Found yourself with a free morning in Hobart? Don't miss the opportunity to tackle the infamous Kunyani (Mt Wellington) ride. You'll need your climbing legs but the beautiful winding roads, stark alpine landscape and expansive vistas at the top are totally worth the effort. Need a bike? Check out our hire options below.
It's impossible to miss Kunyani when you arrive in Hobart. It towers over the city center, an ominous presence every which way you turn, even when it's hiding behind a veil of clouds. For the Aboriginal community, Kunyani figures prominently in their creation stories - it is the pathway to their ancestors and the spirit world, a doorway to the next stage after one dies.
You can definitely sense this as you make your way up the climb. Even with cars and tourist buses whizzing by there is a growing sense of quiet as the mountain commands increasing power the higher you journey and the more inhospitable the terrain becomes. You get a sense this is a journey that is taken with purpose - as much a spiritual endeavor as it is a journey to a physical destination. As cyclists we get to immerse ourselves and our senses in this journey in a way that could never be done in a car or bus.
Distance: Hobart to Hobart - 40km return.
Elevation: Approx. 1200m
Time: Allow 2.0 - 3.0hrs depending on fitness levels and photo stops/breaks
What to wear
Its impossible to avoid the hills in Hobart plus you'll be climbing for about 18km so, even if its a bit chilly, we recommend you start with minimal layers or items you can easily remove as you'll warm up quickly (eg. arm warmers, vest). At the top and for the descent you will definitely need extra layers so make sure you pack gloves, leg warmers, wind/water proof jacket and neckwarmer/buff in your rear pockets. Snacks and plenty of water are also essential.
Need a bike?
If you're only in Hobart for a short time or can't be bothered lugging a bike bag we recommend using Livelo to hire a bike. Livelo have a global network of bike shops which specialise in road and mountain bike hire. The bikes are high quality and come with all the add-ons including saddle bag, tube, pump, garmin mount, helmets, lights and pedals. To top things off, Livelo deliver the bike to your hotel the day before your hire starts so you can get going early the next day - no waiting around for bike shops to open!
Grab some breakfast and a coffee and you're ready to roll! From the city centre you'll spend about 5 minutes in the traffic along Macquarie Street, South Hobart before it quietens down and turns into Cascade Road. A little way along you'll spot the famous Cascade Brewery.
The Official Start - Cascade Brewery ahead
While you might be tempted to slip in for a brew, this is the official start of the climb and time to get serious! From the Brewery the road pitches to about 4-6% for about 3kms on quiet winding suburban roads before taking a right turn for another 3km through natural rainforest and a series of beautiful switchbacks.
Winding forest roads to the Pinnacle Road turnoff
On the day I did the climb the roads were pretty quiet. The shoulders on the road prior to the turn off were wide enough to accomodate cyclists however from the turn off, the roads do narrow and there isn't a marked middle line so you need to be aware of your position on the road.
The Turn Off (12kms to go)
About 7km into the climb you turn onto Pinacle Road where a rather underwhelming sign announces that the summit is (still) 12km away. By now you've well and truly warmed up, time to rip off those extra layers, drop a couple more gears and start grinding away at those kms.
Over the next 4kms the gradient pitches again to a steady 6-8%. Luckily there is plenty to distract you - the flanks of the Wellington range are clothed in relatively undisturbed old growth native forest. The rainforest floor is thick with vibrant green mosses and ferns, the air is cool and crisp, carrying a myriad of fancy bird calls and trickling mountain streams.
At the end of this section you approach a flatter, wide corner, which leads to Annie's Lookout and the site of the former Springs Hotel. The view from Annie's Lookout offers beautiful views of South Hobart and the Derwent River out to Clifton Beach and South Arm. A great photo opportunity/short breather!
The views of the Derwent River from Annie's Lookout
There's no point sugar coating the next 3km section - its a slog! You leave the rainforest behind and ride a series of long straight ramps averaging 8-10%. Some kind soul has also painted line markings on the road showing the distance to the top - not a welcome sight when you're chewing your stem and reminded you still have 9km to go! Luckily the exceptional views of Hobart emerging to your right and the towering dolerite columns of the Organ Pipes on your left will take your mind off your legs and before you know it you'll be approaching The Chalet.
The Chalet (5kms to go)
There's not much to the Chalet, its really just a little hut where you can take a breather or shelter from the weather. The clouds can roll in quickly up the steep but exposed eastern face of the mountain so there's a good chance the road is damp and the road ahead might be shrouded in mist. The road is quite exposed here as you've well and truly left the tree line behind and the vegetation thins out. From here its about another 1km until you hit the aptly named Big Bend where the road arches almost 300 degrees setting you on your final trajectory to the summit!
The Final 2kms
In my opinion, the final section to the summit is the most beautiful. Not only does the road flatten out a little but the landscape unfolds into a wide open expanse of rocky outcrops and windswept bushes. Be sure to take a moment to appreciate the ruggedness of the landscape even if your mind and your legs are just screaming "get me to the top already!!"
Rugged landscape heading toward the summit
A couple more turns and you'll spot the aerials and tourist building - you've made it to the summit. WOO HOO! A mammoth effort and you're bound to be rewarded with more than a few admiring nods/high 5s from car/bus bound tourists!
If the weather is good take as much time as you can to walk around the summit area and admire the 360 degree views of Hobart and the South West. If the weather has closed in hopefully you can find some gaps between the clouds, or just take a moment to soak in the magnificence of the mountain and the journey to get here. At 1270m above sea level its also bound to be chilly so make sure you add some layers as you cool down.
The Descent (and the Weather)
You want to be very careful on the descent down the 12km stretch of Pinnacle Road. When you're climbing you're travelling at relatively low speeds so you're not as cognisant of the lack of road shoulder and middle line marker as well as bumps and pot holes (especially in last section of the climb). With the descent this all changes. Additionally, the road for the first 4kms of the descent is very exposed so if there are high winds (especially cross winds) you need to take this into account and slow things down.
The best advice I can give is to make sure you have plenty of warm layers on as it will be very cold and to take it slow, taking particular care if the road is damp and there are winds! Remember, its not a race, the aim is just to get down safely. There are also plenty of places you can stop for a photo or breather including the Lost Freight cafe just before Annie's Lookout where you can even spoil yourself with a congratulatory coffee/pastry!
This is definitely a bucket list ride so don't pass up the opportunity when it comes your way or, better still, make it a must for your next trip to beautiful Tasmania.