A southerly strop for NSW riders, this is a magic ribbon of tar
This 130km section of roadway between Nowra and Braidwood (NSW) used to be mainly unsealed, rough, and the sole domain of motorcycle riders who liked a little bit of a challenge with their touring. Years of major roadwork has changed this, with several sections of the newly-completed bitumen looking to have been designed by a motorcyclist – the smooth flowing corners arcing through the South Coast scenery. A lack of traffic and other potential fun filters is in complete contrast to the alternative route along the Princes Highway, which can be tedious on weekends and holidays.
Heading south from Nowra, the road passes between Yalwal and the Morton National Park along fairly straight and fast bitumen, with some good views across to the Budawang Range as you climb up the Great Dividing Range. This area displays some of the finest natural features and formations for which the NSW south coast region is renowned.
Several unsealed minor roads snake off into the forest along this first section, but it is worth noting that all the detours we have used through here require decent off road ability in bike and rider. The extensive roadworks are obvious, the most impressive engineering feat being the Tianjara to Billys Hill leg, where large rock excavations were necessary to accommodate the new bitumen pass.
As you ascend the hill at Bulee Gap, a series of sweeping corners carry you up the escarpment before you pass through the new rock cutting on a concrete road bridge, and eventually scoot down the other side to the Endrick River at Sassafras. While there is not much for travellers passing through at Sassafras, it is a beautiful spot and one of several established gateways to explore the adjoining Budawangs. There are places to pull up and enjoy the tranquillity of the bush with very few people around during the week to disturb your peace.
Further south the road passes through the small rural township of Nerriga. The Bark Tree Hotel is the main feature in town and is noted for its friendly atmosphere and helpful owners. It is a good place to stop for refreshments or regroup if you need to wait for steadier riders. From here, the run into Braidwood is flat and open as the road follows the lower reaches of the Shoalhaven River for part of the run south. There is one small section of easy gravel the last time we passed through the southern end of this route, but it is scheduled to be fully sealed soon and may be done by now by the time you get out there.
Overall this is an excellent motorcycle ride through some spectacular South Coast scenery with very little to distract you from your mission. It is becoming more popular with riders as they get out and discover road crews have left behind a great addition to the list of worthwhile road rides in the region.
Fuel up at Nowra or Braidwood as there is nothing in between. The Albion Café in Braidwood is housed in the old Albion Hotel building on the main street and offers good meals and great coffee. If you are in a hurry or on a budget the bakery down the street is our favourite option. The Nerriga Pub has food and drinks and is the only real stop along the route for a lunch break.
Things to do
The Budawang region is one of the most popular bush walking sites in NSW with many well maintained trails leading to the natural formations the region is famous for, including Pigeon House Mountain. There is an entrance at Sassafras with parking and a campground available. A number of the tracks are for multi-day extended treks, but there are also several shorter day walks more suited to riders passing through – just take some decent hiking boots. The Tianjara Falls are not far off the road at Tianjara and worth a look, particularly after heavy rain. The water cascades over the escarpment and can be spectacular at these times.
Just south of Nerriga is a turnoff to Oallen Ford, taking you across the Shoalhaven River and west through Windellama to Bungonia, before spitting you out on the Hume Highway at Marulan. This is a good alternate ride through to the Southern Highlands with much of the route being fast straight bitumen past the rural properties and weekenders. It is not as scenic or interesting as the road through Sassafas, but is still a good ride that avoids some of the more major tourist roads. We sometimes use it to form a loop ride when we are pressed for time.
You are on your own between Nowra and Braidwood so carry what you need. If you have to get to a bike shop for repair we can recommend Glenn Henry Motorcycles at 61 Albatross Road, Nowra. Ph: 02 4422 0833. We have always found them to be very helpful with mechanical assistance.
The Royal Mail Hotel at 145 Wallace Street, Braidwood has pub style accommodation starting at $65 per night, and a brasserie where you can get a good feed seven days a week. Ph: 02 4842 2488
There is some camping available within the national park areas, and we have found little spots along the banks of Shoalhaven River where you can drop a swag for the night. You need to be self-sufficient though as there are no maintained facilities for the most part.
The Mobil servo at the bottom end of town has clean toilets, and a few seats where you can sit for something to eat and drink on your way through town – 71 Wallace St, Braidwood Ph: 02 4842 2259
United Servo – 86 Princes Hwy, Sth Nowra Open 24 hours a day.
Braidwood Bakery – 99 Wallace St, Braidwood Ph: 02 4842 2541 Open 7 days a week
The Albion Café at 119 Wallace St, Braidwood does great coffee. Ph: 02 4842 1422
WORDS AND PHOTOS TIM MUNRO