Queensland: Numinbah - Run for the Border
Like most freeways, the Pacific Motorway from Brisbane to the NSW border is easy, but it's hardly fun. Here's a way of adding some spice to the last bit by taking to the hills (and the valleys) rather than droning past the Gold Coast.
Turn off the M1 at Nerang, and head west along the road marked 97. It's important that you don't turn east instead, because that will take you to Southport and we might never see you again.
The first bit of this road, up to Advancetown, is known locally as the Russ Hinze Memorial Raceway after the lead-footed Minister for Roads and Everything Else under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The sadly missed big bloke knew a good road when he could build one, and apparently enjoyed this one a lot. But our minds are on more than just fanging. Well, a little more, anyway.
By this stage the road has turned south and you are making your way through what can seem like an endless series of excellent corners into Numinbah Valley. Until recently this was a lovely, quiet and, as a result, poorly-serviced rustic paradise. It's now been discovered and craft shops and cafés are springing up all along the road, which is good in a way but also increases the traffic loading.
The road is now infested not only by tourists - who will stop at any even vaguely interesting or attractive sight, often in the middle of the road - and trucks, which will stop for nothing. This makes for an interesting traffic mix.
Traffic gets lighter as you continue south through Numinbah township and begin to climb towards the Border Ranges. The corners, of course, continue. There is a terrific little café just before the Natural Bridge turnoff, well worth a stop for a coffee or a snack and a bit of quiet time overlooking the valley.
Natural Bridge itself is worth a stop too, especially in summer when it is an utterly irresistible opportunity for a plunge in the cool water. Beware of the surface in the parking area, which was quite unstable last time we were there. It would be easy to drop your bike.
After a refreshing stop you're on your way to the top of the range, which is also the state border. There's a much-photographed tick gate right on the border and then you're in NSW, heading down the very tight twisties to Chillingham in the Tweed Valley. After decades of more or less complete abandonment, this road has had some attention in recent years and was in good shape the last time I tackled it.
Chillingham has an excellent little store with a comfortable verandah for a meal stop, and then it's not far through the cane fields to Murwillumbah and your return to the highway. Note that the new NSW freeway bypasses Murwillumbah to the south.
Know Before You Go:
Sadly there are a lot of stories about theft from vehicles in the Natural Bridge car park. Make sure you lock the bike carefully, and take any valuables with you. Remember that soft luggage yields very easily to a knife...
The Border Ranges get quite a bit of heavy rain, so the edges of the tar can be washed away to a considerable depth. Stay well on the hard surface, and if you need to move left to accommodate other traffic (the road can be quite narrow) be sure you look carefully before you leave the tar!
At certain times of the year you'll need to be wary of leaf litter, which can build up on any of the roads through the Border Ranges.
For more information:
For Queenland's main Government-sponsored tourism website, visit: www.queenslandholidays.com.au
For information on Chillingam visit: http://hillcrestbb.com/tweed/chillingham.htm