As much as I love the north coast, I am continually on the lookout for ways of getting there and back that avoid having to use the Pacific Highway. If there is a more boring and frustrating road in Australia than the main northern route, I am yet to find it. And, as more and more of the remaining interesting parts are either buried under concrete flat-top or bypassed into oblivion, seeking out the alternatives becomes more and more of a challenge.
Happily, I am old enough to remember when the town of Buladelah was ON the highway rather than being by-passed by it and so I am also able to seek out and enjoy a wonderful part of the old road that is now substantially unused. It is now simply known as the Wooton Road (no, I don’t think Ken has anything to do with it). It travels north from Buladelah, across a mountain range, drops down through some beautiful farming country and rejoins the Pacific further north.
Here it is.
And it’s the squiggly bit in the middle that is really interesting. It is called O’Halloran’s Gap and it used to be one of the most dangerous and over-policed pieces of the highway between Newcastle and Taree. The mountain pass is a bit like Macquarie Pass except that it both climbs and falls as you head north (or south). Towards the end of its life as part of the highway it was equipped with 2 speed cameras to try and slow people down. Thankfully, now that it is just a minor country road, the speed cameras have been removed. These days the road is substantially deserted and rewards the rider with a glorious switchback of road that challenges the skill and rewards the effort. The surface is still reasonable (though degrading due to decreased maintenance) and the only issue of any note is that it is often covered with substantial amounts of leaves and litter from the trees that surround it. However, as long as it’s dry, the leaves do not present a problem.
Should you find yourself in the vicinity, reward yourself with a spirited run on the Wooton Road. You won’t be disappointed, and you WILL go back again.