Lake Canobolas Loop 10 Credit. Linda Moon1

Cycling in Orange

A kangaroo raises its fuzzy grey head from the ochre grass and stares right at me. Just as astonished by the encounter as the native creature, I stamp down on the brakes of my bicycle. Not impressed with my intrusion, the kangaroo and its smaller mate hop away into scrubby bushes at the edge of the field.

Three and a half to four hours west of Sydney, I’m in the land of food, wine and apples (ironically known as Orange), experimenting with a more active way to sightsee the countryside. On a bicycle.

After the long car ride to the Central West town (Orange is technically a regional city with a population of about 40,000), it’s a creative way to stretch my legs and clock some exercise while taking in the local sights. Compared to driving in the car with the GPS on, cycling requires a steely focus and participation. There are passing cars, signposts and obstacles to stay alert for, the occasional insect in the face, gears to change, gutters to manoeuvre and frequent stops to check the map in the Ride Orange Guide. Along with touring the town, I’m cultivating a new skill.

The Orange active travel plan

Fortunately, flat terrain, well-maintained paths and broad, leafy streets make cycling here comparatively easy. However, Orange has a route for all levels of cyclists. Along with short, in-town rides suitable for beginners and families there are the all-day out-of-town treks and mountain bike trails for professional racers or those seeking a challenge.

Thanks to a council initiative to promote fitness and reduce car dependency (the Orange Active Travel Plan), a network of cycling trails weaves in and around the city, meandering alongside houses and roads, beneath elms, oaks, maples and other deciduous trees. The project, which includes new paths and road markings, upgrades to existing cycle paths, excellent signage and places to stable your bike, makes it easy for locals and visitors alike to cycle the city and its surrounds.

The Black Sallee Loop

After our audience with the kangaroos, we continue on into a reserve through a forest of black sallee (a local eucalyptus tree) and other native species. Singing birds dart past the elbows of black branches and dappled foliage. The nine-kilometre ride is full of variety. Along with flat, off-road bitumen and shared cycling/walking paths of the town’s streets, we travel across gravel and rigorous dirt trails, through nature reserves and gentle farmland. The Black Sallee Loop suits my desire for a leisurely jaunt with a bit of challenge, but be warned, it has a few steep hills and you have to pass the occasional highway.

Cycling the garden city

Starting at Elephant Park (a grassy expanse on Woodward Street dotted with maples), the Black Sallee Loop is also the starting point for a shorter ride where you can test your cycle legs out. This easy 4.4-kilometre circuit (known as the Moulder Park Loop) wanders through three pretty parks (Elephant, Pilcher and Moulder) and over bridges. A creek meanders through the shade of trees bending to the water, its green bank an ideal spot to rest, picnic and simply enjoy the surrounding nature.

The loop bypasses Cook Park, the central park in the heart of Orange, a 10-minute walk from the CBD. It’s a worthy stop, aflame with coloured leaves in autumn— and in spring, the site of scores of vivid, nodding daffodils and tulips. Ducks plough through the water features where people stroll or gather to sit in small groups with their picnic blankets and food hampers.

Our arrival times with the annual Begonia Festival (from February to April). Housed on site in the Blowes Conservatory, a forest of giant begonias glows in unexpected shades of gold, violet, fuchsia and salmon. Another in-town ride with floral beauty is the North Orange Loop. Starting at the Orange Botanic Gardens it travels through suburban streets on a shared pathway along the creek line. The trees in nearby Samson Street prove to be particularly stunning in a town famed for its autumn leaves.

Relaxing, Orange-style

After the day’s physical activity, a relax at de Russie Boutique Hotel seems well earned. Right in town, the plush interior and comfy bed is exactly what my tired muscles need. Rested and replenished, we wander down the road to choose from one of many fine eateries in the CBD.

From contemporary Australian gourmet restaurants and cafés to Japanese and Indian eateries, there’s plenty to choose from. Settling on the peaceful vibe of Bodhi Garden Restaurant, a few blocks away, we clamber into casual chairs and survey the menu of vegan Chinese fare: dumplings, soups, noodles, bean curd dishes, stir-fries, tempura and more. Mock meat is a favourite here and all the dishes are sublime.

Lake Canobolas trail

In pursuit of experiencing a different side of the town, the following day we take our bikes and a picnic lunch to Lake Canobolas to meet with friends. The waterhole of the region, and fed by rain and snow from Mount Canobolas and the surrounding Towac Valley, the artificial lake is quite something to behold, surrounded by a beautiful gravel walk and elms, now gold and glorious in their autumn finery.

We join the picnickers, arranging local olives, dips and wine to share on a wooden picnic table by the lake. Mild and fair, the season is the perfect time to cycle in the area. Not only do the autumn colours and temperate weather make for a comfortable, scenic ride, there’s also less chance of rain, and numerous foodie and harvest-related events to partake in. These include the popular Orange Food and Wine Week (in April), Orange Apple Festival (in May), apple, cherry, peach and other fruit-picking opportunities, and exploring the bounties at the local Orange Region Farmers Market.

Spring is also gorgeous. Private orchards brighten with acres of bloom and street trees generously offer blossom joy.

Satiated with conversation, laughter and lunch, we mount our bicycles and follow each other in single file across the narrow bridge that spans the water. On the other side, the gravel path ambles beneath trees close to the shore, then dips down into a dirt trail before opening to a wide field strewn with cows. Beyond this, we pass a quiet creek via a tiny wooden bridge and more country vistas to enjoy.

Riding with the wind in our hair and the sun’s warmth overhead feels like total immersion in the country. The vivid scents and sounds of the landscape rise around us; crickets chirr endlessly, birds cheep and insects whiz and fly from the grass. I take it all in, breathing the sweet, warm air as I ride.

