Peter Gordon email:

Local Conditions Last Updated: March 2004



The southern boundary of Queensland is at 29 degrees South latitude and the northern boundary is at 11 South latitude. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is approximately equivalent to from the southern United States border south to Venezuela. For similar latitudes, in one hemisphere, similar temperatures can be expected in the other hemisphere. The Tropic of Capricorn, which is the boundary between the temperate and tropic zones, splits the state into about one third temperate zone with the remainder in the tropics. A low range, called the Great Dividing Range runs roughly parallel to the east coast. It is mainly about 50 km inland, but in a few places it is located on the coast. Temperatures on the coastal side of the range are more moderate than on the inland side. i.e. temperature fluctuations are less on the coastal side.

The northern tropical part of the state has a monsoonal climate, with heavy summer rainfall and dry winters. Southern Australia has a winter rainfall pattern. Because the southern section of Queensland is geographically located in the middle, it has a climate between these two opposites. It has mostly summer rainfall, but not the winter and spring droughts of the northern section.

In the southern temperate zone of the state, summer temperatures are usually in the mid thirties Celsius, (90 F) and air humidity is high. Bicycle touring in these conditions is unpleasant. However, in April, May, June, July, August and September, the conditions are usually close to ideal for bicycle touring. The maximum temperatures seldom exceed 24C (75C) and the minimums are usually above 5C (41F). I favour May and August as the minimum temperatures are slightly higher, but the daily maximums are still comfortable.

In the north, June, July and August are the best months. Even then, the daily maximums can be in the low thirties Celsius, (90F).

Thus, when the southern parts of Australia and New Zealand are too cold and wet for bike touring, Northern New South Wales and Queensland provide excellent touring opportunities.


Because of the large distance between the north and the south, only general information can be provided. Parts of the north coast receive over 3200 mm (125 inches)/annum with most of this falling in summer. The southern coast receives about 1500 mm (60 inches)/ annum, with about 70% in summer. There usually are not the extreme drought periods that are experienced in the north. In the far west, (the arid zone) the rainfall is as low as or less than 250 mm (10 inches)/annum.

The Department OF Natural Resources has extensive historical rainfall maps.

Prevailing Wind

The prevailing wind is predominantly south to south east for most of the year. Because of this, it is strongly recommended that bicycle tourists travel south to north as much as possible.

The Bureau Of Meteorology has an excellent web site which provides both detailed and general information on temperature, rainfall and prevailing winds. Wind roses for Australia by area and season are at Bureau of Meterology wind roses.


An on-line map, in PDF format, of Australia is avaible here.

An on-line map, in PDF format, of the east coast of Australia from Rockhampton south is available here

These maps show the major roads and towns but are not detailed enough for navigating when bicycle touring.

In my view, the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) publishes the most suitable maps for bicycle touring. They also publish a comprehensive accommodation guide which lists motels and caravan parks and gives details of the cost, and facilities. It also gives town populations and a few details about the town. It is too large for carrying when touring, but is ideal for planning purposes. For South East Queensland (SEQ) the map sheets
Gold Coast Northern Rivers District Map
Brisbane Sunshine Coast District Map
are sufficient. For the remainder of the state, select those which are categorised as District Maps.

The (Queensland) Department of Main Roads distribute a free map which is marginally useful, as it lists the roadside rest-areas, and indicated if water is available at them. For the rest-areas controlled by Main Roads, it also indicates if camping is permitted. It is deficient in that it does not indicate when camping is permitted in rest-areas controlled by other authorities. It can be obtained from Queensland Government Travel Centres. Some Shire Visitor Information Centres also have it. I saw copies in the Boonah Visitor Information Centre.

The Map Market has an online shop and will ship overseas. South East Queensland from Sunmap Touring is a good general purpose map for planning and navigating and is available from them.

A web source of commercial maps is World Wide Maps and Guides. They do not have an online shop but will also respond to email requests for advice on the most appropriate maps for a region. They also stock a few books on bicycle touring. They ship overseas and accept international credit cards.


The only unique attraction in Queensland is the Great Barrier Reef. It is a coral reef of over 1000 km in length. It offers excellent skin diving and fishing, plus general sightseeing. It is a marine park and is world heritage listed. The North Queensland rain forests are also world heritage listed and contain many waterfalls and other scenic attractions. The beaches in SEQ are excellent, but equal quality beaches can be visited in New South Wales, without the traffic problems encountered in coastal Queensland.

Road Conditions

Most of the coastal strip carries heavy traffic on roads which do not have shoulders, and often there is no alternative road to the highway. The distance between towns and the heavy traffic often makes bicycle touring difficult. Also, most of the scenery is monotonous. The road seldom follows the coast and the scenery mainly consists of poor quality forest or cane farms.

