December 18, 2019
Trico Top Driving Roads Part 3
In our third look at some of Australia’s greatest driving roads, we’ve gone a little deeper in our search. Some are well known to locals, some are well known throughout the country.
This road is part of the Illawarra Highway, heading from the coast near Illawarra Airport, home of the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society and Wings Over Illawarra. It runs inland for ten to twelve kilometers before becoming “the Pass”, and is renowned locally as one of the best drivers (and motorcyclists’) roads going inland.
There’s an elevation change of over 1,500 feet, topping out at around 1,800 feet at Mount Murray. To get there from the base requires dealing with a road that in some places has no centre line, has blind spot on curves in some sections, and truly breathtaking ocean views in others. The total measured driving distance is just eight kilometers. It’s immensely popular for companies that operate sports car tours and is well utilised by car manufacturers in launch drives.
At 120 years old it shows a bit of age in regards to the overall design, but for those that like to exploit a car or bike chassis, it’s hard to bypass the Macquarie Pass.
In our last list we finished with a hint about this particular location. Although it’s perhaps best known for its two big yearly events, the Bathurst 12 Hour, and the Bathurst 1000, it’s otherwise a normal driving road, available to walkers, riders, and drivers.
The peak itself is 753 metres above sea level, with the mountain’s elevation change of 174 metres (570 feet) offering up a vista of farms, the town of Bathurst, and the roads heading west to Orange and beyond.
The race start is a great place to start a drive, and because it’s a normal driving road, one can go clockwise or counter-clockwise, with each bringing its own delights. Follow the racing line and there’s that famous left hander that begins the gentle climb up Mountain Straight. Then there’s the series of upwards curves that starts with Qauarry as a right hander, The Cutting, through to the peak at McPhillamy and Skyline. It’s here, regardless of which direction one takes, that a stop to take in the breathtaking view is mandatory.
Come from the other direction and there’s Caltex Chase, the kink that goes left and right heading clockwise, before the run up Conrod Straight and hitting Forrest’s Elbow, the Dipper and the tricky switchbacks of The Esses.
Seeing the track on TV is one thing, driving it in both directions? A must.
This is the mountain top equivalent of the almost sea level Great Ocea Road. It’s just on 340 kilometres in length, and depending on direction, starts at the coastal town of Bairnsdale, or the picturesque inner Victorian township of Wangaratta. It’s also Australia’s highest year round driveable road, with a peak nudging 6,040 feet.
Starting from Wangaratta, it takes a south-easterly route towards the north-westerm Alpine town of Bright. This is the base for excursions to Mt Hotham or Mt Beauty, dedicated ski-fields during the snow season.
It’s from Bright that the upwards climb begins, heading to Harrietville. There’s some immensely tight and twisty roads just south of the village before heading east to Mt Hotham. It’s a long and slow descent to Omeo, a former goldrush township. Depending on the time of year there’s either a blanket of white or a blanket of wildflowers. But there is no ignoring the availability of the views from one stop, Mt Feathertop, that takes in a vista which includes Falls Creek and Mt Buffalo.
From Omeo is a gentle run though a spectacular valley to the south-east before a quick up and down at Tambo Crossing before running down to the Gippsland Lakes and Bairnsdale on the coast.
There’s plenty like to just east of Adelaide. Some of the points are close to 2,000 feet above sea level and just twenty or so kilometers away from the CBD. It’s also home to the Targa Adelaide and some of these roads are really suited for small, nimble, sports cars in some areas, and big, burly, torque driven muscle cars in others.
There’s roads that take in Norton Summit, overlooking the city to the west and knocking on 1,500 feet. It’s accessed via roads that have more corners in a few kilometers than others in a hundred. Gorge Road follows the path an ancient river cut through, and there are walls of over six hundred feet in height as it heads east to Kangaroo Creek Reservoir.
Head to the south east and there’s the famous Germanic town of Hahndorf. Steep in history this makes for an ideal lunchtime destination before heading back to the capital and drinking in the views on those mountainous roads.
This has the unofficial title of being the 99 Bends Road. It’s also part of the world famous Targa Tasmania. It’s just 6,000 metres in driveable length and it’s so tight and twisty, top ranking Targa drivers still take four minutes to cover that distance.
There are switchbacks, horseshoe bends, and each sets up for the next to make point and squirt driving the norm, not the exception.
Just east of Queenstown, on The Apple Isle’s west coast, our final top five road is one for the true enthusiast and, due to its reputation, perhaps one that have the cojones necessary to deal with the incredibly technical requirements. The view is said to be spectacular but to enjoy the road properly, it needs to be driven at pace.
Have you driven these roads? Let us know via our feedback section.