I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published August 21st 2012
Rediscover one of life's simple pleasures
The Top Family Bike Rides in Perth
With its relatively flat terrain and abundance of natural beauty spots, Perth is a cyclist's paradise. Boasting a rapidly expanding network of bike paths which extend through the metropolitan area and beyond, more and more locals are rediscovering the simple pleasure of riding a bike. While the number of hard-core cyclists (complete with flashy bikes and designer gear) are definitely on the rise, cycling is also a wonderful leisure activity which can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Neil Hawkins Park in Joondalup is a great place for a family ride
Personally, I find it heart-warming to see the growing number of families out and about on their bikes each weekend. With the growing rate of obesity amongst Australian school children, cycling as a family practically demonstrates that healthy living and an active lifestyle can be heaps of fun, and is also a great way for families to bond together, with parents are setting a positive example which children will naturally follow.
The Hills Forest Centre at Mundaring is always popular with kids
Fortunately, various cycling options are available for children of all ages so that everyone can participate in these fun family adventures. While older kids will naturally want to ride their own bikes, very young children can either ride behind Mum or Dad on special kids' bike seats, or in cute little buggies which are towed behind. Of course, once all of these details have been attended to, don't forget to kit everyone out with bike safety helmets: compulsory wearing for all Western Australian cyclists, including young children.
With the whole family geared up with age-appropriate bikes and accessories, the next step is to embark on your first cycling adventure. The following pages provide a few suggestions about some of the best rides which the Perth region has to offer. Go for it! Your kids will be glad you did, and so will you.
Cycling with babies and very young children Cycling is fun for the whole family, and it's an experience that even the youngest children can enjoy. For toddlers and pre-schoolers, the world is a big and wonderful place and even cycling around the block is a source of great excitement and fascination. However, Perth is full of great cycling destinations for riders of all ages, so try to be a little adventurous and see what beaut places you and your family discover.
For very young children, the most important quality of a good cycling route is that it's not too long. Even if your littlies aren't actually doing any riding, but are just sitting behind you, they will inevitably get bored if you cycle long distances without taking their needs into account.
On weekends the peaceful gardens of the West Coast Institute of Technology in Joondalup are a lovely place for young children to cycle around
Larger local parks are good cycling destinations for very young children, since there are often short dual purpose paths for riders and walkers winding through them. In addition, most parks have at least one playground, so when they lose interest with riding, they have something else which is fun to do. The majority of parks and gardens have picnic areas too, which is helpful, since children always seem to be hungry.
Kings Park is a great spot for family cycling, as it fulfils all of the above requirements. Although there are some places which are out of bounds to cyclists, it's still possible to ride around most of the park. For families which don't have their own bikes yet, they can be hired from Koala Cycle Hire which is situated behind Fraser's Restaurant in the park itself, just off Fraser Avenue. Apart from the fun of cycling, there is so much for very young children to see and do in Kings Park. The awesome Tree Top Walk, the spectacular views, and the beautiful Botanical Gardens will be sure to keep them occupied. There are also three cool playgrounds, including the amazing Synenergy Parkland, which is the first environmental playground of its type in Australia.
Bayswater Riverside Gardens is another favourite of mine as it's very family-friendly. Although it's not as large as Kings Park, there's plenty of room for young children to develop confidence on two wheels, and the views over the river are priceless. There's also a fabulous adventure playground and lots of picnic tables if you want to bring some lunch with you.
Short circuits are especially good when cycling with young children, as you can begin and end at one spot, thus simplifying parking issues. The circuit around Lake Monger is ideal in this respect as it follows the picturesque lake-shore, which is surrounded by a pleasant reserve. Plenty of parking is available on Lake Monger Drive in Leederville, which is good to know if you're bringing your bikes to the lake by car. A similar, easily completed circuit is available around Lake Gwellup.
Other short, kid-sized rides exist at Herdsman Lake near Glendalough and at the Yokine Reserve. Beach-side rides are also very popular with little children, especially in the late afternoons on hot summer days. What better way to wind down a restless child at the end of a long tiring day than a bike ride and a swim at the beach?
The cycle path along Cottesloe Beach
In conclusion, cycling with very young children is easy as it takes so little to entertain them. Provided they have enough to eat and drink, and distances are kept fairly short, they'll be happy almost anywhere: everything is new and exciting.
Cycling with primary school aged children
Provided firm boundaries are established regarding safety issues and behaviour, cycling with primary school age children is terrific fun. Children of this age group are generally fairly confident on two wheels, and are full of energy and a wonderful sense of adventure. Although the parks and gardens which I mentioned on the previous page would also suit these older children, many will also be ready for longer cycling adventures and routes which provide more of a challenge.
