Cycle Adelaide, Road Ride, Willunga Range Loop

The ride up Old Willunga Hill is hard – really hard. And reaching the top is incredibly rewarding, so it’s a challenge many cyclists want to achieve. One of the daunting King Of The Mountain climbs of the annual Tour Down Under, Old Willunga Hill is also one of the Adelaide cycling fraternity’s classic training rides, so you’ll be in good company as you grit your teeth and pedal up. That’s how this ride starts, so if it sounds like your thing, read on.

East of the Southern Vales, the route climbs to and traverses the Willunga Range, before descending back down to the plains. It starts with that long, hard climb up Old Willunga Hill (230m) and then rolls along the top of the range, with a few more challenging climbs on the way. What goes up must come down, of course, and the finish is a steep, winding descent back down Old Willunga Hill. It’s a fun way to end the ride and the views are fantastic – if you slow down enough to take them in!

Access

Pedal your way on the TDU Willunga ride, or take Main South Road or the Southern Expressway and then the Victor Harbor Road to Willunga. Alternatively, catch the train to Noarlunga Centre and ride the Southern Veloway and the Coast to Vines Rail Trail (Ride 38) to the start. 

Food and Drink

Cafes, a bakery, shops and pubs in Willunga. Nothing along the route, so fill your water bottles and stow a snack before heading off.

Side trip

Check out some of the nearby art galleries and studios on the Fleurieu Peninsula Art Trail.

More Details

The ride starts in the centre of Willunga, a pretty agricultural town 45kms from Adelaide. Established in 1839 as a government depot, it was the site of the district’s first post office and a stop-over point between Adelaide and Encounter Bay. Part of the McLaren Vale wine region, the town is surrounded by vineyards, farming land and orchards, produce from which is sold each Saturday morning at the Willunga Farmers Market. The first – and some say the best – farmers market in the state, Willunga’s weekly gathering attracts producers from across the region and shoppers from far afield.

Leaving Willunga it’s onward and upward to that KOM crown, emblazoned permanently on the roadway. The turn onto Brookman Road crosses geographical boundaries into the Adelaide Hills wine region, continuing along shady, gum-lined roads through dairy, vineyard and olive country. Along with grapes and almonds, olive production is one of the region’s boom industries and olive groves are springing up all around the area.

Having climbed to The Range, it’s a rolling ride along the top on part of The Range Circuit, a staple of the Adelaide road racing calendar. Dense native scrub covers much of the northern hill face below Range Road, and blackened trees from around 19km serve as a reminder of the dangers of bushfire in the area. A slow burning grass fire in the summer of 2007-8 erupted into an uncontrollable bushfire, destroying houses and leaving a 153 hectare blackened scar. It’s an eerie landscape to ride through but reflects the tenacity and regenerating powers of the Australian bush.

Heading back to Willunga, busy T-junctions at Brookman and Old Willunga Hill Roads offer poor visibility, making it crucial to stop and check thoroughly for traffic. Then it’s downhill all the way back to the finish, enjoying the well deserved descent and spectacular views from Old Willunga Hill.

Ride Log

  • 0.0 From the carpark in front of the Alma Hotel head east towards High St.
  • 0.2 At the intersection, turn left onto High St and immediately start climbing – gently at first, then more steeply at the end of the main street. Continue along the winding road of Old Willunga Hill, climbing steeply for most of the next 2.5kms.
  • 3.7 Turn left onto Brookman Rd, signposted to Meadows. After all that work, make the most of the descent along the shady, gum-lined road and past Magpie Springs.
  • 8.3 Continue past Amaroo Water Gardens. This is a long, rolling stretch through vineyards and dairy country with beautiful views.
  • 10.6 Turn left into Pottery Hill Rd.
  • 11.3 The start of the next major climb. There’s a brief respite on a little descent, then it’s uphill for the next kilometre or so.
  • 13.6 The top of the climb, and back into vineyard country.
  • 14.1 With The Range War Memorial Hall in front, turn left at the intersection onto Range Rd. Continue on a long, rolling ride along the top of The Range under huge shady gums.
  • 20.5 Turn right at the T-junction, signposted to Willunga. Visibility on this corner is bad, so stop to check for traffic and proceed across carefully.
  • 20.8 Back at High St, carefully turn right and head back down Old Willunga Hill. Keep well to the left on the steep, winding descent, as this road can be busy.
  • 24.3 Back in Willunga, turn right at the main intersection onto High St.
  • 24.5 Turn right into the carpark of the Alma Hotel to finish the ride.
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    24.781 km / 15.398 mi

    Total Distance

    457 m / 1,498 ft

    Total Ascent

    199 m / 654 ft

    Total Descent

    383 m / 1,256 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Advanced (Black)
    Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
    Fitness Level: High
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 28.8
    Elevation Gain: 489
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire facilities
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
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