As most grey nomads contemplate heading north to avoid the winter chill, the discussions about the best routes to take are well under way.
For some in the east, the name of the game is to avoid the crowded coast as and to enjoy the more relaxing and often more scenic inland highways.
The Summerland Way, stretching from Grafton in NSW to Woodenbong near the Queensland border, bills itself as a ‘shorter, scenic alternative’ to the Pacific Highway.
When used in conjunction with the Orara Way and the Mount Lindesay Highway, it can take nomads all the way from Coffs Harbour to Brisbane. Travellers may miss out on some spectacular ocean glimpses but – as they drive through the beautiful hinterland – they’ll also miss out on heavy traffic, costly caravan parks, and crowded camping areas.
Sitting on the banks of the Clarence, Grafton is an attractive, historic city. In October/November, its lilac-blossomed trees take centre stage as the Jacaranda Festival draws visitors from across the country.
Heading north, the traffic is generally extremely light and the countryside delightfully gentle. The 199km Summerland Way is, for the most part, a wide, well-maintained, gently undulating road perfectly suitable for big rigs.
The route passes through state forests, including Banyabba, Whiporie, and Ellangoran (where camping is allowed at the Braemar roadside rest area). From here it’s just 30km into Casino. Situated on the Richmond River, the city claims to be Australia’s ‘Beef Capital’. Casino’s celebrated Beef Week runs every year in late autumn.
Driving on towards the charming country town of Kyogle, it is clear that cattle grazing, dairy farming and forestry are the primary industries here. Kyogle is known as the gateway to national parks including Toonumbar, which boasts extensive subtropical rainforests, and Border Ranges. Border Ranges, located on the rim of an ancient volcano, is well worth a detour down a bit of gravel. It offers spectacular views to Mt Warning and there’s also rainforest, waterfalls, creeks, ridges and a host of bushwalking and wildlife watching opportunities. There is camping here.
The final northern section of the Summerland Way is as scenic and as relaxing as the rest. For many carefree grey nomads, it will soon though be time for an unexpected decision.
“Do we turn right towards Brisbane as planned, or do we turn left towards Warwick and more country magic?”
This relaxed, inland driving is addictive!