New South Wales: The Oxley Highway - Mountain Magic
When it comes to superb biking roads, you'll be hard pressed to find anything to top New South Wales' remarkable Oxley Highway. This sinuous ribbon of tarmac links the Pacific Highway with the New England Highway, snaking its way in spectacular fashion over the Great Dividing Range.
As far as top runs go, the Oxley really does have the lot – from fast sweepers to tight hairpins, flat farmland to mountain ridges. On top of that, the scenery is pretty damn good too – although you'll need to keep your focus firmly on the road ahead and the bike beneath you on many testing sections over the mountains.
The bustling beachside city of Port Macquarie is a pleasant place to begin the run, and although you'll have a blast tackling the Oxley in either direction, there's always nothing quite as fine as charging up a hill – and the great divide is quite a hill to charge.
Head out of town in the direction of Wauchope, and old timber community, where if time isn't of the essence you can always drop in on Timbertown and get a feel for what life must have been like back in the pioneer days.
Pushing further west you'll find the road winds its way pleasantly through the surrounding bush and farmland, passing through the odd small community like Long Flat, where you'll find a good pub that's popular gathering point for weekend bikers.
A bit after Long Flat the Oxley begins its ascent into the mountains, the road clawing the hillsides as you climb up and away from the farmlands and into the bush-covered mountains. There are some pretty impressive views at this point, but don't relax too much because there's the odd sharp corner too.
You'll know when you've begun the Oxley proper, because you'll be left in no doubt as to why this place is a motorcycling Mecca. The road continues to climb through thick bush and impressive forests, linking a seemingly never-ending chain of medium, tight and even tighter corners.
Best of all, because the nearest capital city (Sydney) is some four or five hours away, the amount of traffic here never seems to be too annoying. You do get the odd truck or caravan, but then when you're still heading uphill, you won't need too much of straight to blast past – use your head; in most places there's very little runoff should things go awry.
Just when you start to think that you can't take another 35km/h corner, and about an hour after Port Macquarie, an oasis of calm swings into view. The Gingers Creek roadhouse has drinks, snacks and petrol, accommodation and even a licensed a la carte restaurant.
After you've suitably settled your adrenal glands, hop back on the bike and keep heading west. The footpeg-dragging action continues as you proceed through Cottanbimbang National Park, and then the countryside opens out as you reach the New England tablelands.
From this point on you've got high-speed sweepers and long country straights, through undulating countryside that's simply bliss to rocket through on a bike.
Walcha signifies the end of the really fun stuff for the Oxley, although the Oxley itself continues on for another 50km to Bendemeer. Walcha's also got all the services you'd need – accommodation, a pub and food – so here you're faced with a decision: do you push on to other destinations, or turn around and do one of Australia's top iconic rides all over again?
Know Before you Go:
Petrol is available in Walcha, Port Macquarie, Wauchope and Gingers Creek. Fill up at the start of the run if you want to push on through (from Wauchope to Walcha it's around 170km), but otherwise you'll need to fill up at Gingers Creek. That's not an issue – by Gingers Creek you'll probably be looking forward to a break anyway.
Take particular care in damp conditions, when leaf litter through the bushy, twisty section can pose an added danger.
Take care on the hairpins too – you will come across trucks occasionally, although hopefully not too far over on your side of the centerline!
Kangaroos are active from dusk through to early morning – bear this in mind if your ride shoulders these times.
For more information contact:
Greater Port Macquarie Visitor Information Centre; cnr Gordon Street and Gore Street, Port Macquarie NSW 2444; tel: 1300 303 155; web: www.portmacquarieinfo.com.au;