Cycle Tasmania, Road Ride, 99 Bend Road & Lake Burbury Ride
The only pure highway ride in the book, included because it is such an awesome ride, climbing out from Queenstown through a bleached, apocalyptic landscape before descending to the shores of Lake Burbury in sight of one of Tasmania’s most imposing mountains.
Good sealed highway with a winding climb through a lunar landscape above the mining town of Queenstown before a flat run around the edge of Lake Burbury.
Forget the ‘highway’ in the name ‘Lyell Highway’; this road sees little more traffic than some minor roads.
Queenstown is 260 kilometres from Hobart, reached along the Lyell Highway through Derwent Bridge. Tassielink’s coach services to Strahan from both Hobart and Launceston stop in Queenstown.
Food and Drink
In the Queenstown railway station, at the start of the ride, Tracks Cafe does burgers, focaccias, croissants and has a short beer and wine list.
Ride six kilometres further along the Lyell Highway from the Lake Burbury picnic area to reach the start of the short, rainforested walking track into Nelson Falls.
There’s little time for warming up on this ride. After heading out of Queenstown, past the the town’s famous gravel football oval, the climb on 99 Bend Road begins almost immediately and, though it falls a few bends short of its colloquial name, it’s still a writhing ascent through an otherworldly landscape. Queenstown quickly shrinks below to a collection of coloured roofs, with the barren rock of the hillsides equally colourful, painted yellow, purple, jade, orange and white by leached minerals.
These slopes were once covered in dense temperate rainforest but decades of sulphurous fumes from Queenstown’s mines stripped them bare, turning them famously bald and bleak. Today, there’s a fuzz of regrowth, with trees beginning to return, which some in Queenstown are unhappy about, thinking it bad for tourism. The climb totals around 250 metres, cresting by a monument commemorating the highway’s opening in 1932. From here you can detour out to the Iron Blow Open Cut, the site of the first gold discovery in Queenstown in 1883.
The reward for the climb is all too quick, with the descent hurrying through the virtual ghost towns of Gormanston and Linda before funnelling east through another bare valley. At around 11 kilometres, almost by surprise, the highway emerges at the shores of Lake Burbury. Ahead, on a clear day rises Frenchmans Cap, one of the most recognisable peaks in the state with its anvil-like quartzite summit falling away in 400-metre- high cliffs. Rounding the lake’s long shores, Frenchmans Cap slips from view as you cross the water on Bradshaw Bridge, though it doesn’t mean the end of the views.
On the other side now is the beautiful West Coast Range. The ride reaches its turnaround point at a picnic area and camp site on the shores of the lake - it’s a nice spot to camp though the mossy earth does become sodden after rain. Though the return simply retraces the outward route, it feels like a different ride altogether, offering close views of the West Coast Range and, as you leave the lake’s shore, the giant Mt Lyell mine, which was once the richest mine in the southern hemisphere. Back at the 99 Bend Road, there’s a rapid descent along one of the most surreal bits of road in the state, overlooking Queenstown and its barren hills - it’s like looking at a town naked.
43.168 km / 26.824 mi
802 m / 2,632 ft
802 m / 2,632 ft
420 m / 1,379 ft