Cities of Perth, Subiaco and Nedlands, Town of Claremont, Shire of Peppermint Grove, Department of Environment and Conservation
The stretch of river from the Perth CBD to UWA is a tremendously popular commuter and recreation route.
Matilda Bay, with its lawns, trees, gazebos and views to the city over Royal Perth Yacht Club is a beautiful spot to while away a few hours in or out of the sun. The journey down to Tawarri Reception Centre through sporting fields and into suburban Nedlands and Dalkeith is interesting enough.
What lets this ride down is lousy paths through what are so often gushingly described as "Perth's premier suburbs". The Premier may live one of them but he evidently doesn't ride a bike. If you're planning to take your kids for a ride you can forget the northern Riverside Drive section, it simply comes too close for comfort to four lanes of fast moving traffic. Once you enter the City of Subiaco, DEC managed Matilda Bay Reserve the path standard takes a bit of a dive. The rest of the facilities are fantastic though; along with the usual free barbecues, there are the Matilda Bay Tearooms for casual meals, coffees and ice-creams as well as the high end Matilda Bay Restaurant. The once infamous Crawley toilets are now supplemented by a second set of toilets housed in a building that parades it's architectural street cred in an obvious position - you'll be forgiven for imagining that you're looking at the tearooms as you approach!
Once across Australia II Drive the paths head south, literally and metaphorically. They're awkwardly narrow and meandering and determinedly free of any directional signage. If you're prepared to ride on the road you can avoid this whole catastrophe by using the on-road lane that follows busy Hackett Drive from Mounts Bay Road round to The Avenue. Things will be faster smoother and less confusing, but also further from the river.
Either way, unless you're on a training mission you'll want to aim for The Esplanade which means taking your first left once you're on The Avenue. Turn right onto The Esplanade or gothrough the carpark and turn right on the narrow riverside path. Follow The Esplanade to one of two paths that lead up to Birdwood Parade. The first is just at the north corner of Flying Squadron Yacht Club, the second is off the Tawarri car park. These two can be ridden up, the first is less steep than the second. You can stick to the river for another very pleasant kilometer but you'll have to lug your bike up about 30 steps to Iris Avenue which takes you onto Jutland Parade.
Birdwood Parade is quiet and wide. Elevated views across Melville Water to the south are paired with views of exclusive real estate to the north. The point at which Birdwood turns into Jutland Pde is marked by Sunset Hospital heritage site which, aside from its recent use as the set for the filming of the Tim Winton's story Cloudstreet, has stood empty since 1995.
At the western end of Jutland Pde is Point Resolution Reserve, a fine a place as any to watch an afternoon yacht race. Facilities are limited here. As in there's a car park. And some steps to the river.
This section of Perth's main round the river ride is marked by an almost total absence of cycling infrastructure. It's all fine if you're an experienced rider used to mixing it with traffic, the following advice is for casual recreation riders.
The on-road painted cycle lane that follows Victoria Ave as it winds it's way around the north side of Freshwater Bay is as good as it gets. And even that ain't real good; it only operates as a cycle lane for a couple of hours a day on weekdays. The rest of the time it's primary purpose is car park. The signage governing this Clayton's bike path is thin on the ground and inconsistent between Claremont and Dalkeith. Enforcement seems limited to the narrow stretch west of Bayview Terrace.
Footpaths through this area are narrow and can be bumpy and gappy.
The on-road bike lane conks out just where you need it; the road becomes busier as you approach Stirling Highway on Queenslea Drive. An option here is to cross just after the Claremont Yacht Club driveway and get to the highway on the very quiet Freshwater Parade.
Having said that, weekend traffic on this section is generally pretty light. Of course it's a different story once you hit Stirling Highway. There's a good section of footpath up past Christ Church Grammar and Methodist Ladies College. Then you'll be negotiating the pavers again, only for a couple of blocks though; you should take a left up Richardson Avenue. Following Richardson will take you round "Devils Elbow" and on to The Esplanade. Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club is at the bottom of the hill. The nice people at the bar there will sell you a beer, which when consumed overlooking the bay from the RFBYC hilltop will conspire to give you a feeling of wellbeing. If you don't fancy imbibing the nice people at the nearby Kiosk will sell you an ice-cream or any manner of basic café fare. There are also free barbecues, a playground and public toilets here.
Getting there by bike is easy and there are plenty of options; from points north the cycle path that runs through the city adjacent to Parliament House drops you at the Narrows. From points east you'll want to get yourself onto the Riverside Drive path west of Barrack St Jetty. If you're starting at Mosman Bay the best access is via the riverside roads and paths from North Freo. The alternative is to come in from the coast or Curtin Avenue, just aim for Mosman Park Station and follow the directions below.
By car from the northern end is a bit trickier. Parking at Barrack St Jetty is hard to jag and time limited. Access from The Old Swan Brewery carpark across Mounts Bay Road involves using two lifts. Matilda Bay parking is again time limited and its popularity and proximity to the University of WA mean it's often very busy. You may fare better starting this ride from street parking in Claremont, one of the river reserves between there and Resolution, or if you're contemplating a cycle path only ride, park at Tawarri and head back toward the city.
Train access from the Perth end is good, just organise yourself to get off at Esplanade Station, the river is a hop skip and a jump away to the south. At the western end, Claremont Station is the closest to the river; Bayview Terrace is is on the south side of the station and runs straight down to the River and Victoria Avenue. Mosman Park Station is the closest to this ride's end at Keanes Point. Cross Stirling Highway at the Glyde St lights and head one block head north up the footpath to Stuart St, turn right onto Stuart, 1st left on Monument, 1st right on Willis, left on Harvey, right on Swan, go to the end of Swan and then left on Palmerston and right on Johnstone St. It's the flattest, quietest route to or from the end point.