Exploring the picturesque New England High Country is a task best achieved on two wheels.
Entering New England from the south at Walcha, Thunderbolt’s Way tops this list for its wide-open vistas of rolling, impossibly green farmland and its tight bends across the Great Diving Range. It passes from the Mid-North Coast hinterland at Gloucester through the delightful towns of Walcha and Uralla before continuing on to Inverell.
There is no euphemism in the name of this road, travel on it and you will see waterfalls. Many waterfalls.
You’ll also cross the Great Diving Range from Coffs Harbour to Armidale, a mountain pass with thrilling hairpin bends and long, steep hills. Stop at the many lookouts to enjoy incredible views over the gorges to the coastal flats beyond.
3. Gwydir Highway
Stretching from Grafton on the coast to Glen Innes followed by Inverell in New England, the Gwydir highway crosses the Great Dividing Range and offers tight bends and long climbs. Highlights include Washpool National Park and Raspberry Lookout, which has extensive views across the gorge country.
For those with a taste for gravel, the Old Glen Innes Road is an unsealed alternative to the Gwydir Highway.
Turn off the main drag just west of Grafton and follow the Boyd River through picturesque cattle country. You’ll pass a ghost town, a convict-carved tunnel through a cliff and the old hideout of an infamous bushranger.
5. Oxley Highway
Yet another windy mountainous route to New England from the coast, the Oxley Highway runs from Port Macquarie to Walcha and then through to Tamworth. It’s a fairly quiet stretch of road that tightens as it dips in and out of gullies before climbing steadily across the Divide through tall timber forests.
6. Bruxner Highway
A more obscure route from the coast to New England, the Bruxner Highway runs from the Northern Rivers region to Tenterfield, close to the Queensland border. The best part is the 130km between Casino and Tenterfield where the road crosses the mountains.
7. Tourist Drive 19
A peaceful country meander that is light on adrenalin but high on New England charm, Tourist Drive 19 is an easy day trip between Armidale and Uralla. It takes in the breathtaking Dangars Gorge, Petersons Winery, the historic Deargee Woolshed and the picture-perfect Gostwyck Chapel.
A shorty but a goodie, the Mount Mackenzie Drive leads you from Tenterfield up the mountain that presides over the town to the west.
The drive is a loop that takes in rocky farmland dotted with iconic granite boulders and at the top you’ll enjoy incredible views over the town, across the Queensland border and to the Great Diving Range beyond.