Travel ian 3/10/2014

Recently we looked at a Sydney to Port Macquarie road trip and a Brisbane to Port Macquarie road trip is also a great drive.

It takes about six and a half hours to drive from Brisbane to Port Macquarie but adding a few hours can make the journey safer and more rewarding. There are lots of nice places to stop and explore en route – or even making it a two or three day trip.

For this exercise we will skim through the Gold Coast and head to the border at Tweed Heads – there’s no real discernible ‘border’, just high-rise going to low-rise.

Murwillumbah (on the Tweed) has houseboats for hire and is a good base for exploring Mt Warning and Nightcap National Parks.

A little off the highway (right) is Mullumbimby – it has a similar ‘feel’ to nearby Nimbin and has the curious boast of being the ‘Biggest Small Town in Australia’.

A little further down the highway and off to the right, on the coast, is Byron Bay. Cape Byron is the easterly most point of Australia. Byron (as the locals call it) has a lovely lighthouse, excellent beaches, lots of cafés and restaurants, good scuba diving (Seals Rocks) and an eclectic mix of people – rich retirees, hippies, backpackers, tourists, ‘ferals’ and artists.

Heading down the coast there are some lovely surfing, prawning and fishing towns – Lennox Head before Ballina and further on to Evans Head and Yamba.

The highway detours inland and passes through the picturesque town of Grafton with its 1800’s colonial architecture, jacaranda trees and cruises on the Clarence River. There’s also white water rafting and canoeing.

Heading back to the coast and you will pass through Woolgoolga which is an interesting town. It has a nice beach and a large Sikh population which explains the temples and the ladies in traditional Indian dress. A little further south are fine beaches including Sandy Beach and Emerald Beach.

Coffs Harbour is a large, friendly town and home to the Big Banana which, these days, is more a curiosity than a tourist attraction. Valla Beach is lovely and large, with a safe, sheltered, paddling spot for toddlers. Also a little off the highway is Nambucca Heads, a delightful spot for boating and watersports, and has the only island in the country set aside for a golf course, the Stuart Island Golf Club.

Macksville is a nice town on the Nambucca River on the way to Taylors Arm where the Cosmopolitan Hotel is a bit lonesome away as it claims the fame of being the inspiration for ‘Pub with No Beer’.

South West Rocks is another lovely beachside spot and the Trial Bay Gaol is a diversion worth turning off the highway to see. Sitting on the headland, it was used from 1886 to 1903 in a failed attempt to employ long-term prisoners for public works. It was later a German internment camp during World War I.

Kempsey offers Aboriginal cultural experiences and owns the factory that makes Akubra hats. You can turn right here and head to the coast to Crescent Head as many surfing types do or you can stay on the highway – from Kempsey it is only about 40 minutes to Port Macquarie.

And, of course, when you get to Port Macquarie, you have a choice of two fine places to stay, Sails Resort by Rydges at the Marina, or Rydges Port Macquarie in the CBD.

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The photo is Wategos Beach at Byron Bay (www.ByronBay.com.au) where, incidentally, your humble blogger learnt to surf - with dolphins catching the same waves. Magical!

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