Never mind the big banana – we’ve found the real attraction at Coffs Harbour
Sometimes you can find alternate routes to the major roads when riding around Australia, and the road less travelled often turns out to be a hidden gem that makes a little extra navigation very worthwhile.
This bypass to the far North Coast of NSW is a great example and offers an awesome mix of good roads, excellent scenery and an absence of the tourists running the radar gauntlet further east on the Pacific Highway.
We start this ride at Coffs Harbour, but if you’re riding from the south-west it’s best to come in from Dorrigo, a great little spot that sits atop the northern tablelands and has some spectacular motorcycling roads leading in and out of the town.
This 80km bypass ride to Grafton is accessed from Coffs on West High St, which becomes Coramba Rd and leads away from the coast then uphill past a small banana plantation typical of the unique scenery across this region. There are several sets of gentle corners on a good road surface for about 10km before you ride into Karangi, which has a general store.
The road continues to follow the railway north towards the historic village of Coramba, which has a servo (with PULP) that you should probably take advantage of.
A left turn onto the Eastern Dorrigo Way takes you up the Great Divide and into the town of Dorrigo, but we continue north here on an open section of road with a few sweeping bends as it passes through Nana Glen, where there’s a great little café run by motorcycle-friendly folk. From here the ride is primarily on straight roads that are a little bumpy in places, but it is nonetheless a lot more interesting and fun than the highway.
Further on, Glenreagh has a general store that does a decent coffee and the Glenreagh Mountain Railway on the edge of town has a few cool pieces of old locomotive and other historic items.
There is little of specific interest for the next part of the ride until the road intersects with the Armidale road at around the 70km mark, where a right turn takes you into South Grafton and back onto the highway.
This route is a great alternative to the heavily trafficked M1 closer to the coast and offers several good options for stops. The route up to the Dorrigo Plateau has the best riding roads and is well worth the detour if you have the chance. Whatever part you choose, to do it is a great bypass that helps make a longer trip a bit more interesting and breaks up the monotony of the major transport route along the coast.
This is not a long ride and has plenty of fuel options at either end, as well as at Coramba. There are several food and drink outlets along the route as well as general stores if you are looking for supplies to camp out or restock during a longer tour.
There is plenty of mechanical assistance available at both Coffs Harbour and Grafton, with the closest to the end being Grafton Motorcycles at 69 Bent St, South Grafton (02) 6642 1154. Or if you are cruising on your Hog maybe try North Coast V-Twins at 1 GDT Seccombe Cl, Coffs Harbour (02) 6650 4200
Good Intent Hotel has decent basic accommodation and a Chinese restaurant. It’s relatively quiet, convenient and affordable: (02) 6642 2188 – 65 Armidale St, South Grafton
Heritage Hotel Motel in Dorrigo has secure off-street parking, good pub meals and rooms that range from motel units at $125 per night (with continental breakfast) to shared rooms at $145 that can be split between four people – bargain.
Phone (02) 6657 2016.
BP – 33 Gale St, Coramba.
If you take the detour route to Dorrigo there is PULP at United Servo – 3 Cudgery St, Dorrigo.
Idle In Café at Nana Glen does a really good coffee as well as sit-down meals. They offer plenty of options and are rider-friendly. Visit Alison and Rod at 30 Nana St, Nana Glen, (02) 6654 3582.
There is a large service centre at the end of this route in South Grafton where you have a pick of all the usual fast food chains to clog up your arteries.
Things To Do
Two Tails Winery at Nana Glen is a popular stop along this route and has a good vibe. It is best to check what’s going on during any given weekend by checking www.twotailswines.com.au.
The winery also has accommodation on site.
The historic railway at Glenreagh is interesting and you can find more information on the Glenreagh Mountain Railway operations at www.gmr.org.au.
A little further north from the end of this route is the awesome Byron Bay area where there is lots to do and see.
The road between Coramba and Dorrigo is an absolute pearler. There are many series of tighter corners that will have you getting off both sides of the bike as the tarmac snakes up the hill with some furious left-right action. This stretch is typical of some of the best scratching roads around the tablelands, which often encourage riders to turn around at the end to do it all again in the opposite direction. If you are on a longer tour up or down the coast, this is a great way to add some interest along the way and see some of the awesome rainforest scenery that Dorrigo Mountain has to offer.
Story & Photography Tim Munro