In Part One of our new series starting today, road trip guru Lee Atkinson shares her tips for the best road trips and driving holidays from each Australian capital city. And we’re setting off from Sydney.
Legendary Pacific Drive to Port Macquarie
For many of us, a drive along the NSW north coast is a blur lost in the rush of getting from A to B, but detour off the highway on to the coastal byways and you’ll soon find there are much more than roadhouses and petrol stations to see along the way.
From Sydney, head north on the Pacific Motorway (formally called the F3 Freeway). After a couple of hours of cut-and-thrust traffic you’ll be ready for a break, so take the turn off to the twin towns of Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest, just north of Newcastle and the Hexham Bridge. There is a koala sanctuary here and you’ll often spot koalas roaming the village streets, as well as a resident pod of dolphins that is often seen from the beaches.
Follow the coastal road to Mungo Brush in Myall Lakes National Park. This shady, lakeside clearing is a great place to stretch the legs, unpack a picnic or go for a paddle.
The road rejoins the highway near Bulahdelah but don’t stay on it for long – the Lakes Way to Forster winds through Bulahdelah State Forest and along the shores of Myall Lake. Turn off, instead, to Seal Rocks and stroll up to Sugarloaf Lighthouse on the point overlooking the beach. In winter, there’s a good chance you’ll spot a whale or two.
Take the ‘back way’ to Port Macquarie along the coast road from Kew through Laurieton to Port Macquarie. In Laurieton, drive up to the lookout on North Brother Mountain or follow the riverwalk along the Camden Haven River and watch the pelicans swoop down to steal fishy scraps from the fishermen (and women) cleaning their catches. Enjoy views of one wild wave-washed beach after another almost all the way from Laurieton to Port Macquarie as the road curls across headlands, and skirts the shores of Lake Cathie (pronounced ‘cat-eye’). In spring, the bushland beside the road is carpeted with Christmas bells and flannel flowers.
Meandering along these coastal byways might add a couple of extra hours to the trip (if you stick to the highway, it’s around a four-hour drive from the northern outskirts of Sydney to Port Macquarie) but it puts the fun back into the holiday drive.
Find out more at www.pacificcoast.com.au
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Day tripper: Grand Pacific Drive to Wollongong
Grand Pacific Drive is a cliff-hugging scenic route that meanders along the coastline just south of Sydney. Soak in the views from Stanwell Tops then wind along the edge of the cliffs, 50 metres out to sea on the famous cantilevered Sea Cliff Bridge between Coalcliff and Clifton, before beach-hopping all the way to Wollongong.
Find out more at www.grandpacificdrive.com.au
Do you have a favourite road trip from Sydney? Or have you taken Lee’s suggestions? Why not share your experience with our members?