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Northern [NSW] Exposure (warning: image intensive!)

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by GodsPetMonkey, Apr 25, 2010.

  1. This ANZAC long weekend I decided it was time I went and visited my parents, who live in Lismore on the NSW North Coast. Now, if you have never been to Lismore you should know it is a pretty boring place (and literally a hole - a circle of hills borders it), but it does give easy access to the area which has been called 'motorcycle paradise', and for good reason too!

    Having learnt to ride in the area I knew most of the good roads, and decided I would take the opportunity on Saturday to hit some of my favourite roads which I haven't been on for a while (mostly due to them being just out of range for a day trip from Brisbane - anything south of the Casino/Lismore/Byron line is just a little too much). Listening to my iPhone, I was inspired by the Pet Shop Boys...

    Go West, Life is peaceful there
    Go West, In the open air
    Go West, Where the skies are blue
    Go West, This is what we're gonna do

    It was time to go west, sounded like a good idea (and I am glad I wasn't listening to New York City Boy). I decided on a simple route that took in a good combination of sweepers, twisties, good scenery and excellent weather (though with some slab...) - Bruxner Highway from Casino to Tenterfield; New England Highway down to Glen Innes; Gwydir Highway to Grafton.

    And now, a record of my little day trip (which came in to be over 600km), complete with photos of some areas and roads that many of you have probably never heard of!

    Lismore to Casino
    Lismore and Casino have something in common - both are pretty dull places. Sadly the roads between the two towns demonstrate this common attribute.

    I decided to take a route that for some reason I had never tried before, and I am not sure why. I guess I never bothered to look too much into how to get to Casino before, but there you go...

    The route took me via Spring Grove on the appropriately named Spring Grove Road. See the route here.

    It wasn't the most exciting of roads in the area (there are plenty of those to the north, but alas Kyogle and Murwillumbah were a little too out of the way), and the road surface, typical for the area, is something that only locals really know how to handle, but it was a pleasant enough route, and far more enjoyable then the rather dull Bruxner stretch between the towns.

    Lismore to Casino - Photos:

    Off to a picturesque start.



    The joy of quite country roads.

    This is farming country.
  2. Casino to Tenterfield
    As stated, there is little of any interest in Casino (except, perhaps, the humour value in the annual 'Beef Queen' competition). But it is the starting point for an interesting trip out to Tenterfield. The Bruxner Highway is an interesting combination of a little slab, then some enjoyable sweepers that get progressively tighter as you ascend into the hills. As you get to the top you are privy to some impressive views, before coming back down into the Upper Clarence Valley. After a few villages, which seem to follow the same formulae of a school, a pub and 20 residents, you start up into the ranges where things start to get a lot more enjoyable, the curves turn into tight corners that are that excellent combination of enough tightness that you can get in some good lean at (or below) the speed limit, but without being too tight that you spend more time using the brakes then twisting the throttle. As an added bonus the road surface doesn't leave you constantly trying to ignore the lack of rear end stability. You then start to descend down to Tenterfield with a few final sweepers to finish the run off, before a spectacular entry to the town itself.

    You can check out the route here, but it is a pretty easy one to find and follow.

    Casino to Tenterfield - Photos:

    Note: Very large image!
    180 degree view from atop the Bruxner Highway

    Plenty to sweep after you get past the early post Casino slab


    Somewhere over there is Queensland - Looks pretty good from here!

    Tabulam; Population - small

    Fuel is a little different out here

    The small village of Drake is the last thing you see before you hit the best part of this route - and it's a popular stop for bike because of it

    Going up...

    and up...

    New surface = more fun

  3. Casino to Tenterfield - Photos (continued):


    Just outside Tenterfield

    The only way to enter town!
  4. Tenterfield to Glen Innes
    Heading to Glen Innes from Tenterfield means a trip south along the New England Highway.

