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One of the best ways for a family to explore a destination they are visiting is by bicycle. Thankfully, Australia is packed full of incredible – and fun – family bike rides, with each state and territory offering loads of two-wheeled adventures. In this instalment of our Best Family Bike Rides series, we head south to Tasmania. With its mix of rail trails and bike parks, the Apple Isle is tailor-made for family cycling fun. Check out these favourites.

North East Rail Trail

Distance: 26km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Gravel/MTB

Tasmania’s premier rail trail is just a whisker from Derby – you can almost smell the overheating brake pads from here – but is entirely different in pace and tone. The trail, which sees less bike traffic than most other rail trails, runs between the north-east forestry town of Scottsdale and Billycock Hill (a rise in the Tasman Hwy 15km west of Derby), following the course of the former Launceston–Branxholm railway. Its gradients are gentle, and the track is wide enough for two bikes to ride side by side along its entire length. 

Wide, flat and travelling through beautiful countryside, this short and sweet rail trail is a brilliant adventure for cycling families. Andrew Bain

From the old railway station in Scottsdale, the trail coasts downhill for 15km, ascending just as gradually over the remaining 11km to Billycock Hill. For the first 9km, the ride stays close to the Tasman Hwy, crossing it twice, but spending much of its time inside a cushioning strip of bush. After the second highway crossing near Tonganah, the trail drifts away from the highway, passing through farmland and beginning to feel surprisingly remote as it disappears into forest and tunnels through an impressive railway cutting blasted 10m into the earth.

The forest is tall and, at times, dense with ferns as the ride wraps through a deep gully, passing the former Trewalla railway station. About here, it begins the ascent towards Billycock Hill, where the trail ends at its highest point, around 120m higher than Scottsdale. There are campaigns to extend the rail trail from Scottsdale to Lilydale Falls, around 40km to the west of Scottsdale, and eventually through to Launceston, so watch this space.

Clarence Foreshore Trail

Distance: 14.5km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Any

This trail follows Hobart’s picturesque Derwent River, kicking off at Geilston Bay and finishing at Howrah, and is one of Hobart’s most popular family bike rides. Consisting of mostly flat footpaths, with the odd gravel section, a few roadside connections and a couple of hills, the trail is accessible for all abilities and skill levels, with plenty of entry and exit points. A highlight for families? Playgrounds galore for those inevitable refuel and rest stops. For those riders with little legs, a shorter version sees you set off from Geilston Bay and finish at Bellerive Park, with its playground and – yes! – the chance to indulge in fish and chips by the beach.

This is a fantastic two-wheeled journey of discovery for young bike riders and their families as they follow the pristine Derwent River. Gemma Chilton

The ride encompasses magical views, from yachts bobbing on their moorings, to willow trees dangling over the trail. Passing under Hobart’s famous Tasman Bridge is a highlight, especially for the youngest cyclists, with the chance to test the echoes bouncing off the huge concrete pylons.

At Kangaroo Bay, about 9km from the start, you may time it right for local market stalls. The beach here is beautiful, plus the aforementioned fish and chips are available nearby.  The final leg around a headland leads Bellerive Beach and then on to Howrah Beach.

Kaoota Tramway Track

Distance: 6km  Grade: Easy  Bike: Gravel/MTB

This short rail trail, traversing the hilltops above Margate and Sandfly, is just 30km south of Hobart, and yet feels utterly removed. Following part of an abandoned tramway, built in 1905 to transport coal 20km from Kaoota to the wharf in Margate, it’s not as groomed as most rail trails – it’s rockier and bumpier – but it shares their gentle gradients.

A slightly bumpier-than-normal short rail trail, the tramway is, nonetheless, huge fun for young families.

From just outside of Kaoota, the trail sets out into tall forest on a track – sometimes as wide as fire trail, sometimes singletrack – benched into the slopes. The bush is mostly dry, but there are pockets of forest and ferns as it swings through The Gorge, where it crosses a small wooden bridge and doubles back across the slopes. Little pedalling is needed as the trail gradually heads downhill, passing through open forest that provides glimpses of kunanyi/Mt Wellington. The track crosses another wooden bridge over Platypus Creek, from where it widens and smooths, making for a quick finish to Lawless Rd.

A good addition, though only for intermediate or advanced riders, is to follow Lawless Rd for 1.5km down the slopes and turn onto the Nierinna Creek Track, which runs for 3km to the edge of Margate.

Blue Derby

Distance: 125km +  Grade: Easy to Advanced  Bike: MTB

Since launching its network of mountain bike trails in 2015, the once-forlorn tin-mining town of Derby has become a byword for mountain biking. Its huge network of trails instantly generated such fanfare and attention that it almost single-handedly inspired the burst of trail openings across Australia in the subsequent years.

The key to Derby’s appeal is the flowing nature of its trails, which begin high in the Blue Tier mountains, with a compact cluster of trails around Derby itself. For those looking for family bike rides, there is a large pump track on the bank of the Ringarooma River keeps crowds of kids happy, while the riding can begin as leisurely as a lap around Lake Derby, across the river from town. For families with younger/new riders, this is a must-ride.

Derby’s best family-friendly trail is the Lake Derby loop. A blast for beginners, the frequent lookouts offer brilliant views of the lake, and there’s even the chance for a swim at the end of the ride. Stu Gibson

For more confident family members, some trails to check out include Blue Tier, which hurries down rainforest-covered slopes of its namesake mountain range to Weldborough; and Atlas, which continues the journey from near Weldborough down into Derby. Shuttle services out of Derby make it possible to ride both in a full, 30km day if you clan is up to it, descending from sub-alpine clearings at the top of the Blue Tier through magnificent rainforest to the dry sclerophyll forests around Derby.

Shuttles aren’t always necessary, though, with another family favourite the gentle Axehead looping out from town to connect with a host of other green- and blue-graded trails. The best thing about Derby is the sheer number of choices when it comes to trails. If you have older kids that are more confident, the blue (and black) trails will keep them well entertained, while the little’uns or less confident can still enjoy exploring a spectacular part of Tassie on their bikes. Win, win, we say…

Pipeline Track

Distance: 24km return  Grade: Easy  Bike: Gravel/MTB

Most mountain trails demand mountains of effort, but not Hobart’s Pipeline Track. Following the course of the city’s water-supply system – hence the ‘pipeline’ in the name – the gently sloping track wraps around the flank of kunanyi/Mt Wellington and is one of Hobart’s most popular family bike rides.

So close to Hobart city, but ensuring the kids feel like they are truly in the wild, the Pipeline Track is hugely popular. Andrew Bain

The wide, family-friendly track begins in Fern Tree, passing beneath the water pipeline. Though the track parallels Huon Rd all the way to Neika, there’s little indication of it as the track burrows through the thick bush. There are views over the River Derwent to Turrakana/Tasman Peninsula on a short, exposed section of the track before it turns onto a vehicle track (used by park and water authorities) and enters Wellington Park. It’s here the most spectacular sight of the ride – the sharp-tipped Cathedral Rock – muscles into the view, where it remains for the rest of the outward ride.

The Pipeline Track finishes seemingly in the middle of nowhere – close by a landslip – but there’s a turnaround point 1km before its end, at the start of the Wellington Falls walking track. Lock your bike to the racks here and check it out before returning to Fern Tree.

For more bike rides, check out our favourite family bike rides in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT, and Queensland.