Matt Featherstone takes the low road to Victoria, mainly through NSW.
As has been said by kings and queens, there is something gloriously “middle finger” about riding south out of Sydney at dawn on a Friday past streams of frustrated people going the other way. And it had been the best part of 20 years since the last time we’d done this on bikes. A joyful two fingers, then.
The plan was three days of royal sweepers – the best that could be found – centred on motorcycle-friendly Bombala, seven hours to the south. Our rendezvous was, fittingly, the Royal National Park entrance, then a reminder of how good that winding road is when it’s deserted. A chance sighting of a lyre-bird was a bonus.
The Princes Highway was unavoidable due to time but lunch was taken in the delightful hamlet of Durras Lakes South. This village, about 9km off the highway, welcomes you with some very pleasant 65km/h twisties on a good road surface through cool forests to the turquoise waters of Oakey Beach.
We can recommend the cappuccinos at The Shop – just follow the signs – and also the refreshing sea breeze blowing through the small shady eating area on the side. There are clean toilets across the road at the fire station.
The well-hidden turn-off to Bermagui at Tilba Tilba rescued us from a rapidly worsening case of the Prince’s Highway Blues. In contrast, the road to Bermagui soars like a glider through forests and across green ridges with sweeping views of the coast. Coffee was taken at Horseshoe Bay Beach at the southern end of Bermagui: veer left to the shops instead of turning right at the sign to Tathra, then go past the main street shops towards the headland. Safe and flat parking spots for the bikes are on the left. There’s a choice of the pub and a couple of cafes within a two-minute stretch of the legs. The beach has crystal clear rock pools, which were perfect for a cooling respite from the mid-March heat.
It was fortuitous that coffee had been taken because the road from Bermagui to Tathra definitely needs concentration. The majestic view over the bay to Baragoot Point about two minutes ride from Bermagui sets the scene, then the sweepers start. There don’t appear to be any straights, so fifth, fourth, and – yes, Virginia – even third gear was used the way they should be: to drive hardish (this is a royal ride remember) out of corners, rather than the perpetual overtaking on the Princes. Watch for Tathra’s finest when you hit the 50km/h zone at the end: that appears to be a favourite ambush spot.
We kept to the coast road through to Pambula, then took the Wyndham/Cathcart/Bombala road. This is a firecracker: once the road goes into the forest, the twisties are glorious, quite tight in places, and there are streams of them. Best road of the day. The road surface was iffy in two places (potholes in switchbacks, right on the cornering line, no less) but otherwise good and it opens up beautifully for the final sweepers into Bombala.
Continuing the royal theme, we stayed in the Heritage which is a B&B in the converted National Australia Bank building on Bombala’s main street. It’s perfect for a small group. There are three double rooms upstairs opening on to a common area with sofas and a communal bathroom.
Downstairs there are en suite rooms and a very welcoming 20 seat dining room that opens out to a pleasant garden area with shaded coffee tables. Out back there are the old stables now converted into a closed area with fireplaces and trestle tables and a separate air-conditioned twin-room en suite unit, which was only partially renovated when we visited but still comfortable. The bikes were parked securely behind a gate.
After a dawn walk up to the lookout to relieve sore legs and fuelled by an excellent full breakfast cooked by our host, we took the run up to Porters Lookout on the Brown Mountain road, via Wyndham, Candello and Bemboka. The Testastretta 749 decided to proudly display its engine warning light: this it does on occasion and we’ve learnt to ignore it in our undiminished enjoyment of the bike on roads like this – rock solid in sweepers, plenty of urge and one of the sweetest gearboxes in existence.
That road was so good it just had to be done again. So it was around midday before we headed from Bombala to the hoped for jewel in the crown: the infamous Bonang Road from Delegate down to Orbost for a late lunch.
The statistics on this road, which no doubt you’ve heard before, just don’t do it justice: there are so many corners, of every conceivable speed and surface, and with almost zero traffic, that after a while you just have to stop to pinch yourself that it isn’t a dream. I swear there was singing inside the helmet. One of the two short gravel sections relieved the ZZR11 of a rather important fairing bolt. We hear that tar completion is coming: talk about perfection in the making.
By 2.45pm, in the heat of this particular weekend, we were glad for an extended break at the delightful Courtyard Cafe on the main street in Orbost. The coffee and food there is highly recommended, as is the friendly prompt service and the shaded tables.
The return ride back up the Bonang was certainly eventful: thick smoke from a nearby bushfire blowing over the road, the tar on some corners becoming very slick in the heat, a crazed (“eyes like saucers”) hippy in a “Wicked” van straddling the white line (oncoming) and on one blind 90 degree left-hander, hidden gravel right on the cornering line that caused one of us problems, thankfully resulting in only slight cosmetic damage to the bike. But the Bonang can certainly bite: there is very little run-off, as we discovered.
We can understand why local riders spend every weekend getting the Bonang road right. It is a road to be savoured. T’was a weary bug-splattered pair that sat down that night at the excellent Como Café in Bombala for a repeat of the generous and well-priced food of the night before and the discussion quickly turned to a) whether there is a longer set of tar twisties within reach of Sydney that isn’t infested by the Moving Chicanes and b) how on earth we could get leave passes for a “royal encore” without delay!