Australian road trip

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wardell Bridge, Australia

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.

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Nature’s wonderland

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.

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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.

Road trips

Ballina, Australia

We thoroughly recommend a road trip to the Ballina coast and hinterland of eastern Australia.

This part of sub-tropical northern Australia is close to the heart of generations of Aussies, for whom the annual summer beach holiday was something of a rite of passage.

These memories, in many ways, are part of the Australian makeup: reassuring recollections of time spent in tried and tested holiday areas.

Diversifying to remain relevant

And, despite the challenges of modern motorways and cheap overseas flights, the Ballina coast and hinterland has maintained its attraction to visitors by diversifying into an eclectic blend of old and new.

imageBallina’s lure for holidaymakers remains as strong as ever.

The remarkable sunsets go on forever and the area remains blessed with long stretches of pristine beach and charming riverland, ideal for boating, fishing, surfing and other outdoor activities.

But Ballina also recognises that natural beauty and superb climate needs to be accompanied by a vibrant community, diverse economy, high quality facilities – and even a taste for the exotic.

There’s a theory that a key to economic growth lies in attracting creativity. If that’s so, then Ballina coast and hinterland – and in fact, much of the Australia’s legendary Pacific Coast – is way ahead of the game and is showing the rest of the country a thing or two about creativity and cultural diversity.image

A food paradise

For example, Ballina coast and hinterland has gained an enviable reputation as a foodies paradise, with some of the finest local produce imaginable, including plenty of fresh seafood, macadamia nuts, avocados, honey, hydroponically-grown tomatoes, fresh vegetables and even coffee.

Local restaurants and cafes, where possible source their products locally, with an emphasis on freshness and quality.

For example, the cafe at The Macadamia Castle – a popular local tourist attraction – uses colour coding on its menu to show which products are grown in the Ballina area.

Ballina’s seafood is known for its high quality and the town’s Fish Co-op plays an important role in the local economy.image

Arts, crafts, healthcare and leisure

And then there’s the area’s thriving arts and music scenes. From world-class pottery to performing arts and theatre, Ballina Coast and Hinterland oozes cutting edge creativity.

Surrounded by such natural beauty and peacefulness, it’s probably only logical that the area would also become a magnet for those seeking health and wellbeing. The hinterland and surroundings have become well known for retreats and spas, including the famed Gaia facility at Brooklet, part-owned by entertainer, Olivia Newton-John.

This complements the Ballina coast and hinterland’s healthcare industry and strong outdoor flavour, where visitors and residents can get up close and personal with nature on a kayak tour, cycling on a modern network of paths, or trying their hand at Stand Up Paddleboarding on Lake Ainsworth.

Strong community support

All this needs excellent community facilities and assistance, which is where Ballina Shire Council comes in, helping to generate the final ingredients – thriving commerce, social services and a fierce community pride.

And to top it off, today’s sweeping highways can get you to the Ballina Coast and Hinterland in greater safety and with far less stress than ever – well within a day’s travel north from Sydney and just over two hours south of Brisbane.

Thoughts of a retro holiday at Ballina Coast and Hinterland may well tug at the heartstrings, but this fascinating area also offers visitors so much more than just the beach scenes from those faded black and white snapshots.

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