Waterfall near the cycle trail at John Forrest National Park
Whiteman Park has been a popular Perth family destination for decades. Situated on the edge of the city, the park encompasses 4000 hectares of native bush, cultivated parklands, a wildlife reserve and much more. In addition, there are several kilometres of cycle paths meandering throughout the park, linking the many attractions. Other fun activities which could be incorporated into a cycling outing at Whiteman Park are a visit to the Children's Forest where kids get hands-on experience about the importance of our environment, the Caversham Wildlife Park where they can get 'up close and personal' with our native fauna, taking a ride on a vintage tram or the miniature railway, checking out the various transport museums and exploring the adventure playgrounds. For the grown-ups, there's a gallery and a handcraft centre selling lovely locally-made arts and crafts. If all this wasn't enough to make your head spin, Whiteman Park also regularly hosts special activity days, so you'll never have the excuse to say that you've 'done it all' here.
Another unique destination for adventurous young cyclists is Western Australia's holiday paradise, Rottnest Island. Situated just 18 kilometres off the coast, 'Rotto' is a cyclists dream as it's the only form of transport, apart from a few administrative and maintenance vehicles which are run by the Rottnest Island Authority.
There are numerous rides around the island which are suitable for all age groups and levels of ability. Very little children will be perfectly happy riding with Mum and Dad around the main settlement areas, while older kids might enjoy cycling to one of the many beaches or the challenge of attempting a much longer route, such as riding to the island's rugged West End. Whatever, the choice is, a trip to Rottnest Island is invariably a terrific family escape. The scenery is spectacular, the fresh salty sea breezes invigorating, and there's so much to see and do. Apart from the cycling, kids will enjoy the many wonderful beaches, exploring the hiking trails which criss-cross the island, making friends with the native quokkas (small marsupials which are endemic to the island), snorkelling, and riding on a glass-bottom boat to explore the underwater life.
Here in the city, there are also heaps of cycling adventures for both the young, and the young-at-heart. Meandering along the banks of the Swan River, there are many wonderful cycle paths of varying lengths. In the heart of Perth, a ride along the Esplanade bike track is very pleasant, as there are spectacular views of the river to be enjoyed, and the native bird-life is wonderful. In addition, if you're lucky, you may spot some of the bottle-nose dolphins which call the river home.
Bayswater Riverside Gardens is a great base for a couple of longer riverside rambles. A bitumen cycle track upstream ends in Guildford and passes through pleasant parklands, while the path downstream heads to the city via the Maylands foreshore, passing historic Tranby House and the fun Maylands Water-park which is open over the warmer months. Other good rides along the Swan River are from the University of Western Australia in Crawley to Dalkeith, and along the Mosman Park foreshore. There are also some good dual-purpose paths on the other side of the river, especially around Bicton, Applecross, South Perth and Burswood.
If your children are responsible, mature and have good traffic sense, another kid-friendly cycling adventure is a ride around the city on the weekend. It's possible to take your bike on the train on weekends without any restrictions, so this opens up a lot of possibilities, especially for families who live some distance from the city. City Farm, near Claisebrook Railway station, is a great place to begin a family cycling adventure, especially on Saturday mornings as there is an organic market held there, along with a cafe and live music. After checking this out, you can cycle to the Perth Cultural Precinct, which kids always enjoy, since there's so much to see and do: 'The Place' at the State Library, the special children's activities which are provided by the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and the 'Discovery Centre' at the Western Australian Museum. From there, it's just a short ride down to the Swan River or to Kings Park, where you can enjoy a picnic, and a final ride.
Stilt Park in Joondalup is one of several situated on lovely Lake Joondalup
Other great family rides in Perth include:
•Extensive purpose-built trails through the Canning River Regional Park and the Bicentennial Adenia Park, along the banks of the Canning River.
•Paths following the shoreline of Lake Joondalup.
•Riding from Burns Beach to Mullaloo Beach. This is a beautiful ride along the coast, which is mostly off the road, and is therefore ideal for kids.
•To Mandurah or Rockingham. Due to the much longer distance of these rides, they'd only be suitable for older kids with a strong sense of adventure and lots of energy. To get back to Perth, simply catch the train.
The bike path at beautiful Burn's Beach in the northern suburbs
The rides I have suggested on this page are really just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many wonderful places here in Perth. Check out the Western Australian Department of Transport website, which provides some very helpful links and resources, including information about family cycling, mountain biking and bike maps for the city and regional Western Australia.They also publish a great online guide, Ride along the Sunset Coast, which you might find interesting.
Cycling for Teenagers
If your children are still interested in cycling when they reach their teen years, they'll possibly be looking for more of a challenge than our urban bike paths can provide. This age group is often interested in mountain bike riding, due to the adrenalin rush which it provides, and its inherent sense of adventure.
Fortunately, Western Australia provides a good range of mountain bike trails to suit every type of rider. The best known bike track in Western Australia is the epic Munda Biddi trail, which begins at Mundaring in the Perth Hills and will eventually end at Albany in the far south of the state. Winding its way through the Darling Ranges and down the south-west of the state, the trail provides rustic accommodation for long-distance riders, with cabins (or townships) situated 30 to 45 kilometres apart. Although challenging, for families who love the great outdoors and have a healthy sense of adventure, riding the Munda Biddi Trail would be a dynamic and exciting experience.
