Just two hours from Sydney’s CBD you will find these super-fun and picturesque mountain passes
While part of this route is signposted as Tourist Road, the ride is actually an awesome way to avoid the swarms of tourist traffic clogging the main towns of the Southern Highlands on most weekends. We regularly use it to skirt around the busy centres of Mittagong and Bowral when we are riding from Sydney to the excellent stretches of tarmac that run up and down the escarpments on the east coast between Kiama and Nowra.
We often ride out of Sydney on the Old Hume Highway route though Yanderra and Yerrinbool before starting this detour on Old South Road just past the orchards at Alpine.
This road winds past rural properties before intersecting Range Road at a large roundabout. Turn left here to continue this ride, but note that a right turn leads straight into Mittagong, a good alternate starting point for this ride if you’re coming from a different direction.
Range Road takes you west, past more farming properties and along a ridge that offers some great views across the surrounding highlands. The road is a bit narrow in sections so take care and watch for oncoming traffic on the blind crests.
At the T-intersection, turn left onto Tourist Road for the run into the town of Robertson. The road surface is generally good, with just a few bumpy patches. There are some great stands of trees along this scenic route and one particularly cool set of pale bark gums at the halfway mark. While the trees look great, their proximity to the shoulder of the road can cause a build-up of wet leaves and mulch on the edge of the tarmac, so tread carefully through this section.
From here you can either continue on to the end of Tourist Road, which joins the Illawarra Highway right at the top of Macquarie Pass, or turn right at Kirkland Road and ride through East Kangaloon to intersect the main highway right in the centre of Robertson. We often take the latter option so we can drop into the famous Robertson Pie Shop before heading down the Pass.
There are not a lot of corners or fast sections of road along this detour, but it’s far more fun than lining up behind weekend traffic along the more populated major roadways.
It is a pleasant way to work gently into a day’s riding before upping the pace when you get to the more interesting sections of road that lead down the mountain to the coast, and back.
There is plenty of fuel available at Mittagong, Moss Vale and Albion Park, but nothing in between. The distances are short, though, so will present no problem for most riders. There are plenty of good spots to take a break for food and drinks, and accommodation is plentiful both in the Highlands and along the coastal strip.
South Coast Motorcycles is on the Princes Highway at Albion Park and there are several motorcycle shops in Mittagong, although opening hours across the weekend are limited.
The Jamberoo Pub offers two types of accommodation, pub-style rooms and 3½-star motel rooms. It is well situated at the bottom of Jamberoo Pass and has a good bistro menu for lunch or dinner.
12 Allowrie St, Jamberoo. (02) 4236 0270
Mittagong Truck Stop 192 Old Hume Highway, Mittagong. (02) 4872 1113
Ampol 31 Princes Hwy, Albion Park. (02) 4257 1135
The Robertson Pie Shop atop Macquarie Pass is motorcycle-friendly and many riders use it on weekends as a venue to catch up with mates and ride the excellent roads in the area. The coffee and food is good, with plenty of seating inside and out – 4400 Illawarra Highway, Robertson.
(02) 4885 1330
The Station Coffee House in Mittagong does great coffee and food, as well as an interesting range of fresh juices – 12 Station St, Mittagong. (02) 4871 1171
There are some great detours throughout this area, with winding mountain passes running up and down the escarpment right down to Nowra. We prefer Jamberoo Mountain Rd to Macquarie Pass on the weekends; there’s generally less tourist traffic and law enforcement, although you need to take care on the narrower road and watch for wayward cars (and bikes) coming in the opposite direction. When you get to the bottom, a right turn through the town of Jamberoo takes you to Kiama on a smooth, flowing road. We often continue south from there before turning back up the mountain at Berry or Nowra to finish the loop back towards the Southern Highland via Kangaroo Valley. An excellent riding circuit.
Things to do
In the main street of Robertson, the Old Cheese Factory has some interesting stores and a café. The building has been restored but still features some cool old machinery as a tribute to its former working life in dairy processing.
Belmore Falls is just a short ride from Robertson and is an awesome sight after heavy rain. The lookout is not far from the carpark.
The Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk is a great way to check out the views. It’s located on the Jamberoo Mountain Rd at Knights Hill. They are open every day.
Near the end of Range Rd in Mittagong, the Sturt Craft Centre has a gallery of fine woodworking. It is open seven days a week from 10am. Cnr Range Rd & Waverly Parade, Mittagong. (02) 4860 2083
Story & Photography Tim Munro
As published in AMCN Mag Vol 67 No 25