The Swan River is the jewel in Perth’s crown and if you ever want to impress an overseas visitor, a ride around the river is a guaranteed way of doing it. The views are impressive. The route is littered with places to stop for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat and there are surprisingly few traffic lights or other compulsory stops along the way.
This ride is not as challenging as the rides through Perth’s hills but neither is it dead flat. On the morning I rode it, there was almost no wind to trouble me but some days it feels as though the entire ride is into a head wind. (Remember – there are no tail winds. There are only head winds, side winds and ‘wow – I’m strong today!’.)
Here’s the route that I took but there are several ways of shortening the lap. Click on the map to inspect the course more closely.
I started from the hotbed of cycling that is Maylands and the ride was nearly 80km but there are plenty of ways to abbreviate the ride and a loop of the river starting and finishing at the Narrows Bridge can be shorter than 50km.
From Maylands train station, I followed the shared path that runs alongside the train line until just after East Perth station where there is a T-junction. Turn left here and go through the small tunnel and along the path to the Windan Bridge over the Swan River. This tunnel is also a good point to meet your friends for this ride.
Over the bridge, turn left and take the path down to the river and past the Burswood golf course. If there has been recent heavy rain or high tides and the path is under water, I would recommend turning back and doing this route in reverse. The salt water in the puddles will corrode your spokes and if this section is wet, the underpass under the Causeway later on will probably be shin-deep.
Most days, however, the path is a joy to ride along and on still mornings you may be lucky enough to see a dolphin or two. Be careful of pedestrians, ducks and black swans along this path. If in doubt, slow down.
Just follow the path.
You’ll have views of Perth on your right.
The path continues along the South Perth foreshore giving you prime views of Perth’s city skyline and, depending on the season and time of day, the aroma of cooking bacon and eggs from the many free barbecues that line this area of the river. The path will eventually take you on to the South Perth Esplanade. Follow the road to the Narrows Bridge. You can cycle across the river on either side of the bridge but the far side has the better path. Cycle under the bridge and left on to the bike path. You’ll soon find yourself on the path to cross the bridge to the other side of the river.
Take the path over the Narrows Bridge.
Under the Narrows Bridge is another good spot to meet your friends for a lap of the river and from here, if you are in a big group and it’s early, you may prefer to ride on Mounts Bay Road. Otherwise, you can cycle along the bike path.
The path will take you past the old Swan Brewery buildings and toward the University of Western Australia’s main campus. At the traffic lights, follow the path left but move out on to the road at the car park driveway and follow the road along the river.
The old Swan Brewery building.
For the most part, just keep following whichever road will keep you cycling nearest to the river. You will eventually find yourself cycling through Perth’s older, more affluent suburbs. Eventually you won’t be able to follow the river any more because a couple of private schools are blocking you path and the road will bring you to a set of traffic lights on Stirling Highway. Turn left here and ride along the highway until the first left after the schools’ playing fields. Follow this road and turn left wherever there is an option to. If you do this, you will eventually start to sight the river again. There is a nice descent with a good view over Freshwater Bay. Keep following the road past the sailing club and along the river. You’ll get to a short, sharp climb. Once at the top, you may wish to have a short rest and enjoy the view.
After the climb to this point, feel free to stop and catch your breath.
As before, keep turning left wherever you can to follow the river. Eventually, you’ll come to Stirling Highway again. Ride along the highway and over the bridge. Turn left at the first lights after the bridge, then left again at the next lights and you will be on Preston Point Road. Follow this road past the sports fields and the East Fremantle Sailing Club. You’ll eventually find yourself descending toward a roundabout. Turn left here on to Point Walter Road. After the golf course, turn right at the roundabout. There’s a short climb and then a descent back down to river level. Follow Burke Drive until you come to a small cul-de-sac on your left. Take the bike path from here and follow it along the river. Look out for the blind corners – you never know who will be hurtling around them.
This chap has just gone up a short, steep climb.
Keep the river to your left and you really can’t get lost. There are a few ups and downs and plenty of big houses to cycle past. You should eventually come to the Raffles Hotel. Don’t panic – you’re not in Singapore. From here you can cross the Canning Bridge and head back to the Narrows along the freeway bike path. Or, you can continue along the route I took and go under the Canning Bridge and follow the Esplanade along the Canning River to the Mount Henry Bridge. At this bridge you can also cross the river and follow the freeway bike path back to the Narrows or continue along the Esplanade, turning left at the Leach Highway bike path then the first left after that, which will allow you to continue along the river.
Look out for salmon!
The route will eventually take you back under the Leach Highway and then over the Riverton Bridge and along Fern Road. At the end of Fern, turn left, right, right and left again to get on to Hamilton. Once over the train line, follow that back past Burswood to the Windan Bridge and you are as good as home.
This route involves a few twists and turns, so is a good one to have on the Garmin for reference. You can go to the course by either clicking on the map at the top of this article or this link.