Australia road trip advice please!
May 1, 2007 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Planning a motorcycle ride up the east coast of Australia - advice needed!

Posting for a friend, who is planning to spend a vacation in Australia, driving a motorcycle up the east coast from Sydney to Cairns. He flies into Sydney, rents a bike, then spends 10 days riding up the coast, drops the bike off in Cairns and flies back down to Sydney. Its a 14 day vacation, so he will be able to spend a day or two relaxing en route (I have advised him to go north of Cairns up to Cape Tribulation if possible, since I did that and loved it there).

His preliminary route plan is as follows: Sydney - Sawtell - Brisbane - Booral - Rockhampton - Townsville - Cairns. He is aware that this is a lot of driving (and has driven such distances on his bike here in the US), but wanted feedback on whether his route is feasible, being unfamiliar with the roads there. Any advice or tips, better places to stop instead of the towns he chose (somewhat at random)?

Also, should he be booking hotels ahead of time in order to be able to find a bed for the night (he is open to camping too), or is accommodation easy enough to find that he can wing it? He will be traveling in June this year. Thanks!
posted by Joh to Travel & Transportation around Australia (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't ride at night. According to Ross Noble, kangaroos are pretty Petarded and will jump into the road, and on a bike it means you just have to pull over the minute it gets too dark to see.
Alas that's all the sprung to mind.
posted by opsin at 4:26 PM on May 1, 2007

He'll need very warm leathers, being the middle of winter.

Also, I've never heard of Sawtell, but he should DEFINITELY go to Byron Bay. Beautiful! (and so near Nimbin. Hee.)
posted by Lucie at 4:36 PM on May 1, 2007

The stretch of the Pacific Highway between Taree and Brisbane is one of the most notorious roads in the country. Take care!
posted by cholly at 4:57 PM on May 1, 2007

I stayed a night in Sawtell. It's basically a suburb of Coffs Harbour, and we stayed there because, well, the motel was cheaper than up the road in Coffs. Nice place, nothing wrong with it.

Don't know much about Booral, but I might suggest that continuing up the road a few more miles to Bundaberg might be a more interesting choice. It depends what he's in to.

Rockhampton to Townsville is a fairly long stretch for one day, but I don't know what to suggest without rearranging his whole trip for him.

Accommodation shouldn't be a problem at all - I've done a similar trip by car, and in most cases we just pulled into a motel, or even a pub, and had no trouble.

And definately do the trip up to Cape Tribulation.
posted by Jimbob at 7:22 PM on May 1, 2007

The Pacific Highway (the coastal route from Sydney to Bribane) is indeed a bit dangerous for accidents, and I think, a bit boring.
An alternative is to go inland, which has less traffic and is less of a freeway.
Some of the country towns around New England (Tamworth and Armidale esp.) are quite nice, and much different from the coastal strip.
I would think the ride would be more interesting on a bike too.
Either way, accommodation won't be a problem.
The NRMA and RACQ are the NSW and QLD versions of your AA, and they produce accommodation guides with ratings for about $10. If you have an AA card they will probably give you free maps too.
He will get plenty of coastal scenery on the QLD leg.
Also, it ain't cold in QLD in June, and not really cold in NSW.
We visited friends in the middle of winter up there. It was 28 centigrade and locals were wearing scarves!
If he likes the idea of camping, check out the National parks and wildlife service (NSW) for rustic camping, and the QLD equivalent.
Just about every town will have a tourist info office happy to give advice on local attractions and suggest/book accommodation.
I would also suggest posting to an Aussie biker BB, but don't know the best one to suggest.
This route goes through the most populous part of Oz, so supplies etc. won't be an issue, although my sister got some funny looks asking for vegetarian meals in some small town pubs.
I'm happy to answer follow up questions if you want to mail me.
posted by bystander at 10:30 PM on May 1, 2007

He should be aware that it'll be cold when he starts off in Sydney and hot and humid by the time he gets to Townsville. Then it will be even hotter and more humid in Cairns.

Leathers would be fine on the road, but be prepared for shorts-and-tshirts weather the further north you get, basically.

When he does get up north, it's a beautiful time to visit the reef and the islands. No stingers!

The RACQ's website has a route planner that might be helpful.
posted by t0astie at 3:30 AM on May 2, 2007

Also, it ain't cold in QLD in June, and not really cold in NSW.

That may be true once you're as far north as Rockhampton, but NSW isn't exactly tropical in June. Wearing leathers, you should be fine though.

Qld State school holidays run from 23 Jun - 8 Jul (some private schools start a bit earlier), so if your friend is travelling late in the month motels may be fuller than usual.

Outside of large towns, any late night dining is likely going to be limited to 7-11's and petrol station fare (in other words, microwave pie).

Having said that, winter is a great time to be in north Qld, it sounds like a great trip.
posted by backOfYourMind at 3:37 AM on May 2, 2007

He must ride the Oxley Highway between Walcha and Wauchope. He must also ride the Gwydir Highway between, er, Armidale and ??. It's north of the Oxley, anyhow.

He could take the Pacific Highway north out of Sydney, and it's a nice ride. He should stop at the little store in Mt White for a snack. If it's a weekend, make sure to stick to the speed limit. There will be cops with speed cameras everywhere. It's called the "Old Road" in local parlance, and has been a favourite short jaunt for the locals for years, hence the Presence of the Plod.

Mornings will be Cold. Afternoons may be Warm or Hot, and perhaps Sticky too. Nights will be Pretty Cold, but not quite Bloody Freezing yet.

Ideally, spend a few short hours before departing browsing Google Maps to plan a route. Choose the most twisty roads.

Also post on (how quaint!) news:// -- lots of folks there still with good ideas.

Keep the sticky side down -- it'll be a great ride :)
posted by 5MeoCMP at 5:41 AM on May 2, 2007

Make sure not to take any "developmental" raods. That's Aussie code for "dirt, no bridges", will be paved some day.

Be careful riding in the rain- many paved roads don't have bridges either (not too big a problem on the coast, much worse further inland). I can't imagine that you could ford more than a 2 foot creek on a bike.
posted by Four Flavors at 12:07 PM on May 2, 2007

2nding Bundaberg - nothing really special, fun main drag, and lots of cheap(ish) options in food and sleep (it's apparently a hub for short term traveler labor for the surrounding farming country).

Plus, that's where they make Bundaberg Rum.

that's where we had to push start the ginormous bus the next morning when the alternator went kaput... ahh, what fun :)
posted by yggdrasil at 12:49 PM on May 2, 2007

Just a follow up - Four flavors is talking nonsense. Nearly every road that goes somewhere is paved in the area you are riding.
posted by bystander at 7:25 PM on May 8, 2007

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