Take a Remarkable Journey in NSW… Touring the Open Road

Explore the Open RoadJourneys across New South Wales are free-spirited, free-wheeling adventures that allow travellers to explore at their own pace. Visitors will discover a world of natural treasures, stunning views, wildlife, national parks, uncrowded beaches, charming country towns and some of Australia’s best wineries.

Quaint country towns offer a wonderful and often quirky insight into NSW’s history and lifestyle. From a shop that specialises in cuckoo and grandfather clocks and a pub where you play a strange game with a potato to a golf course frequented by koalas, the state’s roads deliver some surprising and unexpected places. Between the wineries, the beaches and the hearty regional dining you’ll find delightful, out-of-the-way attractions and spots to spend the night.

Coastal drives and legends

Whether you head north or south out of Sydney, the coast and hinterland is spectacular. Take the Pacific Coast Touring Route and head north right up to the Tweed - there’s much to see along the way. Diversions and historical fascinations en route include Trial Bay near Kempsey, where German prisoners of war in World War I were locked up at night but allowed out onto the beach by day.

Smokey Cape LighthouseModern day highlights on the Route include a beer at the Sea Breeze Hotel in the sleepy coastal town of South West Rocks and a visit to Smoky Cape Lighthouse for breathtaking ocean vistas. Pass through the wonders of the Coffs Coast for a spot of white water rafting before taking the turn to Bangalow, stopping at Café Ate for a freshly baked muffin.

Head south from Sydney across the sinuously superb Sea Cliff Bridge and you’ll reach the historic town of Berry. Surrounded by rich dairy country at the foot of the coastal escarpment, Berry boasts a fabulous sourdough bakery, antique emporiums and providores selling organic produce. Here you’ll find Cuckoo Corner which houses an imposing selection of ticking grandfather and cuckoo clocks. For something more portable, try a donut. The piping hot donuts sold by the Berry Donut Van are cooked to order and are something of a local legend.

Heading further south you’ll drive through fishing villages and verdant green valleys.  You’ll pass lush forests and pastures with glimpses of breathtaking shoreline to the glittering blue expanse of Jervis Bay and the town of Huskisson, renowned for dolphin and whale sightings.

Any visit to Jervis Bay must include a beer at the Husky Pub with the locals and lunch at Locavore who serve the best of local produce all sourced within 100-miles. If you’re staying the night you really can’t go past the quaint, colourful Hyam’s Beach Seaside Cottages which are just a stone’s throw from some of the world’s whitest sands.

Brilliant Rainforest drives

Beautiful Forests and CoatlineRainforests make for grand driving and New South Wales houses a rich and lush array. The Tweed Valley in the state’s north is second only to the Daintree in biodiversity. The Rainforest Way, a series of short loop drives heading into World Heritage-listed forest, winds through this region. The town of Murwillumbah, at the base of dramatic Mount Warning, is surrounded by no fewer than five World Heritage National Parks.

The centrepiece of this rich region is the ancient caldera of Mount Warning, which Aboriginal people call Wollumbin. The sun touches the volcano each day before anywhere else on the Australian continent. Its lofty summit gazes down on World Heritage-listed rainforests,emerald green dairy farms, tea plantations, wetlands, farmland, fabulous beaches, sugarcane plantations and the Tweed and Oxley rivers.

Local place names conjure excitement: Mount Jerusalem, Mount Warning, Nightcap National Park, The Pinnacle and Doon Doon. Minyon Falls plunges over 100 metres from Nightcap to the valley floor. Nearby lies Nimbin, said to be the resting-place of Warrajum, the Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent.  It’s better known for the alternative lifestyle pioneered by hippies in the 1970s and now celebrated in the Aquarius Festival.

Mountain magic

In the state’s north, the Gondwana Rainforest Reserves of Australia, a World Heritage-listed series of eight distinct groups of parks and reserves between Newcastle and Brisbane, offer striking mountain views. On the Kamilaroi Highway into the state’s west, you pass the rugged mountain ranges of the Nandewars, remnants of a volcano that formed about 18 million years ago. 

The Blue Mountains combines exhilarating driving with tempting places to stop. The Greater Blue Mountains Drive, which starts just 90 minutes west of Sydney by road, is one of Australia’s finest touring routes including 18 discovery trails branching off the main route, each taking travellers on a different adventure.

One of the great Blue Mountains drives leads to Jenolan Caves, Australia’s most spectacular limestone cavern system.The road actually passes through the aptly named Grand Arch, a vast natural land form 24 metres high, 55 metres wide and 127 metres long. The first European to discover these awesome caves was escaped convict and bushranger James McKeown. He was later recaptured and, on his release many years later, returned to his cave haunts – only to find they had become a tourist attraction. Or so the legend goes.

