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Byron Bay is a coastal town at the far north of New South Wales, approximately one and a half hours south of the Gold Coast and about a half-hour from Ballina airport. Byron Bay attracts over two-million visitors each year, providing different holiday offerings. Some include; remarkable beaches, hiking trails, thrill-seeking activities like skydiving and regional markets with fresh and local produce. You might also find yourself in some of the most relaxing minds, body, and soul retreats you'll ever see. The best way to be able to discover all that Byron has to offer is from behind the wheel of your car hire or motorhome.
Specific locations are a must-see when travelling around the Byron Bay area. Places like Nimbin, which is a lush hinterland town located 1 hour and 15 minutes inland from Byron Bay. Here you'll find alternative local markets, historical landmarks and delicious local eateries. If Nimbin doesn't tickle your taste buds, other local eateries surrounding Byron Bay, including the Farm, Moonshine Coffee and Bario, will have you wanting to come back again and again. Enough about food! About eleven minutes and 2.5 kilometres off the coast of Byron Bay, you'll find Julian Rocks Nguthungulli Nature Reserve. The marine life in this area is unbelievably amazing and is home to many species, including humpback whales from May to September. Scuba diving is a prevalent activity in this area.
With so many activities to see and do in Byron Bay, it's time to hit the road and see what else we can discover on our way to Sydney. Instead of driving the usual coastal route from Byron to Sydney, we are going to take you on a country road trip, detailing some of the most incredible sights, accommodation advice and our 'go-to' campsites, for those avid motorhome travellers & campers.
Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
The first leg of our country road trip stretches 170 km, taking you through rich national park regions passing Iluka, Yamba and Woody Head camping grounds. Our first stop, Grafton, is on the banks of the Clarence River, which is a part of the east coast of Australia's largest river system. Grafton is home to classic country style pubs, historical buildings and an enchanting floral festival. Each year during spring, you'll see the stunning Jacarandas in full bloom, this is also when Grafton hosts its iconic Jacaranda Festival. Travel along the Gwydir Highway from Grafton, and turn south onto Old Glen Innes Road, which is about 8 km from Grafton, where you'll come to the Nymboida National Park. The park offers a load of activities for everyone to enjoy, such as; wilderness trekking, pristine bushland hikes and trails and canoeing the rapids.
There are several options when it comes to choosing accommodation. Grafton offers up quaint cottages on the river and rooms in historic pubs to motels, B&Bs, farm stays and holiday parks. There are also many secluded campgrounds along the river or in untouched bushland.
Accommodation: Ithaca Holiday Home Clarence Rover Bed & Breakfast
Caravan & Campsites: Nymboida River Campground & Big River Holiday Park
Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
As we continue our road trip south to Armidale, we're going to make a pit stop at Dorrigo National Park. A World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest; this spectacular park will have you walking, hiking, bird watching, and simply falling in love with Australia all over again.
Throughout the National Park, there is something for everyone. The scenic waterfall drive will take you up close and personal to the falls of the park, passing river valleys and waterfalls. We suggest taking your time here; they are truly breathtaking views. Directly connected to the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre in the National Park is the Skywalk lookout. The lookout rests at the edge of a mountain, allowing travellers to take in the sights of the Bellinger Valley below. If birdwatching is of interest, look out for regent bowerbirds, topknot pigeons and grey goshawks.
Arriving into Armidale, you'll find that it's an elegant regional city with a 19th-century church feel, however, mixed with trendy modern cafes and restaurants. While you're here check out the New England Art Museum, craft breweries and wine tasting, and if time permits you the Wollomombi Falls. This area of New South Wales is very well known for its fresh produce so be sure also to check out the local Armidale Farmers Markets, held on the second Sunday of the month.
Accommodation: Powerhouse Hotel Armidale & Glenhope B&B Farm stay
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Now, this section of our drive is going to get your inner country going. Driving on through to Tamworth - the country capital of Australia, you'll come across pretty towns of the Northern Tablelands, including Uralla, Guyra and Inverell, all of which are well known for galleries and museums, nature and national parks and food and drink. You'll find quite a few scenic drives showing off all the local produce, including eucalyptus and fine wool. We are continuing onto Tamworth - the home and soul of Australian country music! Tourists, along with local and international musicians, flock to the region for the world-famous country music festival each year. Looking for a good photo op? Check out the Big Golden Guitar - you'll be feelin' real country then.
Tamworth offers some spectacular options for the 'foodies' out there, whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner. We have selected some of our favourites and highly recommend them if you're in the area.