The population in Queensland is mainly on the coast, with much lower population density to the west of the Great Dividing Range. Queensland, aided and abetted by the local RTA is firmly entrenched in a car culture. The motorised traffic on the coast is heavy and does not have a "share the road" culture. Because of this, bicycle touring east of the Great Dividing Range is not recommended. An enjoyable alternative for bicycle tourists is to ride on the western side of the range, where motorised traffic is light. Fortunately, these areas are the most suitable and the most scenic.

West of the dividing range, the population density is lower and the traffic is much lighter. Bicycle tours of seven to ten days duration can be planned almost entirely on lightly trafficked roads. The scenery is more varied and is pleasant rather than spectacular. It is mainly agricultural. If the aim is to travel from south to north, highways need to be used. The traffic on these is usually reasonably low.

Except in the isolated western part of the state, the roads are mainly paved with short sections of reasonable gravel. The RACQ maps distinguish between paved and unpaved roads. However, as conditions are continuously improving, the maps often show sections of unpaved roads which are now paved.

Accommodation Options

  1. Motels Theses are usually of a good standard but are expensive. Most country towns have at least one and they seldom need to be booked in advanced. Prices range from about $40 on the coast to $80 in remote western areas for a single room per day.
  2. Hotels Theses are usually of a low standard but are cheap and often rival back packer accommodation prices. The service is usually friendly and the owner will usually ensure that your bike is safely housed for the night. Cost per night range between $15 and $30 single.
  3. Hostels
    Youth Hostels of Australia has budget priced accommodation in the main population and resort areas on the coast. Membership is required to use their facilities. Generally, they do not have facilities west of the dividing range.
  4. Caravan parks
    Most country towns have a caravan park. The cost of a non-powered tent site varies widely with location and the quality of the amenities. In a basic park in a small country town, the cost can be as low as $3. In a coastal resort town the cost may be $20. An abridged listing of Australian Caravan Parks lists some of the parks and their facilities. I usually carry a tent and camp.
  5. National Park and State Forest Camp Sites. Some National Parks and State Forests provide camping areas. They usually consist of camp sites, toilets and potable water. Rubbish has to be transported out. They usually cost $5/person per night.
  6. Free Sites The Department of Main Roads and some of the local shire councils provide free camping sites. These are fairly basic. In towns without a caravan park, it is often possible to camp free of charge at the show ground. Permission should be obtained from the Council Office before doing this.

The RACQ accommodation guide, provides the cost of motels and caravan parks listed in their guide. It also allocates a star rating for the facility. For caravan parks, the rating is oriented towards motorised touring and is only a rough guide when bicycle touring.


The Australian dollar is the only currency in general use. There is an extensive network of bank automatic teller machines which accept Cirrus and Mastercard cards. They accept overseas cards. In small towns which do not have banks, some shops have EFTPOS. These usually do not accept overseas cards. Tipping is not a common practice in Australia.

Facilities For Touring Cyclists

The major cities have bicycle shops which sell mainly mountain and road bikes. There are no dedicated touring bicycle shops in Queensland. Touring bicycles and panniers cannot be hired. To the best of my knowledge, there are no regular commercial tours in Queensland. Thus, bring your own bike and gear and be prepared to do it yourself. The natives are friendly and it is usually reasonably easy. There are overnight freight services from Sydney and Melbourne to Brisbane and some of the major coastal cities. There are regular road freight services west of the dividing range, so given a few days, most spare parts can be obtained. I carry a spare tyre, tubes, cables, spokes, pieces of chain and the tools to fit them.

Facilities - General

The cities have major retail chain stores for food, electrical goods, clothes etc. The towns usually have a general store, which sells food, both groceries and takeaway food, newspapers, magazines, books, clothes and general hardware. They also have a butcher, bakery, and a hotel. On the coast, the local inhabitants usually travel to the cities for most supplies. Because of this the shops in the towns are often poorly stocked. West of the Dividing Range, there are few cities and the locals purchase most supplies locally. Thus in equivalent sized towns, the shops west of the Dividing Range, tend to be much better stocked and sell a wider range of goods. This benefits the touring cyclist, as most supplies can be obtained without having to ride in heavy traffic. In all areas, the towns may be too widely spaced for bike travel and often extra water and food needs to be carried. Also, it is advisable to carry a tent, as the distances may be too great to comfortably reach a town each night. There are usually roadhouses, which are truck stops, about 100 km apart in the more sparsely populated areas. They sell food and meals, and usually, drinking water can be obtained. I often camp near them, because of this.


