In the past we have always returned home from Port Macquarie via Sydney, partly because it’s the quickest route but also because it gave us an opportunity to overnight there and catch up with my aunt. But, as she died in 2015, we decided that this year we’d come home the (or, should I say, a) long way, and take three days rather than the usual two…
It was a pleasant, if uneventful trip that took us through secondary roads, mixed farms, and many interesting country towns, small and large. We enjoyed the rolling-hill-dominated country-side, particularly as it seemed to have a decent amount of green, although the constant (well, it felt like it) roadworks got a bit irritating at times. (Especially on Sunday when no roadwork was happening!)
Our route was (for those who know the area):
- Day 1 (actually Day 9 of our holiday): Port Macquarie, through Wauchope, Comboyne, Walcha, and Tamworth, to Willow Tree.
- Day 2: Willow Tree through several tiny towns to Mudgee for lunch, and then on through the historic gold-mining area of Sofala to Bathurst.
- Day 3: Bathurst, through Crookwell and then small towns like Tuena and Binda, and on to Gunning and Gundaroo (for lunch), before arriving home.
There were some surprises, such as Walcha with its Open Air Sculpture program, and Willow Tree, a town of 400 or so people that has a stylish Inn (pub), and three cafes along the short stretch of highway through town. Three cafes! I visited two and they were stylishly modern, and friendly. These were not your traditional Paragon Cafes. Do that many people stop in Willow Tree we wondered? Lucky local residents is all I can say.
Not so surprising, but distressing, was the huge amount of roadkill, mostly of the kangaroo variety. We saw a few live kangaroos and wallabies along the roadside (and managed to keep them that way) but oh so many dead ones.
The highlight of the return trip, though, has to be our lunch at the Pipeclay Pumphouse, at the Robert Stein Winery, just out of Mudgee. The view from our table was gorgeous, the food was beautifully presented and very tasty, and the service friendly – and it was delightful walking around the whimsical sculptures afterwards. Perfect as the last special meal of our holiday.
And the pics …