The dirt trail eventually descends through rugged native bush with glimpses of the water and many reeds, then leads us back to our starting point in a complete circle around the lake. All up, it’s a short but lovely 2.5-kilometre ride. Many people cycle the lake circuit multiple times, as do we. For a more strenuous 6.3-kilometre adventure with some steep hills, you can ride to the lake from Elephant Park.

Bike hire in Orange

  • DG Cycles
    Electric bikes are also available.
    Open Monday to Friday 9.30am–5.30pm, Saturday 9am–1pm.
    Unit 4/241 Lords Place, Orange, phone 02 6360 4040, dgcycleco.com.au.
  • Ron Boulton Cycles
    Open Monday to Friday 9.15am–5.15pm, Saturday 9.10am–1.30pm.
    202 Lords Place, Orange,
    phone 02 6362 3670.
  • Bissy’s Permaculture Cafe
    Adults, children’s BMX and tandem bikes available. Open Monday, Tuesday 7am–3pm, Wed to Friday 7am–4pm, Saturday 7am–2pm, Sunday 8am–2pm.
    88 Warrendine Street,
    Orange, phone 02 6369 0666, bissyscafe.com.au/about/bike-hire.

More Orange rides

Best for wineries and farm gate experiences

  • The Lake Canobolas/Borenore Trail takes you into the thick of the vineyards and farms of Borenore and Nashdale. Drive to Lake Canobolas (where there’s plenty of parking) and commence your journey from here. As you’ll be travelling on the road (there’s no separate cycle path) and up and down hills, this route is best suited to experienced cyclists.Another (easier) option is to cycle a smaller segment of the trail. From the lake, it’s two kilometres north to Cargo Road, the site of several wineries. Or head to Borrodell Vineyard on Lake Canobolas Road for wine tasting or eat at the Sisters Rock Restaurant. A further 4.5 kilometres along the route you’ll reach Borenore Lane with more vineyard opportunities and apple picking. Return the same way. Another idea is to drive to a cellar or farm door you wish to visit and get on your gear afterwards. Nashdale Lane (off Cargo Road), for example, is home to Thornbrook Orchard, where you can purchase fruit, or, in season, pick it ripe from the tree, and Nashdale Lane Wines. Escort Way is another site for vineyards including Heifer Station Wines.

Wine, coffee and cycling Millthorpe

  • Cycle through Millthorpe, a tiny but charming village about 20 kilometres from Orange, sampling wines across three cellar doors (Angullong Wines, Slow Wine Co and Tamburlaine Wines) or coffee shops. Along the way you can drop into the cafés, galleries and boutique shops of the village. The quiet, flat and ample streets are perfect for carefree cycling.

Best for professional cycling enthusiasts

  • Hardcore cyclists can ride from Orange to Millthorpe. Those really wanting to stretch themselves can get their heart pumping on the Pinnacle — the name speaks for itself! The 22 kilometres to the Pinnacle Lookout offers a steep climb through trees with glimpses of local orchards and wineries. At the Pinnacle you’re rewarded with a vast view over the region. For a further challenge, cycle to the summit of Mount Canobolas, a further two kilometres. Pinnacle Road is also sprinkled with cellar and farm doors.

Where to grab a picnic lunch

  • Lakeside Kiosk & Cafe
    Located on the western side of the Lake Canobolas, the kiosk serves takeaway drinks, snacks and meals. Reportedly, picnic hampers are soon on the menu.
    Phone 02 6365 3279, lakesidekioskandcafe.com.au, facebook.com/LakesideKioskandCafe.
  • Bissy’s Cafe
    Gourmet sandwiches, burgers, drinks, brekkie, picnic hampers and more.
    Phone 02 6369 0666, bissyscafe.com.aufacebook.com/bissys.cafe.and.catering.orange.
  • Byng Street Cafe & Local Store
    Eat-in or takeaway coffee, snacks and more. Open 7am–3pm, 7 days a week.
    Phone 02 6369 0768, byngstreet.com.au, facebook.com/byngstreet.

Getting there

Orange is 260 kilometres from Sydney and can be accessed by car, air (booked through Rex) or rail (through Countrylink).
For those driving from Sydney, take the M4 highway via the Blue Mountains or the M7 and go via Richmond and Bell till you reach Lithgow and the Great Western Highway. After Lithgow take the Mid Western Highway to Bathurst, then the Mitchell Highway to Orange.

Further info

  • Grab the free Ride Orange Guide booklet from the Orange Visitor Information Centre (corner of Byng and Peisley Streets) or download it at orange.nsw.gov.au/sports-grounds-leisure/ride-orange.
  • The booklet has maps and detailed information on four in-town and 10 out-of-town bicycle trails.
  • For more things to do in the region, visit orange360.com.au.

Linda Moon

Linda Moon

Linda Moon is a freelance feature writer reporting on health, travel, food and local producers, work, parenting, relationships and other lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in International Traveller, Voyeur (Virgin Airlines magazine), Jetstar Asia, Slow Living, Traveller, Domain, My Career, Life & Style and Sunday Life (Sydney Morning Herald), Sprout, NZ Journal of Natural Medicine, Nature & Health, Australian Natural Health, Fernwood Fitness, The New Daily, SBS, Essential Kids, Australian Family, Weekend Notes, The Big Bus Tour & Travel Guide and more.

Based in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, Linda is a qualified and experienced naturopath, spa and massage therapist and a partly trained social worker.

Her writing interests focus on health, responsible consumerism, exploring beautiful places and the quest for a fairer, healthier and happier world for all.

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