Take the long way home
Enthusiast or day-tripper, you can savour the scenery of the Carsguide crew’s favourite roads
FANCY a drive in the country these holidays? You’re in luck. Car companies scour Australia for the best roads to launch their new models and the Carsguide staff has sampled them all.
We’ve put together a list of Australia’s best roads for driving enthusiasts. Whether you’re visiting from interstate or taking a Sunday run out of town, these deliver some unforgettable drives.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA Caves Road, Busselton
Caves Road, which links scenic Busselton to surfing meccas Dunsborough and Yallingup and on to Augusta, is a twisting rollercoaster of a road that scythes its way through jarrah forests, vineyards, dairy pastures and tunnel-like canopies of tall timber.
The ocean is close by but never in view along the 110km drive — the road runs along a solid sand ridge atop more than 100 caves.
There are countless wineries, art galleries, hotels and tourist caves to explore via country lanes off the main road, and many travellers take days, rather than 90 minutes, to do the trip.
If you have time, the joy can continue from Augusta to Manjimup, about 140km east, with a slightly faster and more flowing road that snakes through some towering karri forests, where some of the trees top 90 metres, before reaching the state’s cherry capital.
NEW SOUTH WALES Bathurst
The spiritual home of Australian motorsport is also the location of some of the best roads in NSW.
Head west from Sydney over the Blue Mountains towards Lithgow. Just before Lithgow township turn left at the Shell/ Coles service station on to Magpie Hollow Road. You may want to refuel there because there aren’t many options between here and Bathurst.
Follow the road past Lake Lyell until you reach a dogleg, at which point it becomes Sodwalls Road. This is an epic piece of pavement but the road dips sharply and many corners are blind, so take care. Continue west towards Tarana and turn left once you hit town, into Mutton Falls Road. Stay on this stretch until you hit the T intersection on O’Connell Road. Turn right and follow the signs into Bathurst.
From Melbourne, turn left off the Hume Highway about 20km north of Gundagai towards Coolac and Cootamundra. At Blayney, turn off to Newbridge and from there take Wimbledon Road. Your next turn is left on to Trunkey Road towards Perthville. Continue northeast towards Orton Park, just to the east of Mount Panorama. You can divert right into Lagoon Road for a side trip to the picturesque Chifley Dam.
QUEENSLAND Gold Coast hinterland
A short half-hour drive from the Surfers Paradise tourist strip lie some spectacular driving roads. The Gold Coast hinterland has quiet twisting roads through spectacular rainforests, astonishing views of the coastline below and lush green valleys dotted with farmhouses.
From the Gold Coast Airport, head south back into New South Wales and take the Tweed Valley Way turn-off towards Tumbulgum and Murwillumbah.
Soon you’ll be climbing twisting roads into heritagelisted national parks. Turn off at Chillingham and follow the signs to Nerang through the Numinbah Valley.
The Nerang-Murwillumbah Road winds past the Hinze Dam and eventually sends you back towards the coast, but if you turn off at Beechmont Road just past Advancetown there are some tight and twisty roads as you climb the mountain. At the top, find Rosins Lookout — the views are breathtaking.
Follow Beechmont Road to the trendy town of Mount Tamborine before beginning your descent into Surfers. Views of the skyline and coast will regularly come into view on the way down. Just don’t get too distracted as the corners are tight and the drop-offs are steep.
TASMANIA Strahan to Stanley
The home of Australia’s famous Targa tarmac rally, Tasmania is synonymous with great roads.
Targa meanders more than 2000km from Launceston to Hobart but our pick is a 250km “wilderness” road that stretches from Strahan up the remote west coast to Stanley.
One of the highlights of the trek is Pieman River ferry crossing, where you can stop for a bite to eat on the veranda of the Corrina pub.
The road north is unsealed in places, with some tight bends and steep climbs, and requires care, particularly between Corrina and the Lindsay River Bridge.
You don’t need a 4WD, though — we did it in a Holden Epica sedan of all things.
You can do it in a day or take your time and stop along the way. But it pays to check road conditions before leaving because it can become impassable in bad weather, with patchy or no phone reception most of the way.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA Adelaide to Goolwa
Great drives are not always about winding roads meandering off into the hills. This run isn’t about corners and scorching the tarmac, it’s more about savouring the surroundings.
The drive from Adelaide to the mouth of the Murray River at Goolwa has plenty of attractions along with a good smattering of curves.
Out of town find the A13 which takes you down the Fleurieu Peninsula through the picturesque and historic McLaren Vale wine area, through lush mixed farmland dotted with quintessential South Australian stone homes. Stay on the A13 past McLaren and Mount Compass then take a right turn onto the B57 (Alexandrina Road) for the short run into Goolwa, where the mighty Murray meets the sea. The drive should take about six hours all up, including a stop at Goolwa for a fish and chips lunch on the old wharf and an afternoon tea break on the way back at Mt Barker just before you pop over the Adelaide Hills into the city proper. Try to stop at one of the many lookouts to view Adelaide, sprawling impressively below.
VICTORIA Black Spur, Healesville
The Great Ocean Road may dominate the postcards and travel brochures but for driving enthusiasts the Black Spur is God’s country.
The 30km stretch of tarmac between the tourist towns of Healesville and Marysville is renowned for its breathtaking rainforest scenery and winding passes.
Healesville, in the middle of the Yarra Valley wine region, is a popular destination for weekend getaways, as it’s only an hour and a half northeast of Melbourne on the Maroondah Highway.
From Melbourne, take the Eastern Arterial to the Ringwood bypass. Then turn left on to the Maroondah Highway and you’ll end up in Healsville.
The Spur was carved through ancient rainforest, so the road is lined with majestic mountain ash trees and lush ferns.
The road itself is in excellent condition but it demands full attention with its tight hairpins and curves.
The road is often in shade so caution is advised early in the morning when the combination of wet tarmac and leaves can make it slippery.
At the base of the Black Spur, the Fernshaw picnic area is perfect for recharging the batteries.
It’s best enjoyed in a convertible with the top down, so you can savour the smells and sounds of the forest.