This region offers a wealth of adventure activities, art and craft galleries, fine dining, stylish shopping and romantic escapes in grand country lodges or cosy bed and breakfasts. The region’s best-known rock formation is The Three Sisters, a trio of pinnacles best viewed from Katoomba, the largest of 26 mountain towns. Two cable cars, the world’s steepest railway and kilometres of elevated boardwalk are among the attractions. Don’t miss awesome Scenic Skyway, Cableway and Walkway. Stately private gardens open their gates to visitors during garden festivals in spring and autumn. Mount Tomah Botanic Garden is a celebrated cool-climate home toover 5000 species.

Explore World Heritage National Parks

Walls of China at Sunset, Mungo National ParkWentworth, a laid-back old inland riverport on the confluence of the Murray and Darling rivers, is a good starting point for exploring Mungo National Park, part of the ancient Willandra Lakes System. Willandra, a region charged with mysterious fascination, is on the World Heritage List. Archeologists have found evidence of human occupation here dating from 45-60,000 years ago – along with well-preserved fossils of giant marsupials.

An eerie sense of timelessness pervades the Walls of China, sand and clay dunes carved by wind and water over millennia, an extraordinary landscape studded with ancient burial sites. A self-guided 70kmdriving tour covers much of the park, or take the 10km drive starting andending at the visitor centre. To get the feel of Mungo’s pastoral heritage, why not stay in the old shearers’ quarters? Book ahead if you want to do that. Another option is to cycle around the Walls of China. Mungo has several cycling tracks.

An ideal World Heritage environment forcycling is Lord Howe Island. Bicycles are a popular, hassle-free and environmentally friendly way of exploring this isolated yet accessible island, known for its ability to revitalise, de-stress and calm the soul. For truebliss, book a massage and spa treatment after your day’s walking and cycling. Lord Howe Island is one of just four island groups in the world possessing World Heritage status and the only one of its kind in Australia. Visitor numbers to Lord Howe are restricted, giving all guests the opportunity to view prolific bird and marine life and to discover the world’s most southerly coral reefs.

Pitt stops with a difference

Civilised touring requires stops foreating, preferably in distinctive establishments. The Silverton Hotel near Broken Hill is one of these. It offers a pub lunch in a quirky Outback spot often used as a film and TV location. Guests are sometimes invited to take “the Silverton Test”, a strange game which involves balancing a potato on top of your head and dropping it into a funnel placed down the front of your trousers.The first person to do this three times receives a free beer and the others make a modest donation to charity.

On the South Coast, Tuross Boatshed at Tuross Head, also known as O’Briens Boatshed, is a local legend, serving sublime fish and chips by the water’s edge – with views to die for. And foodies are flocking to Bannister’s at Mollymook to dine at Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant which celebrates the freshest local produce including Merimbula oysters.

If you’re in Wollongong and fancy a beer, check out Five Islands Brewing Company boutique beer-lover’s paradise. You can choose between Dapto Draught, unfiltered Snowboard Hefeweizen, Bulli Black, Porter Kembla, Belgian-style Longboard, Parkyn’s Shark Oil (named after a former local shark catcher) and Pig Dog, a classic European-style pilsner. All are brewed on site. Pig Dog was the nickname of the brewery’s managing director Michael Bolt when he played rugby league with the local team, the Illawarra Steelers.

Take the adventurous route

Coastal RouteThe Kamilaroi Highway, the most direct route from the Great Divide to the Great Outback, runs from Willow Tree, just south of Tamworth, to the back of Bourke.

Spend as long as you like getting to Bourke and treating yourself on arrival to a slap-up lunch at the Back o’ Bourke Café. There’s plenty to see on the way. In Gunnedah, urban koalas regularly roam the streets.  About 40 of the animals are living in town; they sometimes stroll the Gunnedah Golf Course. When a koala takes up position in a river red gum across the road from the Gunnedah Visitor Information Centre, the centre hangs out a “Koala in tree today” sign.  A team of volunteers alerts the centre with koala sightings.

The Kamilaroi Highway heads to Lightning Ridge, full of quirky attractions and equally quirky – and colourful - opalminers.  There are several opal fields in NSW but Lightning Ridge, 75km north of Walgett, is something else.

Lightning Ridge is legendary, the only place in the world where the shimmering and sublime black opal is mined in quantity and sold in the rough. People journey here from around the world to find their fortunes and many do, as might you. The cash flow at the local bank is rumoured to be the largest in Australia. Whether you strike it rich or not,you can’t miss the sense of community that thrives in the town’s harsh desert conditions, flourishing under the blazing sun. Relax in the therapeutic mineralised waters of the Lightning Ridge Bore Baths.

At Cuddie Springs, south of Brewarrina, stone axe handles have been found more than 30,000 years old. That sort of time-span– mind-boggling in most of the world – is common place around here. Giant kangaroos and enormous wombats roamed this area in prehistoric times. Aboriginal fish traps – complex stone systems in the Brewarrina’s Barwon River– are estimated to be over 40,000 years old.


For more information go to sydney.com