    The New England is not a particularly exciting ride, and this stretch is no exception - there is a few B grade sweepers (which require you to risk your licence to enjoy - not a smart prospect on a double demerits weekend). Too make up for it, there is some enjoyable scenery, but I found it hard to capture in stills (enjoyable when moving though!). As an added bonus, as this route remains vastly more interesting then the Pacific Highway, you will run into plenty of motorcycle tourers heading up and down - and they are amongst the friendliest people on the road. If you see a couple of tourers stopped by the road, pull up and say high, you might get a free snack and tea/coffee out of it.

    Luckily, it's not a long trip, and took me less than an hour to cover the distance. You can find the very easy to follow route here.

    Tenterfield to Glen Innes - Photos:

    Note: Very large image!
    Wide shot of Bluff Rock


    It looks even better in motion

    Glen Innes has plenty of nice old country buildings - here is the post office. I could spend the better part of a day taking snapshots around this small town

    It also has a set of suspiciously modern looking standing stones!

    What the New England Highway lacks in excitement it makes up for in bugs
  5. Glen Innes to Grafton
    The slab down the New England Highway is worth it for travelling on the Gwydir. I could easily have turned around at Tenterfield and been quite content heading back by the Bruxner Highway again - but this road is an odd one, it combines subtropic scenery, a bit of wilderness, some great sweepers, and a rapid fire section of twisties. And it seems very few, except locals, know about it - I always find the road pretty much empty! Which is great, because if more people used it the local constabulary would end up ruining the flow through some great stretches!

    Starting out from Glen Innes, the road quickly becomes what the New England should be. Still the same gentle rolling hills with paddocks and dry eucalypt forest patches, only now with a set of excellent broad smooth sweepers, the sort where you have excellent visibility and they just keep going on and on!

    But it doesn't take long for things to start to change. There is a sudden transition from eucalypt to proper subtropical rain forest as you enter the Barool National Park. With it the road closes in as you are suddenly encased in a green tunnel of old trees and ferns, but the road remains excellent with more of the same in condition, and a total lack of moss and debris which all too often ruin roads in subtropical paradise.

    As you ascend up into Washpool National Park you approach the best bit of the road as you are presented with a crazy quick stretch of tight curves on some excellent quality road - sadly if you get stuck behind a car it can ruin the whole experience. This is one of those places where the performance of two wheels so clearly outshines anything else - you are switching direction so quickly and at such speed it makes locals who drive this road every day gasp! It is also a section worth taking the time to do a few times (and I did - I went back up and down 3 times! It added an hour to my journey, but it was worth it).

    As you come down from the subtropical mountains you get a new visual treat as you join the Mann River. It makes for some pristine views, with some fast moving sweepers to enhance it all. The subtropics start to give away to green farmland, and as you approach Grafton the road starts to lose its edge, but by this point I was plenty pleased anyway.

    Check out the route here.

    Glen Innes to Grafton - Photos:

    Note: Very large image!
    A brilliantly constructed hairpin on the Gwydir - 25km/h for 4 wheeled mortals, significantly faster for 2-wheelers with a clear run
    *I wanted to get some more photos of this part of the road, but sadly there was not many places where it was safe to pull over.... and I was having too much fun enjoying myself*







    View from atop the Washpool National Park stretch
  6. Glen Innes to Grafton (part 2 - the Mann river)

    Note: Very large image!
    A view along the Mann River

    The first view of the Mann River you get on your way down the mountain





    I am not the biggest fan of Graton - it is pretty during the Jacaranda festival, but otherwise I tend to avoid it except as a fuel stop. On this ride I should have skipped it as a fuel stop too, but I was in need of a top up. I was reminded, however, why I don't like to hang around the place too much, something about the people I guess...

    Having stopped for fuel at a convenient BP, I was inside paying while a 4WD finished filling up from the bowser behind me. It seems the driver of this vehicle had decided that they didn't want to pay for the $100 or of premium fuel they had just put in their car, and decided to take a hasty escape. My poor bike was on its centre stand with the bars at right lock, as the 4WD quickly flew out of the petrol station it decided to take a souvenir to remind itself of its criminal escapades and clipped my right mirror, snapping it clean off. Bastard.

