Cycling the Old Pacific Highway from Cowan to Gosford
The 47km bike ride along the Old Pacific Highway from Cowan to Gosford offers incredible views, excellent downhill rides and two tough hill climbs.
Riding the Old Pacific Highway was a life-highlight for my wife and I. We rode the route on a Saturday and passed a lot of cyclists who seem to regularly ride between Cowan and Mount White.
Plenty of motor bike riders use the Old Pacific Highway — The ratio of motorbikes-to-cars was about 30:1.
There were two long climbs that we came across while riding from Cowan to Gosford. The first was the 8km-long climb out of the Hawkesbury River to Mount White. And the second hill climb was the 7km from the Old Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge up to Somersby.
Google Maps suggests that it takes 2 hours to cycle from Cowan to Gosford. It might take that long for cyclists who are excellent ‘hill climbers’ — but, for us, we took our time and enjoyed the views — taking long rests — finishing the ride in six hours. The speed limit along most of the highway is 60km/h — making it safe for cyclists.
We caught the train to Cowan and then jumped back onto the train at Gosford. If you’re planning to use the train at both ends, check the Transport for NSW website before you leave — several times throughout the year train services on the Central Coast rail line are replaced by buses. Also, on hot days, check the Rural Fire Service website for bushfires.
Just north of Cowan railway station on the Old Pacific Highway is the famous Pie In The Sky cafe. The pies that are sold at this cafe are the best that we’ve ever eaten — plus the view from the cafe, overlooking the Hawkesbury, is good. The Pie In The Sky was originally a railway canteen that was established for railway workers who were building the rail line to Newcastle — NSW Rail Corp still own the land.
The only cycleway that you’ll find on the Old Pacific Highway is located on the western side of the Peats Ferry Bridge that crosses the Hawkesbury River between Kangaroo Point and Mooney Mooney Point.
At Cheerio Point, we started the long climb out of the Hawkesbury River.
The next spot for a long break was at the Old Road Cafe at Mount White. At the top of the mountain, the Old Pacific Highway divides into single lanes at Marlows Gully.
At this point we met two inspirational cyclists — Penny and Gordon Rowe from Wahroonga. Aged 80 and 90-years-old respectively. They told us that they ride from Mount White to Cowan twice a week.
“Cycling can become very addictive” — Penny.
Over the years they’ve completed five-day cycles along many routes throughout eastern Australia and Adelaide — and Penny told us that the Old Pacific Highway is the safest cycle route in Australia.
Penny and Gordon had their front and rear lights on. Penny was wearing a high visibility safety vest. And she had some wise advice for us: “I notice you have mountain bikes. I have a bike that I want to take on the ride — not a bike that takes me on the ride.”
I drank about 1.5 litres of water on the ride, and about another 2 litres after the ride. Heading north, the last place to grab water is at the Old Road Cafe at Mount White.
We passed no other cyclists on the Old Pacific Highway between Mount White to Somersby — this told us that cyclists focus their energy riding back and forth between Cowan and Mount White.
After a short hill climb at Calga, the Old Pacific Highway heads down alongside Christy Gully into Mooney Mooney Creek.
The Old Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge was built in 1930. The Great North Walk route passes over this bridge — Linking Sydney to Newcastle.
Located about 500 metres north of the Old Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge is the new Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge that services the M1 Pacific Motorway.
If you want to stand below the new bridge and marvel at the its height, ride along Karool Road which is located at the western end of the Old Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge.
The Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge is 75 metres from the water level to the bridge. The bridge was constructed for the F3 upgrade — taking 3.5 years to build. The Calga-Somersby section of the F3 was opened by Prime Minister Bob Hawke on Sunday 14th December 1986.
The climb from Mooney Mooney Creek to Somersby isn’t as steep as the climb up from Mooney Mooney to Mount White — but it still gets your heart rate going.
Before the construction of the F3, parts of the Old Pacific Highway had to be re-routed. As you near Somersby, you cycle across a bridge that was opened in 1983 — it runs north-south over the M1 Pacific Motorway — just to the east of the newer Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge.
Not far from this bridge, about 200 metres north, is an area referred to as The Slab by motorbike riders. This is where riders meet before riding along the Old Pacific Highway. During the 1980s, at this point, drivers could access a lookout to witness the construction of the F3 and the Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge. A barrier has now closed access to the lookout. The barrier is used as a ‘sticker gallery’ featuring brands and radio stations from the past 30 years.
At this point in the ride we were on the home stretch — joining Wisemans Ferry Road briefly to access our preferred route into West Gosford.
The safest route for cyclists riding from Somersby or Kariong into Gosford is via Debenham Road South. We didn’t go anywhere near Kariong during the ride.
The Gosford Waterfront has plenty of places for you to relax and enjoy the view.
We hope you enjoy riding this route — or part of it. I’m on social media @BrendenWood — drop me a note and tell me about your experiences riding the Old Pacific Highway.
This map shows the cycle route for the Cowan to Gosford ride along the Old Pacific Highway.