Avoid the hus­tle and bus­tle of NSW’S coastal camps and es­cape to the table­lands.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS KEV SMITH

WE ALL love to get away for a few days along the great east­ern se­aboard, but camp­sites along the coast are filled to the brim dur­ing peak hol­i­day times. So it’s a good thing that on the mid-north coast of NSW, trav­ellers can in­stead shoot up to the hills for a quick get­away.

Ebor, 110km in­land from Coffs Har­bour, is where the Aber­foyle Tableland Track be­gins, a 100km drive along the top of the Guy Fawkes Plateau that’s filled with a huge di­ver­sity of flora, fauna, stun­ning views and a bit of history thrown in for good mea­sure. Ebor, on the New Eng­land Plateau, is the home of the stun­ning Ebor Falls, where crystal-clear water plum­mets deep into the gorges be­low. Ebor is also the last place to stop for fuel be­fore tack­ling the Aber­foyle Tableland Track.

Just 38km west of Ebor is the lo­ca­tion of Aber­foyle. On the way, watch out for a small sign in­di­cat­ing a right-hand turn up Aber­foyle Road, be­fore swing­ing right onto Now­lands Road. These roads cut through work­ing sta­tions, so be­ware of cat­tle and sheep that wan­der freely out here. But that’s part of the beauty of the area, as there’s no phone ser­vice, lit­tle traf­fic, prop­er­ties that have their own airstrip, and the only ra­dio sta­tion you can re­ceive is ABC.

Ward’s Mis­take cat­tle sta­tion ap­pears a fur­ther 10km down the road. The prop­erty was named after Fred­er­ick Ward (aka Cap­tain Thunderbolt), who lived and per­formed many il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in this area. There are sev­eral sto­ries on what hap­pened when Fred Ward was shot dead.

One story sug­gests Fred and his brothers were bailed up at a nearby swamp, and one of the Ward boys was shot dead by a lo­cal po­lice­man. A body mix-up hap­pened, hence the name Ward’s Mis­take.

Kook­a­bookra isn’t much these days, but it was once a town with sev­eral streets, stores and a war­den’s of­fice, where min­ers cashed in the gold they found. Re­cently, gems such as topaz, quartz crys­tals and sap­phires have been found here, and a great spot to dig for gems is at the Sara River Bridge, just two kilo­me­tres down the road. Here on the right, you can pull up next to some old ten­nis courts and stretch the legs.

The roads here are fairly easy, so a great al­ter­na­tive for a 4WD is the Lon­don Bridge Fire­trail, 6km up the road on the right. Tracks aren’t main­tained, but they’re sign­posted along the way and, being a des­ig­nated state for­est, there are plenty of suit­able camp­ing ar­eas. The Lon­don Bridge Fire­trail me­an­ders through old log­ging ar­eas and crosses many creeks that, with a lit­tle ground clear­ance, should be pass­able with most de­cent 4WDS.

After 15km, the Lon­don Bridge Fire­trail soon hits Oak­wood Fire­trail. An op­tion here is to turn right and head to the end of Lon­don Bridge Fire­trail and mar­vel at the stun­ning views from sev­eral lookouts along the way. These lookouts are 1250m above the floor be­low, pro­vid­ing un­in­ter­rupted views across the val­leys. The Lon­don Bridge, Henry Val­ley and Star­lite lookouts pro­vide ev­i­dence that vol­canic ac­tiv­ity took place some 30 mil­lion years ago. The views also give glimpses of the Old Glen Innes Road

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