By Bicycle

Many overseas bicycle tourists start in Sydney or Melbourne and ride north. For these, a route through Toowoomba is the most suitable. Toowoomba is a large city about 150 km west of Brisbane. It is Queensland's most attractive city and is reasonably bike friendly. It has all facilities including good bike shops.

By Air

There are regular direct flights from overseas into Brisbane and Cairns. If Cairns is chosen, riding south is the major option. This is not advisable as strong head winds are highly likely and it is against the temperature gradient. From a bicycle tourist's view point, the only thing to recommend Brisbane is the suburban train service. It will carry bikes, without cost, well outside the city limits. The trip from the airport to the north bound railway line is reasonably straight forward and can be ridden. From there, a train can be used to travel, north, west or south. Bikes are not allowed on trains in peak hour.

By Train

The trains from Sydney, will accept two bikes/train. It is advisable to book in advance. It is advisable to disembark on the western side of the dividing range to avoid Brisbane and the coastal traffic.

All trains, except the Spirit Of Capricorn will carry two bikes/train. The handlebars have to be turned, and the pedals removed. The Queensland Rail site provides maps of the routes, timetables and fares.

By Bus

McCafferty's Coaches are the only national bus company in Australia. They will carry bikes. If the pedals and front wheel are removed, and the handlebars turned, the cost is $27/bike. If the bike is fully assembled, the cost is $54. Disassembly is recommended, as the bike is less likely to be damaged. A fully assembled bike is placed on the floor of the luggage compartment, and the luggage then piled on top of it. The disassembled bike is stood beside a pillar in the luggage compartment and the luggage packed beside it. On some coaches, the luggage compartment is not high enough to accept a disassembled bike in the upright position and the bike seat needs to be lowered. I have heard of boxed bikes being damaged by McCaffertys.

There are many local bus companies and most will carry bikes.

Personal Security

During daylight, I feel confident about my personal security in all parts of Queensland. At night, in some areas of the major cities and on Brisbane suburban trains, I do not feel secure. In general, the rate of violent crime against people is reasonably low. Country towns are usually safe. Bike and general theft is a possibility in the larger towns and the cities. In country towns, I seldom secure my bike and leave valuables in my tent. In the cities, I pay much more attention to the security of my possessions and to my personal security.

Brisbane to Sydney

For those wishing to ride to Sydney, the booklet, The Pacific Bicycle Route is recommended. It describes a route which is a mix of the coast and the hinterland. It was published in 1987 and thus some of the information on facilities is out of date, but the map and most route descriptions are still accurate. It can be obtained from, Bicycle NSW or World Wide Maps and Guides usually stock it. A few corrections are,
Brisbane suburban trains now allow bikes in the passenger sections on off-peak trains. i.e. bikes are allowed on all out bound trains in the morning and on all inbound trains in the afternoon and at night.
The caravan park at Queens Park Ipswich is closed.

An alternative inland route is via the New England Highway. The NSW section of the highway has a bicycle lane for it's entire length. I wish I could say the same for the Queensland section. Probably, the best alternative is to follow the Pacific Bicycle Route as far as Casino, and then ride west to the New England Highway at Tenterfield. The townships of Mallanganee and Tabulam have small shops and hotels, but no official camping grounds. In either town, it should be possible to discretely camp in a park.

Other Links

Martin Lambert's randonneur ride database for in South East Queensland has writeups of rides in southern Queensland and Northern NSW.

Grace Newhaven's Bicycle Fish Site. has a wealth of background information and links to other sites of interest to bicycle tourists.

Pedal Power located in the ACT has a page of links to commercial and non-commercial bicycle touring web pages throughout Australia.

Randy Miller has a bicycle touring site with many useful links and a report on a trip between Sydney and Brisbane.

Paul Keen, on his Bicycle Crow site has an extensive list of Australian touring related links.
The Australian National Trail The introduction to the site describes the trail far better than I can.
Australia's National Trail is the longest marked trekking route of its kind in the world, stretching 5,330 kilometres from Cooktown in tropical North Queensland, to Healesville in Victoria. It links eighteen national parks, and reveals spectacular scenery from tropical rainforests, mountain ranges, valleys and gorges, remote dry plains, alpine meadows, and snowfields. The Trail gives mountain bikers, walkers and horse riders access to some of the wildest, most pristine country in the world. And when you hit the friendly country towns enroute, it's time to do as the Romans do, and enjoy cold beers and interesting conversation in historic pubs
This site describes it from a mountain biking perspective.

A road route planner" is useful for finding towns and a route to them.