9. New England

On the return trip, I had the fairly ambitious objective of going from Surfers Paradise to Newcastle in one day. That was made a little more difficult by checkout at the hostel not opening until 7:30am, and the loss of an hour in going to Daylight Savings time. But still, even though I didn't take a direct route there, I was still in by 10pm.

Grafton to Armidale

Having seen Byron Bay and Ballina on the way up, I bypassed them on the return trip. That made the first stopping place Grafton. Unfortunately I went past the service station about 10 or 20km to the North of Grafton, because they seem to have the cheapest LPG in the area. The North Coast of NSW is generally expensive, especially for LPG, and also for petrol.

Grafton is quite a pleasant town on the Clarence River. The bridge over the river is interesting, with bends each end, and it is double-level with the railway running beneath the road deck.

Clarence River, Grafton

From Grafton I had picked a road on the map to take me to Armidale and join on to the New England Highway to Newcastle. I was a little concerned to find that the signposting in Grafton was directing traffic to Armidale along a different road back up North to Glen Innes. Surely the other direct road wasn't that bad?! With a bit of consultation from the map, I got on the road to Armidale via Ebor as I originally planned. It indicated a 15km section of gravel, but as long as it wasn't too slow, it should just make it more interesting.

The scenery along the way felt very beautiful. After a week in a fairly hazy Queensland I felt amazed at just how blue the sky was, and how green the grass and trees were. It really did feel a breath of fresh air to get back to this part of NSW. It did feel easier to breathe too, with the lower humidity, and I just felt so released and alive while driving this road from out from Grafton.

Nymboida

These letter boxes near Billy's Creek were quite a sight. It was rather funny to see such a collection: from worn-out refrigerators to decorated boxes all serving to collect the mail for outlying properties.

Letterboxes, Billy's Creek

From Ebor, I joined the Waterfall Way. This section of road goes near to a number of national parks with spectacular scenery, and a number of large waterfalls. The first one I came to was Ebor Falls. I was expecting something of a reasonable size, but was truly surprised at how big these waterfalls were. It is a very short walk from the carparks to the lookouts over lower and upper falls. There was enough height and water going over the lower falls for it to form sheets of water as it went down. It was quite interesting to watch.

Ebor Falls, Guy Fawkes NP
Lower Ebor Falls
Closer to Armidale are the Wollomombi Falls. Here it wasn't the waterfalls that were so spectacular as the size of the gorge that they flow into. It truly is a huge hole in the ground. In the picture here, you can barely see the house at the top-right of the photo. There wasn't a lot of water falling over the falls at the time I was there, but still enough to get a rainbow forming at the base.

Wollomombi Falls

Tamworth

Armidale wasn't a specifically remarkable town. It was pleasant enough, but I didn't spend a lot of time to explore it, as the day was fast wearing on and I still had a long way to go that day. The next major town is Tammworth, the “country music capital”. It is quite pleasant, with a tree-lined main street, and set amongst farmland. The lookout at Me Oxley provides a view of the typical countryside of the area.

Tamworth
Tamworth from Mt Oxley
From Tamworth onward, it was a drive against time to arrive at Newcastle that night. I saw the sun set nicely over the farming country, and from then on things became increasingly urbanised as I approached the city of Newcastle. An dusk was setting in, Bayswater power station looked rather spectacular with its lights and the steam rising from the cooling towers.

After that, night was falling, and I was just starting to get a bit tired. It was a good day of driving though, and that kept the interest up through the bulk of the trip.