Breakfast: Hopscotch Restaurant
Lunch: The Pig and Tinder Box
Dinner: Riviera Bar & Grill
If you have the chance as well, make sure you schedule your road trip around the 10-day Taste Tamworth, which generally begins in April. The festival is a celebration of all things, food, wine and local produce - a festival not to be missed.
You've not experienced it all if you haven't been to the country rodeo at the Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre, one of the finest equine venues in the world. The site hosts more than 50 events per year from show jumping to agility dogs. It's an excellent environment to see just how beautiful our Australian livestock animals are.
Safe to say that once you've finished with Tamworth, you'll leave with such an appreciation for all things country.
Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Today will mostly be a day of driving to get to our next destination, however, be on the lookout for some good rest stops along the way, including; Coolah and Dunedoo. Both these small towns offer different activities for all kinds of travellers, whether you're into bushwalking, fine arts or crafts, or if you're a stargazer, either one of these gorgeous towns will have something on offer for you. With so much to see and do in the lively regional city of Dubbo, we've listed some of the standout activities that will have you falling in love with Dubbo right from the beginning. For starters, there's the Old Dubbo Gaol, Wellington Caves, and the local Cultural Centre. For a truly unique experience, Taronga Western Plains Zoo not only has a fantastic selection of wildlife, but they also offer accommodation where you can experience eco-lodges and African style glamping, how could you say no! A fan of adventure and sports; then there are also cycle paths, kayaking, fishing, and waterskiing fun to be had in Dubbo.
With plenty of events to keep everyone in the family entertained right throughout the whole year, there is never a set time to visit Dubbo - anytime is a good time!
Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Early morning rise, coffee and local bakery items ready to go, we are onto the next part of our drive to the Central Tablelands region of New South Wales. There are some genuinely beautiful sights of the state found right here in Orange, such as; Cook Park, the Botanic Gardens and Mount Canobolas. Think of yourself as a bit of a sommelier at heart; there are a few wineries to try out along the way. A couple of our favourites are; Orange Mountain; offering a cellar door experience highlighting a delicious range of white, red and dessert wines. Montoro Wines; offer a selection of cool climate wines based on the location, not to mention, they provide the perfect scenery to some delicious wine tasting. Rowlee Wines are open daily and offer a hosted tasting experience as well as some tasty local produce takeaways. There are approximately 60 wineries in the Orange area, which has exploded since its beginnings in the early 1980s. From these wineries there are around about 40 cellar doors, so be sure to try as many as you can - perhaps by booking a wine tour. Spend enough time in Orange to appreciate the land and the gorgeous produce that comes with it.
Continuing onto Bathurst (still in the Central Tablelands region), this stretch of road is only a 45-minute drive which will take you through mainly farming areas. Sit back (if you're the passenger) and take the stunning views of a good country drive. Having arrived in Bathurst, the first thing to check out is the food. The Bathurst region yields some of the highest quality products and local eateries. Monthly, the Bathurst Farmer's Market will bring all this to you for your purchase. Every day this is seen throughout the local fine dining restaurants, pubs and local cafes. Getting outdoors is easy with so much to see, and we highly recommend checking out Mount Panorama; an icon of Australian motorsport, but mainly the view from the top of Mount Panorama is exquisite. Abercrombie caves is another sight to see, with picturesque walks, unique landscape and the perfect camping areas along the crystal waters of Grove Creek - the list goes on!
Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
This section of our drive is one of the most beautiful and most lush. Leaving Bathurst behind is going to be hard, however, for what's next we are sure you're going to be happy. Our drive will continue, stopping in the Blue Mountains, where you'll find the famous rock formation of The Three Sisters. The unusual rock formation representing three sisters who according to Aboriginal legend, were turned into stone; the iconic attraction is experienced by millions of people each year. Scenic World, Jenolan Caves and the Glenbrook Cinema are also a few additional attractions to visit while you are here. In the smaller but vibrant township area of Katoomba, you'll come across some, novel boutique cafes and bakeries, vintage and antique shops, plus some lovely classic pubs with delicious menus to try. Dine with a view at The Lookout or try the Station Bar & Woodfire Pizza.
Once you've completed your travel adventures in Katoomba, it's only a short 1.5-hour drive into the Sydney CBD, where you can get lost all over again.
If you need more time in The Blue Mountains, we understand. Here are some additional accommodation options for you:
This 'born to be country' road trip offers something for everyone and provides the unique experience that we all should be having, giving something for every sense; sight, taste, smell, sound and touch. If it's not already on your holiday hit list, be sure to add it now. Happy travels & safe driving.
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