlton North.
Offer hybrid bikes and city bikes.
Bike shops in Melbourne
385 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
7-9 Artemis Lane, Melbourne.
398 Lygon Street, Brunswick.
475 Riversdale Road, Camberwell.
149 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood.
74 Douglas Parade, Williamstown.
Cecil Walker Cycles
395-397 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.
50 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
4/439 Docklands Drive, Docklands.
550 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
304 Beach Road, Black Rock.
345 Punt Road, Richmond.
When to go
What’s the best time to visit Melbourne?
The good thing about Melbourne is there’s something in the calendar all year round, so there isn’t a set best time to visit.
If summer riding is your thing, December to April is the prime time to plan your trip - but get your riding in early to join the masses for some beachside recovery.
If you’re not used to riding in extreme heat of consecutive 40+ degree days, avoid January and February in the height of the Australian summer. Come in March for mild, post-summer temperatures with lighter winds, and the opportunity to check out the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
September to November can bring warm temperatures but with the possibility of wind and wild weather fluctuations. Snow flurries are even a genuine possibility in the elevated areas around Melbourne.
Cycling tips for Melbourne
Learn the rules of the road
Learning the local rules of the road is essential for safe cycling, wherever you are. If you’re riding on the inner city and CBD roads, learn what hook turns are and watch out for tram tracks, as they can bring down the most experienced cyclist if attention wanes, especially in the wet.
Take your bike on public transport in Melbourne
The first thing to know about public transport in Melbourne is that it has a cashless and ticketless public transport payment system called myki. This is a single travelcard which you top up with credit to travel on trains, teams and buses across Melbourne.
Remember: bikes are allowed on the Metro and regional trains but not on the city’s trams.
Build your bike fitness before you arrive
Not all of the cycling tracks and routes in Melbourne are hilly, but a reasonably good level of cycling fitness will help you make the best from your bike rides in Melbourne. If you’re not already comfortable on three-hour rides, spend some time building your base fitness before you arrive.
Normal rules apply - bring waterproofs and a cafe lock!
Usual cycling tips apply in Melbourne as they do in other locations when it comes to security: take a bike lock for cafe stops. Bike theft isn’t rampant in Melbourne, but it’s still a risk.
In terms of kit, it goes without saying that you should pack for all weathers. A waterproof jacket and pair of arm warmers will serve you well for crisp mornings and unexpected rain showers, whatever time of the year you visit.
Another big Melbourne cycling tip is to wear sunscreen when you ride and pack a small tube for your jersey pocket to have available while you’re out. If you’re not careful you will get sunburnt through your jersey during summer.
Learn the best bike trails in Melbourne
Level up your local knowledge with this Melbourne bike path map that plots the different cycling tracks, trails and routes in and around the city. Keep this interactive Google Map in your virtual pocket to help get you safely from A to B away from the main thoroughfares.
Have you been cycling in Melbourne?
How was it? Any tips we've missed? Share your comments below!
More on Chris
Chris is an Aussie who was born in Geelong, Victoria, and now lives in Melbourne with his wife Carol (also pictured here). He was a late comer to road cycling but is now making up for lost time and is a fan of the big climbs.
He’s an avid traveler who combines a passion for cycling and traveling – holiday plans now always include the bike. He’s ridden in eight different countries and even has a bike permanently stashed in Ireland.
Check out Chris' excellent Instagram account here.