Saturday, January 14

My way or the Pacific Highway?

In 1996 the New South Wales State Government announced plans for converting the heavily used Pacific Highway into a dual carriageway highway between Sydney and Brisbane.  The original plan called for completion of the upgrade by 2016.  Twenty year later less than 70% of the route has been upgraded.  However, construction on the remaining 230kms is finally underway.

The completed works have dramatically transformed the highway.  A once hair raising drive along the nation's Pacific coast has been transformed into a relatively relaxing long distance journey.  I last drove the highway to Brisbane in 1991.  It was an exhausting experience. Sections of the highway were truly terrifying. An endless procession of large articulated trucks crowded the road and swept past in the opposing lane with a proximity that left your heart pounding.

Over New Year period Garry and I decided to take our "new" car on a road trip. We mapped out an itinerary that took us as far north as Ballina and Mullumbimby.  Our trip saw us make two overnight stops while north and one extended stop while heading south again.

We began our journey on Boxing Day.  Garry decided an early departure was critical if we were to avoid being caught up in post-Christmas traffic chaos.  As a result, we found ourselves on the road shortly after 7am.  Garry's strategy proved the right one. Our passage through Sydney's northern suburbs passed faster than expected.  In fact we didn't encounter a single line of crawling traffic until we reached the inevitable bottleneck crossing of the Hunter River near Hexham.

Our first night was booked into the delightful Eco Cottages at Bombah Point in the Mydall Lakes National Park. This place was a real gem. The complex consists of a series of brilliantly designed boutique eco-friendly cottages nestled among gum trees on a sunny hillside. It a luxurious bush escape that made it the perfect place for resetting our watches to vacation time.

Despite the remote location we found plenty to do.  We enjoyed brunch on the water's edge at the Tea Gardens Boatshed before heading further up the coast to spend an afternoon walking to the Seal Rocks Lighthouse. At dusk we ventured out to watch bush wallabies bounding around the cottage complex's small orchard.  However, this wasn't the only wildlife on show.  We also received daytime visits from a very fat, happy goanna and a bush turkey.

 Our second night was spent in Coffs Harbour.  We booked ourselves into the Big Windmill Comfort Inn. This was another highlight.  We enjoyed dinner in beer garden at the motel's German themed restaurant. The food was excellent but the portions were small for the price we paid.  We walked the boat harbour and climbed to the summit of Muttonbird Hill for an wonderful vista along the Pacific Coast.

The following morning we spent a couple of entertaining hours at the local Marineland complex. Where else can you practice playing "catch" with a dolphin?  It then time for a classic photo at the Big Banana before we headed for Ballina, our northernmost destination.

Click here for highlights from our New Years Eve in Ballina.

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