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AMCN rides NSW Southern Highlands | Rides | Tested

Escape the monotony of the motorway with this scenic detour

While this ride is a good destination in itself, it’s also a much more interesting alternative to the dull section of the Hume Highway between Marulan and Mittagong. This 70km route through the towns and villages of the Southern Highlands might take a little longer to travel than the freeway that runs alongside it, but it is a far better way to spend time on your bike.

Heading south on the Hume Motorway take the Mittagong exit (B73) and turn left at the lights in town towards Moss Vale and Bowral. If you’re addicted to caffeine like us there are several cafés in Mittagong that serve an exceptional brew. From there it’s slow going but very pretty as you make your way south past the expensive properties and old guesthouses along the tree-lined route that passes through the busy little township of Bowral, before climbing Bong Bong Hill into Moss Vale. There is a bypass around Bowral’s main shopping strip if you don’t have time to look around and dodge the tourists.

From Moss Vale follow the Illawarra Highway to Sutton Forest, where a left turn just after the Sutton Forest Inn takes you onto the Highland Way itself, and into the more interesting part of the ride. First you pass through the small village of Exeter, then the road starts to open up around Bundanoon. This is an interesting little town that is central to the area and gives its name to the Highland Way, hosting an annual get-together for all things Scottish. From here the speed limit rises as you pass through some picturesque country and a few sections of great sweeping bends that wind through the forest areas around Penrose and Tallong. You ride under, over, and alongside the southern railway at various points along this route before you pass under an old stone railway bridge that marks the last section of the Highland Way, before it rejoins the Hume Highway near Marulan.

We can all get caught up in the rush to arrive at our destination rather than enjoying the ride itself and, to be honest, we are often conflicted about taking slower detours like this when we feel we need to be somewhere else. The fact is though that we always enjoy the trip that little bit more when we take the time, and this little run through the Southern Highlands can certainly be a pleasant diversion.

Detour

If you are travelling north towards Sydney and decide to use this detour to alleviate the boredom of the freeway, we find it best to turn left onto Golden Vale Road just after the Sutton Forest Inn which takes you directly back to the highway where you can turn right and resume the blast into the city. This avoids having to continue through Bowral and Mittagong where the speed limits are lower and the tourists more painful.

On the other hand, if you are enjoying your magical mystery tour so much that you want it to continue, get straight back off the freeway at the Colo Vale exit ramp, turn right, and wind your way through Alpine, Yerrinbool, Yanderra, Bargo, and Picton. This is another excellent option that roughly follows the freeway north through orchards and bushland. Weekends are often busy with motorcyclists – the George Hotel in Picton is a favourite stopping point for refreshments and getting together with other riders.

Things to do

Bundanoon has several historic buildings and that quaint old-time feel typical of the highlands. It is also the venue for Brigadoon – the annual Scottish themed gathering held in April, which is as much a family fun festival as it is a highland fling. This is the most scenic section of road and also the most fun to ride, with a few nice sweepers on a 100km/h stretch. The Roadside Café at Tallong is a good place to take a break and you will often find bikes pulled up here. There is a lookout 7km down the road behind the café but we didn’t find out if it is worth the detour. Maybe someone else can let us know?

Essentials

There are plenty of fuel outlets in both Moss Vale and Mittagong. There is also a smaller BP service centre at Bundanoon if you get caught short.

Brewster’s Coffee House in Mittagong makes the claim of “the best coffee in the Southern Highlands”. We will let you decide that one but it is a good cuppa and they have eat in or takeaway dining options, as well as

free WiFi.

The Sutton Forest Inn is a great spot to pull up for a cold one with plenty of parking for your bikes under the trees, as well as shaded outdoor tables.

The Central Hotel in Moss Vale is an excellent place to stay along this route. Rooms are very affordable and the bistro has cheap food options Wednesday to Sunday.

Fix It

The Southern Highland Motorcycle Centre on the Old Hume Highway at Mittagong is a good bet for mechanical assistance: 214 Old Hume Highway, Mittagong, (02) 4871 1770.

The whole route is also within the range of most motorcycle recovery services working out of Sydney.

Sleep

Central Hotel, 439 Argyle Street, Moss Vale (02) 4868 1921

Sutton Forest Inn, Illawarra Hwy, Sutton Forest (02) 4868 1697

Fuel Up

Caltex, 65 Bowral Road, Mittagong (02) 4872 1999

BP Bowral, 202 Bong Bong Street, Bowral (02) 4861 1608

Eat

Brewster’s Coffee House, 18 Bowral Road, Mittagong (02) 4872 1466

Station Coffee House, 12 Bowral Rd, Mittagong (02) 4871 1171

Penrose Village Shop, Highland Way, Penrose (02) 4884 4242

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY TIM MUNRO