    I guess I am lucky, a few cms to the left and he would have taken my whole bike with him. Had I put the bars on a left lock the result wouldn't have been much better. It's only a new right mirror, but it is still infuriating, and a crappy end to a great day. I had planned on taking the Clarence Way back to the Bruxner Highway near Casino, but with the loss of my mirror, and as it was starting to get late in the afternoon, I instead decided to take the boring route of the Pacific Highway back up towards Lismore. On the way I discovered just how much I use my right mirror - ah bugger.

    Damage done

    One right mirror destroyed (bastard 4WDs)

    One chain in need of replacement (by the end of the trip it had stretched to the point that it was slapping the centre stand on deceleration! After adjustment the wear indicator has been passed)

    One rear of tire getting closer and closer to retirement

    An extra 600km of comfort on top of my Air Hawk - that thing is proving to be my sport-touring best friend!
  7. great write up, great pics, sounds like it was fun. Hope I get to do a similar north nsw tour one day.
  8. Great write-up and lovely photos. Damn you, you traversed some of my very favourite roads. I LOVE Mulligan's Gap on the GI-Grafton road; I could ride it all day. Also the scenery along the flat of the Mann River has got to be some of the best in NSW. And a great bike to do it on, too! Thanks.
  9. Best write up with photos I've ever come across (the photos made up for about 90% of my love for your write up :p )


    An arse of a way to end the day - and skimping on his petrol bill... :jerk:

    But otherwise close to perfection!
  10. Top photos, good write up. Well done
  11. There are so many great roads up North it is crazy. On the way down from Brisbane I took Kyogle Rd (between Murwullimbah and Kyogle), turning off at Stoney Chute. Despite being a country road (and thus having the normal quality issues in places + dodgy road shoulders) Kyogle Rd is one of the best riding roads in the country, and there are more great roads forking off it all the way along. On the way back up I took the old Pacific Highway (now known as the Tweed Valley Way). Still a great road only it has been totally resurfaced since it's replacement with the new Pacific Highway - tight sweepers and more subtropical mountain rainforest - gorgeous.

    Next time I am visiting my parents I am going to look into how far towards Armidale I can get (and back) in a day. I figure if I set off early and slab it to Grafton I could get a good chunk of Armidale Rd and Waterfall Way in - another set of spectacular roads.

    I find Mulligan's Gap much more enjoyable going up (so travelling east to west), but I still have an 'oh wow' moment when I descend down and come up next to the Mann - totally worth having to come from Glen Innes just for that experience. I wish I had a helmet cam to capture it (and of decent enough quality).

    That said, the west to east journey doesn't suffer - there is a perfect spot to turn around right at the start and finish of the exciting portion of Mulligan's gap - at the top there is the lookout, at the bottom a clear patch with a big sitting log. And if I didn't need to get back to Lismore I would have spent all afternoon going up and down. The Gwydir has the trifector of excellent sweepers, rapid fire twisties and spectacular touring visuals - the total lack of traffic has always surprised me, but it does mean the surface remains pristine.

    Yeah, crappy end, but the rest made up for it. I am not as fussed by the mirror any more, if it costs an extra $60 for that sort of enjoyment, then so be it. The station attendant took my details to give to the police as part of the petrol theft investigation, but I don't expect anything to come of it.
  12. In my opinion, the road from Murwillumbah to Kyogle through Uki is one of the best rides on the planet. I did it on my 6 day north coast tour in January and loved it to bits.
  13. What great photos! Thanks for sharing! Makes me want to get out of Sydney even more!
  14. The best ride report of the year, and easily the best pictures for many a long day. An A1 effort. Go to the top of the class!!!
  15. +1 take a bow GPM. Marvelous pics. Epic tale and the bike oh that bike!!, could'nt do better myself..well actually I have the same so am a wee bit bias!!

  16. Excellent... luvin the autumn pictures and misty mornings... and the maps!! :)
  17. ++1
  18. Well done GodsPetMonkey - fantastic read and awesome adventure !
  19. Mate, we must have been reading each other's mail, I think. You came from the opposite direction, obviously, but you covered so many of the roads that I did on my January ride. I reckon you could spend an age up around that area just exploring all the backroads.
  20. Like everyone else wrote great writeup and pics.