The Graceful Cyclists

Cycle touring and other adventures

Sunshine Coast and Hinterland – Not Flat

On Tuesday I set out for what I thought was going to be an easy three day ride through the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, down to the Sunshine Coast Proper, and then back to complete the loop. Based on our ride in the Glasshouse MountainsI mistakenly thought that it would be a fairly easy ride with one day of hills and then a two days of relatively flat terrain. Little did I know what it would turn out like….

The start of my ride, the map on this board is better than the one I was using to navigate.

Day 1

Landsborough – Maleny – Montville – Kondalilla Falls – Mapleton
Distance 43.8km – Ascent – 983m – Descent -647m – Max Speed 64km/h

Day 1 started off in a fairly conventional manner with a train trip from Brisbane up to Landsborough where my ride began. The first day of the ride was based on the Lonely Planet Cycling Australia book which described the Blackall Ranges as a “bump”. So I set of from Landsborough full of vigour and 1.2km later was confronted by a large hill with a sign saying steep gradient next 4km, and the gradient truly was a killer start to the day. On arriving at the top there was a very nice sign explaining what the equivalent descent would have been like.

The climb was however worth the view because as soon as I had reached the top proper there were constant views to the south and east. These amazing views included looking down onto the Glasshouse Mountains to the south and all the way through to Brisbane, as well as looking across to the coast where I was hoping the be the next night.

The Glasshouse Mountains down below. The Sunshine Coast Hinterland and Blackall Ranges are a very different place.

Once I’d reached the top of the hill the riding was no easier. My route took me past McCarthy’s Lookout to Maleny, a small tourist town near the top of the mountains which seemed to offer an array of tourist orientated products, in fact it was so reminiscent of Tasmania that it even had a sign at the creek advertising that platypuses had been reported there, not seen but reported.

Being as inspired by the town as I was I kept riding towards Montville. I was technically riding along the ridge, but this section of the ride was the be my introduction to the Queensland principle of including as many hills as possible on any single road. Instead of following the ridge line the road weaved up and down the sides of the ridge meaning that every kilometre or so there was another hill with a gradient of 10% to ride up. I stopped counting after 10 such signs in the 15 kilometres I rode that afternoon.

The ride was well and truly worth it though when I arrived at Kondalilla Falls (having stopped in Montville only long enough to fill up water bottles and catch my breath). Kondalilla Falls are great, after following a track through forest and rainforest you wind down steps to a beautiful water hole and swimming spot with a small water fall perched right on the edge of the escarpment. If it had have been warmer I would have jumped right it, but with a chill in the air and shadows drawing longer I headed for the lookout where you could see the falls proper. Kondalilla Falls is a stunning 80m ribbon of water that slices through the rainforest.

The Swimming Hole at the top of Kindalilla Falls, it was a bit to cold for a swim, but I will definitely head back there!

Kondalilla Falls are 80m tall and fall straight off the back of the Blackall Ranges. Apparently Kondalilla is Aboriginal for “Rushing Water”

Day 2

Mapleton – Mapleton Falls – Mapleton Forest Drive – Cooloolabin Dam – Yandina – Coolum Beach – Maroochydore – Alexandra Headlands 
Distance 77.4km – Ascent – 712m – Descent -1091m – Max Speed 59km

Today was one of my favourite kind of days. I woke up with no plans and no firm idea of what I was going to do except that I wanted to get to the coast before sunset. Sitting in the Camp Kitchen eating my breakfast I noticed a little road leading north of Mapleton (my map didn’t have road names on it) and decided that I would take that. After a quick side trip to Mapleton Falls I set out on what I learnt was called the Mapleton Forest Drive, another thing I learnt quickly was that the road was gravel but it seemed to be in good condition, certainly good enough to ride on a full loaded touring bike so I persevered and road along. For the most part the track was good with a well graded surface. However in the middle (based on later maths rather than what my map told me) the quality went down hill with the road. A hair raising descent and a steep slippery climb followed quickly with more than enough time to ponder just whether my new brake pads would be capable of stopping me, or the new rear cassette had the same gear rations.

Mapleton Forest Drive, and fun little dirt road the hid a terrible string in the middle!

A rest stop at the top of the large wet hill.

After the climb the road returned to being a well made dirt track for a while allowing me to appreciate the interesting sights and signs along the way. The sign below really grabbed my attention.

Warning Sign: Apparently there was a risk of waterfalls forming spontaneously.

Another rest stop at a Dam.

As I rode down the hill the roads and terrain opened up becoming sealed again and more notably coastal. Cane fields replaced paddocks full of horses and cows, and the eucalypt and rainforest patches were replaced by areas of grassland and swamp in the many low lying areas. Eventually I made it to the coast, and after lunch turned south for the last leg og my ride for that day.

The road did become flat on the way out to the coast. As soon as it did sugar cane fields popped up everywhere.

An egret posing for my camera on the Maroochy River.

Day 3

Alexandra Headlands – Buderim – Tanawha – Botanic Gardens – Eudlo – Mooloolah – Landsborough
Distance – 41.0km – Ascent – 718m – Descent – 710m – Max Speed – Fast

An easy day ride back to the train station and then home, oh how deluded I was.

I love topographic maps, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this to anyone but they provide so much information that is crucial to making decisions when self propelled. Unfortunately as I have previously mentioned for this ride I only had a free tourist map which covered the whole three days of my trip in 10x10cm. Today I would learn why this is a bad thing.

The day started with a hill, then continued with a hill and ended with a hill. Leaving Alexandra Headlands I turned west towards Buderim which I quickly found out was at the top of a very very large hill when I encountered my first 10% gradient sign for the day, over the hill and down the other side I passed through Tanawha (I am not sure it was actually a town) and out to the Maroochy Coast Botanic Gardens which seemed quite nice during my brief visit. Leaving the Gardens my route took me up a steep gravel road and the along a ridge line with many short and steep pinches in the road. I made it to Eudlo at 11am just in time to see the Brisbane train leaving the platform.

Heading further south I eventually made it back to Landsborough via many of the steepest hills I have ever ridden up, 17% was not uncommon and I am sure that some of the made 20 over a short distance.

This was the only hill labelled as 17%, it was less step than some of the other hills I found away from the major roads but it was definitely steep!

Summary: This is a great ride, it is certainly challenging but I managed it on a heavily loaded touring bike in my current state of lacking fitness. I don’t know that I will be doing it again in a rush!

Categories: Australia, Queensland

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6 replies

  1. Well after that one, you should be feeling pretty capable of most things! love that bike! great photos too!

  2. You’re right, Tanawha is more like a village (with no shops). Great ride. Knowing the Sunshine Coast well, your post made me smile. I certainly couldn’t ride over the Blackhall ‘bump’!


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