It was only a matter of time until the most happening place in Australian mountain biking would spawn a cool coastal cousin. One hour east from Derby is a stretch of stunning beaches renowned world-wide, and later this year, you’ll be able to ride a brand new 44km trail.
built by gurus World Trail from the Blue Tier, right to that very famous white sand.
You may not have heard of St Helens up until now, but surely the names Bay of Fires or Binalong Bay ring a bell. OR what if we showed you pictured of brightly coloured orange rocks clustered around the whitest sand and piercing blue water? These iconic beaches in Binalong Bay draw crowds of tourists from all over the world, it’s worth it too, we found it to be an awe-inspiring place and one of the most photogenic places we’ve been to. Lucky we weren’t shooting on film, we’d be broke already. This town is about to become the newest destination in the booming Tasmanian mountain bike scene.
Watch the full video preview of St Helens below!
With trail building elite at the helm, the trails are guaranteed to feel brilliant to ride, that’s a given. World Trail are masters at their craft from start to finish, their reputation is of high regard. Many of the trail builders digging are the same workers that sculpted the creative and crafty flowing trails in Derby, so you can expect to feel that buzz when you’re in the zone, shooting through the singletrack with confidence and flow.
We visited the region just after the Enduro World Series in Derby in May (OMG, Party in the woods!) and the World Trail crew stopped just short of blindfolding us as we drove to the unfinished trails. We’ve been sworn to secrecy about their exact location for now.
As it was still under construction, the team was busy building (it’s still very early days, with stage one opening in November 2019) our plan was to check out just two sections of the trail; the final 8km descent to the beach, and another section up in the hills above.
In a nutshell.
The St Helens development has two main parts:
- A 44km Wilderness ride (yet to be named) from Poimena high on the Blue Tier down to Swimcart Beach in Binalong Bay.
- A 66km network of trails close to St Helens with multiple loops, and varying difficulty grades including shuttle accessed descending trails.
A 44km ride from The Blue Tier to the Beach! Crikey, that’s huge!
Oh yes, this is an amazing project. The 44km trail will be an epic wilderness ride, passing through three distinct zones of vegetation, it’ll be like travelling through a Tasmanian flora and fauna eco time warp on two wheels. From the Blue Tier’s lush and green wilderness, down to drier eucalypt forests with a bright white decomposed granite surface and towering boulders, there’s a lot to take in. Many areas that this track passes through are untouched by man, with no history of farming, mining or logging too.
It’s not a 44km descent, there will be climbing and traversing along the way, but with Poimena sitting around 750m above sea level, there’s plenty of elevation to drop. As all good rides do, this one finishes with a descent. The final 8km of the trail is a real hoot, snaking through super-dry terrain and granite outcrops that litter the landscape, it sounds amazing under your tyres and rolls fast.
We referred that section of trail as feeling like a cross between You Yangs, Stromlo and Beechworth. With World Trail’s team bringing their trademark flow, the trail holds its elevation as it winds towards the coast, flashing past breaks in the canopy where you can see the shimmering sea waiting for you.
Of the 44km total length, there is 34km of fresh singletrack, with 10km of existing gravel roads used. There are big berms and long swooping turns, and of course, plenty of sneaky features off the side of the trail to pop and jump off. The granite boulders make for great terrain to play with, and it feels fun to ride.
To get another taste of what riders are to expect, we snuck under the construction barriers and into a completely different world of lush green forests, dripping in moss under a thick canopy of man ferns and tall eucalypts. We could see where the dig team have scooped up the fluffy brown loamy soils, sculpting flowing trails through the rainforest into a really enjoyable trail.
While we didn’t get up to the start of the trail this time, we know it well as it’s the same beginning point as the immensely popular 18km Blue Tier wilderness ride that descends to Welborough. The terrain up there is so unique, a rain forest at a high altitude, it is so pretty and vibrant, with perfect dirt to sink your tyres into. With an alignment designed specifically to give riders opportunities to see the view, the upper parts of the track should be pretty epic.
66km of multiple loops in town: Less commitment, more shredding and shuttle options.
The 66km of trails built on the south side of St Helens town will surely be a popular spot to ride shorter loops of fresh singletrack without the commitment of a 44km epic. The trails will have varying difficulty ratings, providing scope for the keen shredders of the family or group, with plenty of trails for the beginner and intermediate riders to explore. Loops vary in length from 0.5km to a massive 23km loop for those more adventurous.
The network will be made up of 10 individual loops (50km) of IMBA grade green and blue grades of difficulty. For the more advanced, there will be more difficult trails, incorporating three descents (12km) rated from blue to black diamond grade with a shuttle drop-off that gives 360-degree views of the region.
To join the trailhead to the town of St Helens is a 4km town link trail. This will be a two-directional, multi-use (walking and riding) trail enabling people to ride from town to the trails off road.
St Helens and surrounds: So much to do when your legs are cooked.
After walking into a full-size supermarket and purchasing a fresh pokè bowl with extra wasabi, we laughed, ‘we’re not in Derby anymore’! St Helens is a very established region on Tasmania’s popular Great Eastern Drive with all of the creature comforts. It’s a place full of holiday things, laid back coastal vibes and a healthy lifestyle. Grab tasty fish and chips or fresh local oysters by the wharf, walk to waterfalls in the forest, surf great breaks, fish off the beach, eat good food, sleep, repeat.
We stayed in the Bay of Fires Bush Retreat, beautiful accommodation set back from the beach surrounded by the bush, cozy glamping style accommodation with high-quality food run by mountain bikers. In a canvas tent with two electric heaters and a powerpoint, staying there was super comfortable and the communal dining area allowed us to mingle with tourists from all over the world visiting the beaches.
We get the feeling the standard of accommodation is a lot higher than many mountain bike destinations out of the major cities in Tasmania, due to the tourism drawn to the beaches alone.
There’s a lot to be excited about with the St Helens project, it will add another world classs destination to sit alongside the major developments of Maydena and Blue Tier, and the terrain on the east coast is a lot drier, so it’ll probably be more appealing for all-year around riding. And in summer, it’s going to be an amazing place to ride and relax. As it’s only a one-hour drive to Derby, it’ll be a great option for families and groups to base out of too.
You’ll need to be well-prepared for the 44km epic, it’ll take about three or four hours to ride at a leisurely pace, with only one point around the halfway mark for refreshments and the option to scoot back to town via a short cut. We also see this trail being really appealing on an e-bike, due to the length.
The first stage of trails are due to open late this year, we can’t wait to get back there and give them a proper ride, in the meantime, put this place on your radar, it’s about to go off!
Our time in Tasmania was made possible with support from Tourism Tasmania.