This picturesque town in the Hunter is perfect for a two-wheeled getaway from Sydney
The Hunter Valley to the north-west of Sydney is a mecca for motorcyclists escaping from the city and looking for great riding routes or cool destinations for a lunch stop or an overnight stay. Wollombi ticks all the right boxes and often hosts large numbers of riders, especially on weekends.
The 55km stretch of motorcycle-friendly bitumen named George Downes Drive connects Peats Ridge to the village of Wollombi and is generally accessed from the city via the Old Pacific Highway, which makes a great start to a day’s ride.
There’s a café in Peats Ridge just before you turn towards Central Mangrove on George Downes Drive, but most riders head up the road a bit further to Kulnura where Jerry’s Kitchen has plenty of parking and good food, as well as outdoor seating so you can watch the steady stream of bikes parading past.
From Kulnura the road follows the eastern edge of Yengo National Park and there are several spots along the road that offer good views across the picturesque valley as you negotiate the bends that wind through typical Australian scrub.
The road is fairly open with sweeping corners and a good surface until you get to Mount McQuoid, where it starts to tighten up with several patches of slightly rough bitumen.
As the road drops down the hill you pass Lemming Corner, named after a number of serious motorcycle and car accidents. Don’t be a lemming…
The corners are well surfaced and sign-posted, and are easily ridden provided you pay attention and keep within your skill level.
The road continues through the valley and across Fernances Crossing, which features an old stone viaduct constructed in 1831, and a nicely surfaced set of mid-speed corners that would be close to our favourite bit of riding along this route. Laguna has a general store and wine bar with a pleasant outdoor seating area.
Another half-dozen kilometres up the road through some awesome sweeping bends is the small village of Wollombi. The Wollombi Tavern is famous for its Dr Jurds Jungle Juice and the attached café does great meals for lunch or dinner. There is often a good turnout of bikes at the tavern on the weekend as it’s a good central spot for a number of loop rides around the lower Hunter region. Wollombi is also a good overnight destination if you want to make the most of your weekend.
This is an excellent ride that can easily be done from Sydney and back as a day run, or you can continue and explore a bit more Hunter Valley magic. As mentioned, there are numerous options to extend this ride or avoid travelling on the same roads twice, although it’s an excellent strip of bitumen and riding it in the reverse direction after lunch is really no hardship.
Wollombi is only a small village with a couple of stores on the main street to wander around, but just out of town on Cessnock Rd is The Gate Gallery. There’s no charge to browse the artworks inside or stroll the grounds and look at the strange array of outdoor sculptures. They also offer a cellar door wine tasting area. Closer to town on the same road, Wollombi Wines offers a larger tasting selection.
Fuel at Peats Ridge only has ULP, but PULP is available at Kulnura. If you’re coming from Gosford, try the Shell servo on the top of the hill at Kariong.
Jerry’s Kitchen is on the right-hand side of the road as you are leaving Kulnura. They do food, decent coffee and fuel.
The Wollombi Tavern is our favourite lunch stop along this route and there are generally plenty of other bikes parked out front to check out.
There are no motorcycle workshops along this short route, but if you get into strife there are several recovery services that can come and rescue you. Dave from Servinitup Bike Transport is a good service – call him on 0404 298 880 or 0410 044 180.
Plenty of B&B, guesthouse and even farmstay accommodation in and around Wollombi. We usually take the budget option when out riding, so we went for the cabins and camping opportunities out the back of the Wollombi Tavern. If you take the detour and get pissed at the Wisemans Pub they have rooms there, but be warned the place is known to be haunted.
Kulnura One Stop Service Station – 2335 George Downes Drive, Kulnura
(02) 4376 1166
Caltex – Wisemans Ferry open seven days a week 6am-7pm, (02) 4566 4635
Jerry’s Gourmet Kitchen & Café – George Downes Drive, Kulnura, (02) 4376 1166
Wollombi Tavern/Route 33 Café – Main Road, Wollombi, (02) 4998 3261
If you are returning from Wollombi towards western Sydney you might want to consider turning right at Central Mangrove towards Wisemans Ferry. Although bumpy at times, it’s a good ride through Popran National Park, then to Spencer on the Hawkesbury River, before following the river all the way to Wisemans Ferry.
The ferry ride is free and the historic pub on the other side of the river is another nice spot for a break. There is also a café at Wisemans Ferry Central that does good food and coffee seven days a week from early until late. The Caltex service station opposite the pub is also open every day and has PULP.