(Approximately 36 km)
In my opinion the best way to cycle round Lake Illawarra is to travel anti-clockwise due to the lack of a useable hard shoulder travelling north from Albion Park Rail to the roundabout at Yallah. However if there is a strong wind it is worth bearing in mind that the wind on the Warilla side (east) of the lake is usually stronger than on the Dapto side. Shellharbour Council has provided free electric BBQs at most of the larger parks so it is a good ride to take food and have lunch by the lake.
This trip can be started anywhere but as I live in Dapto that is where I will start. All distances in brackets are taken from the centre of Dapto ie Dapto Hotel / Leagues Club.
Since originally written there are some detours and changes these are noted in italics.
From the centre of Dapto the highway climbs gently but steadily to Mount Brown and there is little alternative but to use the kerb side lane however it is a 60kph zone so isnt much of a problem.
After the traffic lights at Mount Brown (2.4 km) the speed limit increases to 80 kph but there is a wide hard shoulder and a good run downhill to the turn off for the old Tallawarra Powerhouse Site (4 km) don't turn off unless you want a side trip to the lake to watch sail boarders, water skiers and the odd fisherman.
Carrying on south the highway joins the traffic coming off the end of the F6 Expressway at Yallah (5.6 km) and our route goes slightly uphill past the Yallah Woolshed before we drop down to a bridge and the large roundabout where the Illawarra Highway joins the Princes Highway. At the bridge there is no hard shoulder and cyclists have to squeeze through a gap in the armco railing onto a narrow dirt track for about 20 metres to get to the pedestrian crossing over the bridge. On the Shellharbour side of the bridge it is such a different picture the council has buit a cycleway right up to the bridge.
Follow the shared cycleway which runs east and parallel to the creek until it emerges in the new(ish) Macquarie Shores estate. Follow the road south out of the estate until you emerge onto Koona St which you follow south until Slater's Bridge.
Follow Koona St (8.5 km) before bearing slightly left at its junction with Wooroo St (9.1 km), follow the road around until its end where there is Slater's Bridge, a footbridge over Horsley Creek (9.4 km).
The next half kilometre is much harder to describe than it is to navigate, basically working north east back to the shores of the Lake. The easiest way is to turn left from the footbridge along Bridge Av and follow it round (it is a circle) until Deacon St (10.1 km) the third turning on the left. Follow Deacon St until Deakin Park then turn left into The Boulevarde (10.5 km).
Now it is just a matter of following the road through its various name changes, to The Esplanade and finally Reddall Parade.
Late News (May '99) - The council has extended the cycleway along the lake foreshore to Central Park (on your left, just before the junction with Central Avenue) so it is now possible to cycle from here to Windang Bridge on the shared cycleway.
If you missed the previous turn off onto the cycleway keep your eyes open at about 12 km (where The Boulevarde becomes The Esplanade - opposite Lemington Rd) there is a creek to the left of the road. Taking to the few metres of dirt track to the left of the creek brings you to a footbridge and a section of cycleway running along the lake foreshore to Skiway Park.
There is a choice at Skiway Park (13 km) to use the cycleway or the road. The road is a much better surface and consequently faster than the cycleway which is of the typical concrete construction with expansion joints every couple of metres and poorly maintained (I hate them) but if you are in no hurry and dont have racing type rims the cycleway is probably the best option - lovely views and reserves most of the way.
When the cycleway and road meet Shellharbour Rd (17.2 km) just south of the Windang Bridge the cyclist has a choice of crossing the bridge on the road or using the footpath (it is no longer a cycleway). Personally the road is my preferred route as tangling with the fishermen illegally fishing from the narrow footpath seems the worse option.
By the way if you follow the cycleway it goes under the road on the southern side of the lake entrance and emerges in a park on the edge of the lake's entrance to the sea where Shellharbour Council has provided electric BBQs, covered tables, seats, toilets and a playground for kids, also there are swimming facilities - not a bad place to stop for a picnic.
Back to our ride - Here there are a few choices either cycle across the bridge on the narrow footpath or take to the road then once across the bridge you can cycle on the main road for about a kilometre because there is no cycleway but the road is three lanes wide and relatively safe (personally I usually stay on the road all the way to Warrawong)
The alternative is that once over the bridge you turn left and back on yourself and follow the shared path under the bridge where you will emerge onto a quiet Fern Street. Follow Fern St east to its end and turn left into Queen St which you follow north to Wattle St. At Wattle St you can turn left to pick up the cycleway at it's junction with the main road or you can turn right and follow the road round into Boundry St which will likewise take you back to the cycleway but a block further north.
If you had continued up the main road from the bridge then at Wattle St (18.7 km) the cycleway restarts on the eastern side of the road (opposite the Lake Illawarra Village sign) and continues past the Aboriginal Art Co op, and the Port Kembla Golf Course to just south of the shopping complex at Warrawong at the junction of Shellharbour Rd. Here there are now traffic lights which enable you to safely cross the main road and get onto the cycleway which takes you to Berklely.
However if you don't cross the road you can turn right and follow the cycleway behind the shopping complex it will take you through Port Kembla and on to Wollongong but that too is another story (see the Port Kembla Ride). If these last few paragraphs sound complicated just do it and you will find it all becomes clear! :-)
To continue the journey around the Lake we need to cross to the other side of
the road for the cycleway to Warrawong and the junction of King St and Northcliffe Drive
(23.8 km). Turning left into the latter (or just following the cycleway) will take us past
some covered picnic areas, past the Illawarra Yacht Club and on to Berkeley along the
northern shore of the lake literally at the waters edge most of the way. A lovely
ride on a nice day with plenty of places to stop, sit and admire the view.
Once the cycleway climbs up from the waters edge and passes the Fishermans Co-op (27.6 km) the cycleway is coming to an end. The cyclist can continue on the cycleway to the car park/recreation area (a word of warning here - I have often found this section covered in broken bottles from weekend revelries) and join the road there or get off at the entrance to the Co-op.
[It is now possible to follow the cycleway along side the lake for a bit further until you come to Hooka Point Park. This park has a council chicane at its entrance. If you follow the cycleway into this park it merely loops round and back onto itself (a pleasant enough ride in itself - see map on right), however 20 or 30 metres into the park there is now a right turn which you can follow to a bridge over the creek into Fred Finch Park on the other side, if you keep going west you will come to Hooka Creek Road which will return you to Northcliffe Drive just east of the expressway roundabout. This is a slower run than staying on the road from Berkeley but makes a nice change. There is nothing done to encourage you to use it: On the Fred Finch Park side of the bridge is a council placed chicane in this case designed to defeat an armoured brigade and your exit from the park itself is barred except on weekends though there is no difficulty for bicycles or pedestrians to walk round this.]
Northcliffe Drive is a dual carriage way with two lanes each way and a 70 kph speed limit. If you leave the cycleway at Berkeley, there is a fair climb from the Sports and Social Club but that is as bad as it gets with the road undulating until it meets up with the Princes Highway at Kembla Grange (31 km). Here bear left for a flat run back to Dapto past the Racetrack and the golf course. There is a hard shoulder but it is very rough, you are better off sticking to the inside lane, it is plenty wide enough
NB. It is possible to use the Expressway (30.1 km) back to Dapto by taking the on ramp from Northcliffe Drive and riding the wide hard shoulder - personally I find it too noisy, the highway is a more pleasant ride and there is the opportunity for a detour out to west Dapto (31.7 km).
Arriving in Dapto completes the 36 km ride.