Waratah Park is the home base of cycling in the Sutherland Shire. The dedicated off-road track hosts racing and training all year round, but it’s also a safe place where kids learn to ride.
- Downhill one way, uphill the other
- Put the brakes away
- The Shire’s answer to Heffron Park
Waratah Park offers three track configurations. Track 1, the shortest loop, is only used for warm-ups and doesn’t even show up on Google Maps. Track 2 is a simple 900-metre lap around the AFL field and back to the start line.
Track 3 is the longest circuit at 1.5 kilometres, and the most interesting. From the start/finish straight, riders turn left and immediately head downhill through the trees until the farthest point of the course, a sweeping left-hand turn known as “Beehive”—so named because it’s the home of the Illawarra Beekeepers Association.
Then, it’s uphill all the way through the bush and past the AFL field until you return to the finishing straight. According to Sutherland Shire Cycling Club officebearer Carl Bowdler, that ascent is the decisive part of the course. “It’s cruising across the back, down the hill,” he says. “As soon as you turn the corner, people are on the gas. Up the hill, that’s where they separate, they stretch out to get position up the top.”
The club’s vice-president of road, Phil Bray, agrees. “You get up the top of the hill first, you’re in a pretty good position,” he says.
Wind doesn’t tend to play a factor at Waratah Park except on the start/finish straight. “It’s pretty sheltered down the back, downhill and uphill, but as soon as you hit the straight, it’s very exposed,” says Bray.
The corners at Waratah Park are flowing and fast, with little need to brake. The surface inspires confidence, being extremely smooth and regular throughout.
There’s also a small mountain bike course near the clubhouse, where the locals run short-track MTB racing.
Two clubs share Waratah Park, making it a hub for cycling in the area.
Sutherland Shire Cycle Club runs Friday night criteriums during summer. They favour the longer Track 3, but sometimes use Track 2 for the lower grades. Racing is offered across three grades, with food and beer afterwards.
Southern Cross Cycle Club races on Sunday mornings, catering for four grades and juniors. At just $5 per entry, it has to be the cheapest bike racing in Sydney (though understandably, prize money isn’t offered every week). They prefer the shorter Track 2, especially during the summer crit season. It seems to be a more beginner-friendly setting.
The clubhouse is equipped with toilets, a canteen and an impressive array of historic trophies. There’s also a filtered drinking fountain, installed in memory of Sutherland Shire member Shannon Minns, who passed away in 2017.
If you’ve ever ridden through Royal National Park, you already know how to ride to Waratah Park. The entrance to RNP is just a minute further south. Cycling to the race is a great option for those within an hour’s ride of the Shire.
For those coming from further afield, take the train to Sutherland Station and ride a very easy two minutes down Old Princes Highway.
If you want to drive, there’s plenty of parking at the cycling track. Coming south down Old Princes Highway, you don’t want to miss the left turn after the Pitt Street roundabout. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a big loop back up to Sutherland and try again.