The Jenolan Caves are famous with tourists, but for motorcylists the real attraction is the road that takes you there
Central Tablelands – To the west of Sydney there are numerous country roads running up and down the escarpments of the Great Dividing Range which offer mountains of fun for motorcycle riders. Near the top of the list is the Jenolan Caves Road, a very popular ride with several awesome sections of tight corners that are ideal for testing the cornering capabilities of your sportsbike.
The fun zone starts only an hour west of the city limits as you reach Mount Victoria and start the descent into the Hartley Valley. There are speed cameras at the top and bottom of Victoria Pass now so you need to keep a tight rein on things, especially going downhill. Stay on the Great Western Highway until just before the start of River Lett Hill – where yet another speed camera resides – and turn left onto the Jenolan Caves Road.
The bitumen surface here is excellent as you wind through the first section that leads down to the Coxs River. As it climbs back up the other side from the river the road twists its way towards Good Forest in a series of awesome low and mid-speed corners that will definitely put a smile on your dial. It opens up a little through a series of sweeping bends and straights as you head towards the windmills on the hill that mark the township of Hampton, where the popular comfort stop is the Hampton Halfway Hotel. A large number of heavy trucks use this road during the week to access local mining operations and manufacturing plants at Oberon, so use a bit of caution and stay within your lane.
Past Hampton the Duckmaloi Road to the right leads across to Oberon, which can make a good return loop. Continuing straight ahead to Jenolan Caves the riding is fast and good, although the road surface can be prone to patches of gravel and debris in places. The truck traffic thins out here but is often replaced by tourists and coaches during peak times and on weekends. The narrow winding section down the hill past Inspiration Point can be an excellent ride, but again requires caution. This part of the road is closed to traffic coming back out of the caves from 11.45am-1.15pm daily. The options are either to hang around the caves for a while, or keeping riding west past the caves to Oberon. This is a very good alternative as the route through Edith is now sealed for its entire length and some of the glorious mid-speed bends through the forested landscape will really test your nerve. This road eventually intersects with the main drag in Oberon, where there are options for food and fuel.
The Jenolan Caves Road is an excellent ride and close enough to Sydney to be an easy day ride even with a few detours and a pub lunch. We like to continue past the caves into the back of Oberon and then return via the Duckmaloi Road. Although this road is prone to ice patches and even snow in the colder months, it is a great ride across the Fish River as you make you way back towards the city.
Heading west on the Great Western Highway, the Caltex roadhouse at the top of Mt Victoria is the last fuel stop before the turn-off. Oberon also has a full range of fuel and food options.
There are several good cafés on the main street of Oberon as well as a couple of decent pubs. Food and drinks are also available at Jenolan Caves.
The Glenroy campground on the Coxs River near the start of the Jenolan Caves Road has several pleasant campsites where you can throw down a swag or tent overnight.
Things to do
Jenolan Caves is well worth a visit and there are amazing short cave walks you can do within an hour or two. The caves themselves are extremely cool and refreshing during summer months, where the air temperature can be more than 20° cooler than outside – a relief when you are wearing motorcycle gear. Guided and self-guided tour options are available and there is food and accommodation at the historic Jenolan Caves House.
There is a large amount of dirt riding available in the state forests around Hampton and beyond. Fire trails run right across this part of the Great Dividing Range and you can spend days exploring the area. The Hampton Halfway Hotel specialises in catering for riding groups who wish to base themselves there for a weekend of off-road riding. Accommodation and meals are available seven days a week and bookings can be made by calling (02) 6359 3302.
There is a mechanical workshop at Mt Victoria, as well as in Oberon, although not specialising in bikes. If you are stuck you can always call Dave at Servinitup Motorcycle Transport and he will arrange to pick you up and take you home in one of his recovery vans: 0404 298 880
Caves House – Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan: (02) 6359 3911
Glenroy Cottages & Campground – 200 Jenolan Caves Road, Hartley: (02) 6355 2186
Shell – 187 Oberon St (the main street), Oberon
Caltex – Great Western Hwy, Mt Victoria
Monkey Bean Café – 130 Oberon St, Oberon: (02) 6336 0110. This is a motorcycle friendly café on the main street that even has motorcycle ride suggestions for the area on display. Great local coffee blend (Fish River Roasters) and a great range of food available.
Hampton Halfway Hotel – Jenolan Caves Road, Hampton: (02) 6359 3302. Good pub food seven days a week.
STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY TIM MUNRO