Situated at the heart of the Perth Hills, Mundaring is also the starting point for two other trails which can be tackled in a variety of ways: by foot or horseback, as well as by bike. The Kep Trail follows the route of the railway line which used to run between Mundaring and Northam. Although the whole trip would take several days by bike, for those of us with limited time, it's also satisfying to cycle shorter distances of the trail. Also following the path of a former railway line (the old Eastern Railway), the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail is a loop, approximately 59 kilometres in length which passes through the quaint hamlets of Darlington, Parkerville and Mundaring. For more information about both of these rides, check out the Top Trails website.
The old tunnel on the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail
A shorter track which teenagers and their families would enjoy is the Kalamunda Mountain Bike Circuit. Unlike the Munda Biddi trail which requires a longer time commitment, this trail is just 22 kilometres long, and can be easily completed by an intermediate rider in a few hours. Its location in the Perth Hills also makes it much easier to access for local riders.
Another short track which provides teens with a good introduction to off-road cycling is the 8 kilometre long Marrinup Trail, which is located about 100 kilometres south of Perth near Dwellingup. This trail passes through native jarrah and redgum forests, as well as the site of the 'Cage in the Bush' POW camp, where thousands of German and Italian prisoners laboured during World War II. For more information, check out the Top Trails website or phone Dwellingup Visitor Information Centre on 08 9538 1108.
Despite the excitement and thrill of mountain bike riding, it's not for everyone. Families with teenagers may prefer to continue riding in the city, and explore further the many trails which are to be found there. In addition, a lot of the rides which I have mentioned on earlier pages can be adapted to suit families with older children and teenagers.
Cycling in regional Western Australia
As well as the innumerable options for cycling with kids in Perth, lots of opportunities also exist in other parts of the state. In my family, cycling has always been an integral part of family holidays: wherever we travel locally, the bikes usually come as well.
Rugged Kokerbin Rock, 40km from Bruce Rock township has a track encircling it which is great for cycling
Parks and gardens are always popular with young children, and many country towns and regional centres boast large parks, with plenty of trails. Often they're close to stunning natural scenery such as rivers or the ocean, which makes the experience even more pleasant. Due to there being less traffic on the roads, cycling on residential streets in country towns is a little less hair-raising than it is in the city. However, this is only an option with older kids who are sensible, safety conscious and are familiar with road traffic rules. Many national parks are also wonderful for family cycling adventures.
A few family-friendly cycling ideas for country Western Australia are:
The Margaret River-Prevelly Beach cycle / walk trail which is just twelve kilometres long and sealed.
The Ten Mile Brook Trail (also a dual-purpose path for cyclists and walkers), which begins at the Margaret River Rotary Park and follows the river until it reaches the Rusden picnic area near the Ten Mile Brook Dam. This path is approximately 15 kilometres return, and features mainly easy gradients.
The Margaret River Rail Trail is approximately 15 kilometres long, and of moderate difficulty. Therefore it wouldn't be suitable for very young children. It begins at Cowaramup and finishes at Margaret River. This trail is very picturesque and passes through beautiful forests, vineyards and farmland. A mountain bike is recommended. More information about this trail and others in the region can be acquired at the Margaret River Tourist Bureau at 100 Bussell Highway.
The Ellen Cove to Albany Port dual-purpose pathway enables cyclists and walkers to appreciate the spectacular coastline of this historical regional centre of the south. The path is 6 kilometres in length, is a combination of bitumen surface and wooden boardwalk, and requires moderate fitness. As well as the beautiful natural scenery, there are also interpretive signs along the route and various monuments and other places of historical interest. Be sure to remind the children to look out for the whales which are known to frequent the harbour.
The Great Ocean Way is a 12 kilometre dual-purpose bitumen trail which follows the dramatic coastline from Esperance Bay to Twilight Bay. Depending on how far is travelled and the cyclists' level of fitness, the ride is east to moderate. Therefore, it's perfect for most children, apart from the very young.
There are some lovely rides near the beach at Cervantes, north of Perth
Try riding from Clarkson Reserve, starting from the carpark at the end of Hardey Rd, Maylands (plenty of parking), following the bike path downstream, around the River, through to Windan Bridge.
Cross the Windan Bridge (scary and high!), then back down on to the bikepath on the other side of the River (adjoining Burswood Golf Course (watch out for golf balls!).
Follow the River down the Eastern side until you get to South Perth, then have a snack or meal in any of the great South Perth cafes or Restaurants - then ride back! This is a fabulous ride that covers some great scenery and gives you some terrific views of the city and foreshore you don't normally see!
We found that Dongara has a beaut bike path that runs for several kms South of the town. Watch out for the Calthrop seeds, though! (dreadful spikey seeds that are a horror for cyclists - similar to Double Gee/Three-cornered Jack).
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