Sydney Roadbook: guide to cycling Berowra Waters East

Cycling Berowra Waters East - Berowra Valley National Park sign

The eastern ascent of Berowra Waters takes riders from the ferry below to Berowra Heights above. With beautifully smooth tarmac from bottom to top, low traffic and good views, it’s one of my favourite climbs in Sydney.

The climb

Distance: 3.82km
Average gradient: 5%
Elevation gain: 198m
Strava: Berowra Waters East

After you disembark, ride uphill for about 100 metres until you reach a fork in the road. The left-hand fork heads down into a carpark, where you’ll also find toilets, should you need them. To tackle the climb, stay on the right-hand fork. The Strava segment begins just after that intersection.

Before you start, it’s a good idea to wave through any cars behind you. You’ll enjoy an 8- to 10-minute traffic-free window while the ferry brings the next boatload across.

Narrow road when cycling Berowra Waters East
The road is narrow to begin with.

The first few hundred metres consist of a narrow one-way road, so watch out for oncoming vehicles. The road widens once you reach the right-hand hairpin turn, which is exciting to sweep through. The two sides of the road are only loosely separated by cats’ eye reflectors, so remain vigilant.

Hairpin at the bottom of the hill when cycling Berowra Waters East.
The road soon widens once you sweep around this hairpin.

Head up a further 100 metres and you’ll be greeted with fantastic views to your right. If you’ve got the time, feel free to pull over and watch the ferry make its trip back across Berowra Creek.

A view of Berowra Waters when cycling Berowra Waters East.
Great views across Berowra Waters.

From then on, the road twists gently through the bush, occasionally passing some interesting rock walls. The road surface is brilliantly smooth. The gradient remains consistently at around 5%. There are no sharp turns, though there is another wider, flatter hairpin about 1.5 kilometres up the climb. It’s a peaceful ride, and it’s easy to lose yourself in a meditative trance as you make your way steadily upwards.

Climbing the middle section when cycling Berowra Waters East.
A peaceful climb through gentle curves.

After the second hairpin, look left to see the ghostly fingers of fire-blackened trees reaching towards the road. It’s a haunting reminder of the realities of living near the Australian bush. In 2002, a bushfire ignited in Glenorie, jumped Berowra Creek and burned all the way to the edge of Berowra Heights, narrowly missing the town itself. Firefighters regular perform hazard reduction burns in this area. Check with the Rural Fire Service and avoid the area if backburning is scheduled.

Burnt trees beside the road when cycling Berowra Waters East.
Burnt trees line the middle section of Berowra Waters East.

After another kilometre at this consistent gradient, glance over your right shoulder and you’ll see houses perched along the clifftop. You’re leaving the bush and approaching suburbia. This is confirmed when you emerge from the treeline and pass behind a row of red-brick houses. Their appearance breaks any illusion that you might be riding far out in remoter bushland.

Riding behind residents' backyards when cycling Berowra Waters East.
Bush behind you, suburban backyards ahead.

You’re near the top when the road widens with a slip-lane for those turning right into Currawong Road. You, however, should hug the wall to your left as you take the final significant turn before the finish.

In the final 200 metres, you’ll again find yourself riding behind people’s backyards. Finally, the road straightens out for a hundred metres when you can spot a sign advertising the Berowra Village Tavern. The Strava segment finishes beside a large tree next to an off-leash dog park.

Village Tavern sign at finish when cycling Berowra Waters East.
Look for the “Village” sign near the finish.
Finish line when cycling Berowra Waters East.
The tall tree to the left marks the finish.

Strava

Local professional Rob Stannard holds the Strava record of 7:55. With a bit of training, most B-grade club cyclists should be able to ride Berowra Waters East in 10:30. For a challenge, see if you can push yourself to a sub-10 minute time.

The descent

The descent of Berowra Waters East is fun and fast, like a rollercoaster. The smooth tarmac and steady gradient means you always feel in control. The bends are gentle until you hit the two hairpins towards the bottom. Enjoy the feeling of plunging from the houses of suburbia into the serene bushland.

Traffic

As previously mentioned, once a boatload of cars has passed, you’ll have about ten minutes to enjoy a quiet, car-free climb. Do keep an eye out for the occasional car descending towards you from Berowra.

Nearby

Join up with Galston Gorge and Bobbin Head to make up a classic clockwise┬áThree Gorges ride. To do this, continue riding after the climb itself finishes. Turn right at the roundabout to continue along Berowra Waters Road. There’s a service station on the opposite side of the road where you can refuel or wait for stragglers in your bunch ride.

Follow Berowra Waters Road (if you’re in the bike lane, make sure you don’t get doored) until you reach the Pacific Highway. On weekends, you’ll frequently see bicycles parked-up outside the Wise Monkey Cafe.

Turn right at Pacific Highway to head towards Bobbin Head and Galston Gorge. Turn left if you want to visit Pie in the Sky and the Brooklyn climb at Cowan. Pacific Highway can be a frightening road due to the speed difference between cars and bicycles. There’s a decent shoulder for most of its length, but claim the lane confidently when you have to.

Berowra ferry sign at the bottom of the hill when cycling Berowra Waters East.
Take a ride on the Berowra ferry.

If you’re riding the Three Gorges anticlockwise, enjoy the fast descent down Berowra Waters East. After crossing on the ferry (it’s free of charge and operates seven days a week, except the second Tuesday of each month between 12 noonand 2:30PM), tackle the steeper, more inconsistent climb through the cool forest towards the farms of Berowra Waters West.

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