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From the Burringbar Ranges to Bogangar Beach, the far northern rivers offer the ultimate in diversity

Ever since the northern rivers section of the Pacific Motorway made it possible to ride from Bangalow to the Queensland border in less than 40 minutes, the old Pacific Highway over the once treacherous Burringbar Ranges has morphed from a notorious blackspot into a scenic sweetspot. Now free of B-Doubles, lumbering Winnebagos and the wandering caravans of indecisive grey nomads, the three lane (two uphill, one downhill) byway through the hinterland is a rider’s dream.

Throw in the twisty strip of bitumen – as yet undiscovered by road marking crews – passing through Stokers Siding on the now defunct rail line and you’ll arrive at Uki, just downstream from the headwaters of the Tweed River. Following the banks of the Tweed through the rainforests will take you to Murwillumbah, at which point you rejoin the old Pacific Highway, also known as the Tweed Valley Way. With the river to your left, including the quaint little hamlet of Tumbulgum, along with its riverside pub and café, it’s a scenic ride through the sugar cane plantations all the way into canetoad territory, and eventually the glitz of Surfers Paradise; just don’t wear anything too colourful lest the enthusiastic wallopers think you’re up to no good.

Heading back south, the Tweed Coast Road can become a little busy during holiday periods, however, the Pacific Ocean views around Bogangar, Cabarita and Hastings Point are the best between the always crowded Byron Bay and Point Danger at the mouth of the Tweed.

From Pottsville you can continue along the less crowded coastline to Wooyung or head back through the hinterland to Mooball (pronounced Moball as in No Ball). All up this loop is less than 100km, yet you will not find more diverse scenery or riding conditions in such a small footprint anywhere on the north coast. And there’s plenty more inland through quaint hamlets such as Coorabell, Federal, Opossum Creek, Eureka, Rosebank and Dunoon scattered among macadamia nut, banana and coffee plantations. There’s an extensive network of interlocking roads throughout the hinterland, but be warned, they are extremely narrow with many single-lane bridges and the occasional causeway. With no road markings and few speed advisory signs the tight corners and blind crests can catch out the unwary. It’s exhilarating on a sportsbike but maybe a little tiring on a cruiser. When you grow weary of the scenery you can always join the gridlock in Byron Bay and ogle the scantily clad backpackers.

Story & photography PETER WHITAKER