I read once that everyone has travelled some part of America’s iconic Route 66 – “if only in their dreams”.
It’s certainly a similar story in Australia, the acknowledged “home of the road trip”.
Right across the continent, roads carry travellers through diverse geographical and environmental regions; linking coastal, hinterland, inland and even Outback areas.
Journeys like the Great Ocean Road; Highway One; the Nullarbor Plain: Tasmania; and Darwin-to-Uluru roll off the tongue readily.
However, Australia also has a superb network of lesser-known highways and useful ‘tourist drives’ that quickly take visitors from attraction to attraction within regions.
These drives are suitable for motorists of all ages, with towns, villages and rest areas aplenty.
In the most populous State of New South Wales, for example, well used drives include the Greater Blue Mountains Drive; the Legendary Pacific Coast; the Grand Pacific Drive from Sydney to Wollongong; and the spectacular Kosciuszko Alpine Way in the Snowy Mountains.
Other scenic drives are along the Waterfall Way on the northern tablelands of NSW; the Poacher’s Way food and wine trail; and the historic Long Paddock drive that follows the old stock routes of Country NSW. The Darling River Run takes you on a great journey into Outback NSW, travelling from Walgett in north-western NSW to Wentworth on the Victorian border.
Review of the Golden Highway
Another of our favourites is the Golden Highway, which runs east-west in New South Wales, linking the mining and winegrowing areas of the Hunter Valley with the wide open spaces of the state’s Central West.
A good example of a ‘tourist drive’ that links attractions within an Australian region is Hinterland Tourist Drive 28 that runs between the quaint Australian riverside town of Wardell – with its prominent opening bridge – and the picturesque Alstonville Plateau on the New South Wales north coast.
As it leaves the village atmosphere of Wardell, the route passes through lush rolling hill country peppered with the homes of fortunate locals.
Looking out the car windows, our envy was obvious.
In many places, the drive resembled roads in Southern England, with dense trees and vegetation from either side almost meeting overhead in a green tunnel.
Ballina Coast and Hinterland was once part of a massive rainforest known as The Big Scrub and one of the last remaining remnants can be found along the drive – at the Victoria Park Nature Reserve.
The reserve has a boardwalk – easily accessible to travellers of just about all ages – that takes you deep into impossibly tall and thick vegetation, including snaking Figs, palms and ferns.
We made use of the reserve’s picnic facilities, enjoying the cool rainforest atmosphere, the unending chorus of birds and the antics of small marsupials known as Red Necked Pademelons.
Then we rejoined Hinterland Tourist Drive 28, bound for the Summerland House Farm, at Alstonville.
This working farm – it’s produce includes macadamia nuts, avocados and hydroponically grown vegetables – is a ‘House With No Steps’ business enterprise, dedicated to providing employment opportunities for people with a disability.
Tourist Drive 39: coastal majesty
Later, we set out to follow Tourist Drive 30 from Ballina Headland and Lighthouse north to Lennox Head – and marvelled at the breath-taking coastal scenery linked by this route.
Tourist Drive 30 takes the traveller to gems such as Pat Morton Lookout, where we soaked up the view of sweeping beaches and watched para gliders soaring above the cliff tops.
These tourist drives are wonderful for visitors because they bring together a range of attractions in a relatively short and well signposted run.
Like America’s Route 66, each of these drives certainly still kick.