Fun in the South-East - Long, Empty and (Mostly) Good Roads are Waiting for You

04 April 2017

There are actually not many towns in this area. Bombala is the largest, but many of the “towns” indicated on the map don’t really exist. Try finding Pericoe, or Noorinbee North! But that of course is part of the attraction… 

CANN RIVER 

Cann River is quite a remote little place, just take a look at a map of SE Australia. The caravan park, however, is exceptionally pleasant. It’s on the other side of the Cann River, that’s the Cann river not Cann River the town, just a few steps from the Cann River pub. The road north used to be called the Cann River Highway, but is now an extension of the Monaro Highway from NSW. Cann I say that there seems to be a certain lack of imagination in naming around here? 

Anyway, the caravan park is recommended – it is green and shady and quite spacious, and you just set up camp and then go and pay at the pub. That, in turn, is basic but interesting because much of it is built from bits and pieces of shipwrecks at Point Hicks, down on the Tasman Sea. Take a look at the staircase – that came from a wreck. The rest of the town is kind of, well, basic as well but it has everything you might need – a servo, a couple of fast food joints and so on. 

There used to be a wood carver on the way out of town on the Cann… sorry, the Monaro Highway with a beautiful wooden motorcycle out front of his house. You could go in and watch him work, but he’s had to stop that for OH&S reasons, I understand. Wonderful, isn’t it, how the gummint protects us from – well, from everything except the government. 

BOMBALA 

Bombala is a bit like Cann River, only it’s bigger and it has two or three pubs, a caravan park, a Rassel Club, some (mostly unoccupied) shops and a nice b&b in an ex-bank building that offers excellent Chinese food in its freestanding little restaurant. Probably more importantly for us there is a bakery, as well as a café. Almost all of these are on the main street, which is called, wait for it, Maybe Street. One of the cross streets is called Caveat Street. The Maneroo Motel is a bit past it but generally Bombala is a pleasant enough little place.

CATHCART 

I’m not sure if the Cathcart shop is open at the moment or not; it seems to list different opening hours on the door. There is nothing else for a stranger here, just a few houses and public buildings. The road runs straight through town, and so will you… 

TOWAMBA

There used to be a shop here, and I can remember being impressed by the fact that its main merchandise display consisted of guitar picks. It seems to be a private home these days, so that Towamba, like so many other towns, doesn’t really offer any reason to stop. It’s a shame; country town shops used to be fascinating places. Oh, the other thing the Towamba store sold was beautiful hand-made (I presume) wooden toys. 

WYNDHAM 

With a ‘service station’ and a pub, facing each other across Monaro Street, Wyndham has it all over its smaller neighbours. It is a nice, open, sunny little town which looks as if the people who live there are happy. The blokes in the pub when I stopped there last time certainly were… 

CANDELO

There would be few towns in NSW that are set in a prettier little valley. Candelo not only has surrounding hills and a heart of green courtesy of the small park along the river, it also has many picturesque old buildings set in a reasonably undisturbed townscape. Lovely. There is a servo and, on the other side of the river, a pub but many of the shops are closed and look abandoned. I think Candelo used to be a bit of an excursion from Bega, but that seems to have faded out. That’s a shame. Stop there next time you pass through, and buy something!

Roll into Cann River and you’re rolling into the past. This is how small towns used to be, many years ago, and you can almost see Marilyn Monroe waiting for the bus to take her away to the Big Smoke – except the only place the bus goes from here is Canberra… But Cann River is at the beginning of a terrifi c network of roads to the north. 

DOWNLOAD THE MAP HERE

BLUE ROUTE 

Take the Monaro Highway north from Cann River and you have 85 kilometres of just about uninterrupted pleasure to Bombala, in NSW. Hardly any side roads, hardly any traffi c and a good surface. The Monaro Highway is a remarkably changeable road; up on the plains it is as windswept and lonely as any road in Anatolia, in Turkey; down here it runs through vividly green paddocks and dark pine forests. Err, yes, watch out for log trucks. Border formalities when entering NSW from Victoria are minimal, but unfortunately there is nowhere to change money. 

The ride through Cathcart, Wyndham and Candelo from Bombala to the Princes Highway near Bega is not pleasant – it is superb. I would travel a long way to sample this beautiful, twisty and hilly road, and I quite often have in the past. Favourite bike along here is a 650 Moto Guzzi… 

RED ROUTE 

You probably don’t need an introduction to the Mt Imlay road, a connection from the Monaro Highway to the coast that was originally built for log trucks. Unfortunately, these have done their bit to, err, stress the road and its surface is nowhere as good as it used to be. Still fun, but watch out not only for the trucks but also for the damage they’ve done. 

YELLOW ROUTE 

This is a dirt road that runs up the Towamba River and then across to the Mt Imlay road. From the east, it starts as the signposted Snake Track. Towamba is actually a little town but has almost no services. You cross the river here to the (non-existent now, as far as I know) Pericoe and then the western end of the road. This end is also signposted, but the sign is kind of temporary so it’s better to tackle this from the east. It is affected by weather.     

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