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One of the most effective (and fun) ways for a family to explore the outdoors is by bicycle. Thankfully, Australia is packed full of amazing family bike rides, with each state offering multiple options to suit active families. In this, the first of our Best Family Bike Rides series, we check out five of the most enjoyable bike-borne adventures on offer in NSW and the ACT for you and your crew. It’s time to get those wheels rolling…

Narrabeen Lagoon Trail, NSW

Distance: 8.4km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Any

This beautiful lagoon loop is found in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and is a brilliant ride for all family members, with four picnic grounds along the way, and enough facilities (toilets, barbecues, cafes, etc.) to make a full day of it. This large coastal lagoon is a haven for native vegetation and birdlife – more than 190 bird species have been identified here.

The Narrabeen Lagoon Trail is a shared path, but is nice and wide in most places, with a lot of the track running beside the lagoon for optimum views. Declan May Images

You can start the ride from three locations – Berry Reserve off Pittwater Road, Jamieson Park (near The Esplanade) and Middle Creek Reserve, off Wakehurst Parkway. Our loop begins at Middle Creek Reserve and loops clockwise from there. The first section, between Middle Creek and Bilarong Reserve, takes you through lakeside vegetation before you reach the wide expanse of Bilarong Reserve, a huge open area that has a playground further to the east, picnic areas, and a large carpark. 

The next section, from Bilarong to Berry Reserve, is the only part where you will be close to traffic, as you cross Narrabeen Lake Bridge. There’s a separated (with barrier) bike path on the bridge, but please walk your bike across. Once at Berry Reserve, the track hugs the lagoon’s shoreline all the way to Jamieson Park before you turn inland a bit, and then winds around the south-eastern shoreline before a few big bridges over, firstly, South Creek and then, at journey’s end, Middle Creek. 

The Narrabeen Lagoon Trail is popular, sometimes crowded, and the track is a shared one (watch for prams, runners, walkers, etc.), but it is still a magic experience.

Bundanoon Cycling Route, NSW

Distance: 14km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Any

The Southern Highlands village of Bundanoon is the location of this easy 14km loop ride, with the bonus of some incredible views across Morton National Park from the high escarpment. Better still, you can make a weekend of it, with Gambells Rest campground, in the national park, offering excellent facilities (tent, camper and caravan sites, plus an all-weather shelter) for an overnight stay so you can explore more cycling routes (and walking tracks) nearby.

The riding is fun (and flat) here, with the option of exploring short side-tracks to lookouts for spectacular views over Morton National Park. Destination Southern Highlands

The Bundanoon route is a nice loop that takes in some of the park’s best lookouts, such as Tooths, Sunrise Point and Grand Canyon, all of which are reached via short walks from the cycling trail (you can’t ride your bikes to these lookouts – you must take a short walk). You pedal through forest thriving with banksias and other flowering plants, as well as tall eucalypts, and you will most likely spot a kangaroo or two, plus other wildlife, as you roll along. There is very little ascending along this route, except for Constitution Hill (turn down Gullies Road to avoid this if you’re riding with kids). In short, it’s the perfect two-wheeled family adventure.

Narooma-Dalmeny Coast Ride, NSW

Distance: 21km return  Grade: Easy  Bike: Any

The NSW Eurobodalla Coast towns of Dalmeny and Narooma abut a coastline that is magnificent in its splendour, with golden beaches, inlets and, just off the coast, Barunguba (Montague Island). Thankfully, for two-wheeled visitors, there’s a brilliant bike path that links the two towns, allowing you to experience all these natural wonders up close, as you journey along one of the state’s most memorable family bike rides. 

Riding beside pristine Waging Inlet allows you to keep an eye out for marine life, such seals, as well as coastal birdlife. Justin Walker

The ride heads north from Narooma with the start at Riverside Drive, near the wharf at Wagonga Inlet. From here you follow the path beside the blue-green waters of Wagonga Inlet, toward Narooma Highway Bridge. After crossing the bridge, you join the (timber) Mill Bay Boardwalk and wind around toward the inlet’s mouth (stop at where fisher-folk clean their catch and you may spot one of the resident seals). As well as seals, keep an eye out for other marine life, such as rays, and fish, and – if you’re riding here in whale season – there’s a high chance of spotting these migrating giants, too. Continuing, you ride past wetlands (great for birdwatching) and then any number of beaches.

The ride is excellent when it comes to scenic outlooks; several viewing platforms along Kianga headland offer views over some of the best beaches in NSW (there are also picnic spots along this route). The sealed path continues all the way to Dalmeny Sports Club, your start/turn-around point for one of NSW’s most memorable family bike rides.

Bintang Matta Trail, NSW

Distance: 6.7km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Any

The Western Sydney Parklands covers 5280 hectares in area and includes more than 70km of paths and trails to explore, with the Binyang Matta Trail an ideal reasonable-length taster for those keen to see a cross-section of the rides on offer (the Binyang Matta Short Loop is an option for those with for toddlers on bikes). The Binyang Matta Trail starts at the Richmond Road carpark and takes riders along a flat sealed path that winds through forests, wetlands and grasslands, and crosses Eastern Creek as this waterway winds north-south through the parklands. 

With more than 70km of paths and trails to explore, there’s a ride for every family member, regardless of age or cycling skill levels. Greater Sydney Parklands

There are barbecue areas, water resupply points, and plenty of scenic spots at which to stop and look for the area’s rich birdlife (Binyang Matta means ‘place of birds’ in the Dharug language). This is a wonderful leisurely-paced ride for all rider abilities and the paths are wide and flat throughout, with ample passing space (it’s a shared path) and, as mentioned, a number of benches on which to sit and take a break and have a snack in your own slice of paradise in the middle of Australia’s most populous city. 

For those after more riding in the parklands, Nurragingy Reserve, just south of the Binyang Matta Long Loop, is another of NSW’s great family bike rides, and will keep you busy (there are toilets in this part of the parklands, too).

Lake Burley Griffin, ACT

Distance: 35km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Any

When Walter Burley Griffin designed a lake at the heart of Canberra, he could easily have had cyclists in mind. Its shores are flat, its 35km circumference makes for a perfect few hours of pedalling and almost every national public building of note sits huddled along its edges. The lake is ringed by a shared-use path, which clings to the shores of the lake most of the way. The major deviations from its shores take you around Government House in Yarralumla, and through the Jerrabomberra Wetlands at the lake’s eastern end.

Along with some educational side-trips to the many museums along this route, there’s plenty of green space to just chill out and enjoy the lakeside views. Visit Canberra

Doubling as a sightseeing tour of the national capital, the ride can be started anywhere along the lakeshore and be cycled in either direction. Navigation is simplicity itself – simply keep to the mostly sealed path beside the water. Highlights include the Parliamentary Zone, where riders pass the National Gallery, the flag-festooned High Court, and the monolithic National Library, with Parliament House set on a low hill behind. The foreshore precinct in Kingston – where the path returns to the lake after arcing out through the wetlands – and the avant-garde New Acton district offer more distractions.

The ride is pretty much a choose-your-own adventure. You can lap the lake in a two-hour burst, or linger in the National Arboretum, National Museum, or any of dozens of other lakeside diversions to draw the ride out across a full day. If you’re an early riser, it’s a beautiful dawn ride, when the rowers are on the waters, the hot-air balloons are in the sky, and the day and the lake are likely as still as a meditation.