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Leave the crowds of tin-tops on the boring Bulahdelah bypass and take a tour of the lakes district.

Freeways have their place in modern society – they get traffic moving between major centres more efficiently. But that’s not what we look for when we go for a ride. A case in point is the new bypass around Bulahdelah on the NSW Mid North Coast, built to shoot holiday and commercial vehicles up and down the Pacific Highway. Instead, we left the major thoroughfare and headed out of Bulahdelah on The Lakes Way for a more leisurely and enjoyable ride through the Great Lakes, where the scenery and the roads turned out to be an excellent detour around the boring highway stretch.

Leaving the town of Bulahdelah, it’s a very short run on the new freeway before you turn right onto the Lakes Way, signposted as Tourist Drive 6. The road snakes uphill through the lower reaches of the Bulahdelah State Forest in a series of well-sealed bitumen corners that immediately vindicate the decision to take this detour. The landscape opens up a little as you pass turn offs to Violets Hill, a great camping spot, and on your right to the Grandis tree, allegedly the tallest tree in NSW at over 80m.


You know you are in the lakes region at this point as paperbarks and other wetlands flora become more obvious along the sides of the road. Smiths Lake comes into view on the right just before you pass through the small community of Bungwahl which has a general store and limited fuel. As you continue north there are some more great corners as you pass through the Booti Booti National Park, with the much larger Wallis Lake keeping you company on the left. There are plenty of great spots to stop along this stretch with the lake on one side and the ocean beach opposite, and plenty of places to camp in the low growing coastal foliage.

Pacific Palms is a small sprawling coastal village on the edge of the lake with a cluster of shops and the Pacific Palms Recreational Club, which has a great beer garden overlooking Wallis Lake. It’s a short ride from here into the twin towns of Forster Tuncurry which is the main centre along this route, with plenty of options for accommodation, food and fuel. Cape Hawke Lookout offers a good vantage point over the surrounding area but you’ll need to walk 400m uphill at the end of the access road to get there. Beyond Tuncurry The Lakes Way continues north to rejoin the freeway at Rainbow Flat.

This route from freeway exit to freeway entrance is only around 80km and runs reasonably parallel to the A1, so it’s a worthy detour from the monotony of the long ribbon of freeway that is now the Pacific Highway. The road is good and has several great sections of corners as well as majestic views across the Myall Lake system to recommend it. The lakes region has a distinctive and unique laid back feel to it, so don’t discount the option of staying a night to enjoy the peaceful lakeside environment.1A


Plenty of fuel options at Bulahdelah, Forster-Tuncurry, and Nabiac. Food and accommodation is also readily available at numerous places along the length of The Lakes Way.


One must see is the National Motorcycle Museum in Nabiac. This is Australia’s largest display of vintage and classic motorcycles with over 800 machines housed in the oversized shed complex. There are many bikes dating back to the early 1900s that have been carefully restored, right through to classic bikes from the 70s and 80s. It is a privately owned collection put together by Brian and Margaret Kelleher with some of the displayed bikes on loan to the museum for public viewing. The National Motorcycle Museum is open 9am-4pm seven days a week all year except for Christmas Day. It is located at 33 Clarkson St, Nabiac Ph: (02) 6554 1333


Just north of Tuncurry another route begins that will get you back onto the freeway. Failford Road runs from The Lakes Way at Darawank and passes through some nice stands of pale-barked gum trees as it heads west towards the Pacific Highway. It is a fairly short and easy run, and where it intersects the main road you can head north or turn left and ride back a few kilometres towards Nabiac. Nabiac has a good petrol station as well as a bakery, café, and other shops. Most importantly it is home to the National Motorcycle Museum which is why we like this particular option.


JP Moto on Dalman Street Forster offers a service and repair workshop. You can phone Justin on (02) 6557 2708. Although the best place to break down on this route might be at the National Motorcycle Museum which has its own well-equipped workshop…


The Plough Inn Hotel at Bulahdelah has recently renovated single rooms available for $55. This doesn’t include a breakfast but they have a great dining room for dinner – 77 Stroud Street, Bulahdelah (02) 4997 4285. In Forster we liked the Forster Palms Motel because it is right next door to the bowlo for food and drinks – 60 Macintosh St, Forster (02) 6555 6255.1C


The Oasis Tuncurry – 186 The Lakes Way, Tuncurry (02) 6555 8000 Coles Express – 22 Booloombayt St, Bulahdelah (02) 4997 4558 [Eat] Beach Bums Café is a great spot on the beach at Forster and is open 6.30am-4pm 7 days a week. Good coffee and breakfast options. End of Beach Road, Forster. The Bowling Club in Forster offers an all-you-can-eat buffet-style dinner 7 days a week for $22 per head. Forster Bowlo – Strand Street, Forster (02) 6554 6155

A series of well-sealed bitumen corners that immediately vindicate the decision to take this detour