Four epic offroad getaways from Ballina to the back ‘o Bourke.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the lifting of all intrastate travel restrictions earlier this week.
The travel free-for-all goes into effect on June 1st, and ensures New South Welsh residents will be able to roam the state with impunity going forward.
The highly anticipated news comes as a huge relief to 4WDers itching to get back out on the tracks, as well as regional communities and businesses who’ve been doing it doubly tough suffering through lockdown restrictions immediately off the back of the worst bushfire season in recent memory.
“This is the day we’ve all been looking forward to since the travel restrictions were put in place earlier this year,” said the Premier.
“I would like to thank everyone for their patience during the past few months of being cooped up at home.”
With a few idle months up our collective sleeves, NSW-based punters are unlikely to be short of enthusiasm for a change of scenery.
Whether you’re hanging out for a late season coastal escape, or just in time for a dusty jaunt out the back o’ Bourke, you won’t need to wait much longer to get the wheels dirty!
THE MACLEAY VALLEY
The Macleay Valley follows the kinks and bends of its namesake river from its source at Blue Nobby Mountain, east of Uralla within the Great Dividing Range.
The valley links the lush hills of the New England Tablelands with the verdant plains of the New South Wales mid north coast. The region is centred around the regional hub of Kempsey, and is a five-hour blast up the highway from Sydney.
4WDING: There are some ripper tracks to be found in the lush rainforest-clad foothills of the dividing range. Head west from Kempsey for 30 clicks until the blacktop runs out around Bellbrook – this is where the adventure starts!
Follow the twists and turns of the steep track for another 50km or so until you reach Georges Junction. The track here is sheer and narrow and not ideal for towing, but the tranquil riverfront campground you’re rewarded with is a reward for all that hard driving.
FISHING: Keen to hook a big, rampaging Macleay River bass? Then head up to Bellbrook and explore the hinterland on foot or by kayak. Spend a night or two at The Bass Lodge near Bellbrook and benefit from their guides’ expert local knowledge – look them up at www.basslodge.com.au
LOCATION: Kempsey’s located 430km north of Sydney and the valley extends inland past Bellbrook was well as all the way to the river mouth at South West Rocks.
CAMPING is available at the peaceful campgrounds at Bellbrook and Georges Junction, however if you’re craving more of a coastal vibe, our hot tip is to head east at Kempsey and pitch your tent in the Hat Head National Park for a night or two. There are ripper campsites at Hungry Head and Smoky Cape that are within a winch rope’s distance of the dunes.
FUEL is available at Kempsey, Gladstone and South West Rocks.
MORE INFO is available at www.kempsey.nsw.gov.au
Point your bullbars southwards, friends, down the Princes Highway and don’t stop ‘til you make it to Honeymoon Bay. This little Garden of Eden is tucked away on the inside of the Currarong Peninsula, on the north side of bucolic Jervis Bay.
This is one of our favourite little campsites within cooee of Sydney, and it ain’t even quite 200km south of Circular Quay.
The beaches are first class, there’s some awesome snorkeling available right on your doorstep to keep the kiddies frothing, and if you fancy getting the wheels dirty, there’s some fun tracks on offer in nearby Booderee National Park and a little further afield near Sussex Inlet and out at Yalwal.
4WDING: The driving in the immediate vicinity of camp is very sedate, although Stony Creek Road and Ellmoos Road in Booderee National Park are unsealed. If you’re hanging for some proper driving, commit to driving the 60 odd clicks inland to Yalwal, where access via the Old Barrier Fire Trail can be pretty rough and is just a precursor to the steep, slippery and downright treacherous tracks ahead.
FISHING: The calm waters of Honeymoon Bay are perfect for teaching the kids to cast. Use fresh beach worm baits to score big sand whiting, bream and occasional dusky flathead. Prawn jigs at night are very effective on resident southern calamari and arrow squid.
LOCATION: On the Currarong Peninsula on the northern side of Jervis Bay. 200km south of Sydney, access is via the M1 and Princes Highway.
CAMPING: The campground is equipped with bins, toilets and picnic tables. Visitors are advised to bring gas cooking equipment and carry in own water. During the peak summer school holidays sites are available through a ballet system, although the campground operates on a first come, first served basis the rest of the year.
FUEL is available at Currarong, Huskisson and Vincentia.
MORE INFO is available at www.shoalhaven.com
The New South Wales north coast in autumn is one of nature’s little gifts to east coasters. Balmy currents, crisp mornings and scarcely tenanted campsites abound.
Iluka’s a five-star spot for a weekend away if you enjoy the finer things in life – breezy beach runs, big jewfish and boundless peaky surf breaks, that is. Shhh though, it’s worth keeping this spot on the down low!
Just 280km south of Brissie CBD, you could be hightailing it down the Pacific Highway and ripping the scab off your first tinnie in three hours. What’re you waiting for?
4WDING: Sand driving is the name of the game. Access is allowed on Iluka Beach from the carpark north of the breakwall right up to Iluka Bluff as well as on surrounding beaches. Beach driving permits issued by Clarence Valley Council are required.
FISHING: The breakwall is your gangplank to angling nirvana. Whiting can be taken in big numbers on beach worm baits, while hefty jewfish can be targeted on live mullet or tailor or fresh fillets thereof. Longtail tuna and Spanish mackerel are a possibility in autumn and are best targeted on live garfish pinned under a float at dawn.
LOCATION: 270km south of Brisbane, access is via the M1 and Pacific Highway.
CAMPING is available at Woody Head campground, which is equipped with showers and toilets, fresh drinking water, barbeques, picnic tables and boat ramp. Nightly rates of $34 per couple apply.
FUEL is available at Iluka, Woombah, Yamba and Maclean.
MORE INFO is available at www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au
This is a fair dinkum outback escape – within a cruisy half-day’s drive of Melbourne’s ristretto belt. Just think, you could be parked up under the big desert sky, knocking the froth off an ice cold tin by tomorrow arvo.
Stop. No more thinking required. Load up the fourby, pack your winter woollies and some extra firewood, as the desert’s got a chill about it this time of year. Point your bullbar north, up the M2 and along the Calder Highway until you reach the Silver City Highway, your road to Valhalla.
Mungo NP’s way out the back of Menindee and Pooncarie, smack in the middle of outback paradise. Don’t those names just get the blood a’tingling?
4WDING: Unsealed dirt roads link all the park’s foremost features, but they won’t present any challenges in dry weather. Heavy downpours are rare but can rip up the tracks, so use common sense if a big storm has recently torn through.
Mungo Discovery Tours run guided 4WD tours of the park led by rangers from the three tribal groups of the Willandra Lakes region.
THE WALLS OF CHINA are the prominent crescent-shaped dune features around the dried lake rim. Check ‘em out on the tag along tours that are run from the visitor centre during school holidays.
MUNGO MAN is the name of the oldest human skeleton discovered in Australia, an archeological relic unearthed within the park. Old mate knew a good spot when he saw it.
Mungo Woman is the name of the oldest ritually cremated relics in the country, also uncovered within the park.
LOCATION: Mungo National Park is located 580 clicks north of Melbourne, access is via route the M2, Calder Highway and the grand old Silver City Highway. The park is 1000km inland of Sydney, with access via route M31 and the Sturt Highway.
CAMPING is available at the park’s Main Campground, which is furnished with toilet and shower blocks, picnic tables and barbeques. Park fees of $8.50 per grown-up and $4 per kidlet apply nightly.
FUEL is available at Wentworth, Mildura and Balranald.
MORE INFO is available at www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au