Easter Adventuring – driving north

We normally stay at home over Easter; the traffic, the crowds. 

Traffic escaping Sydney over the long weekend is mad and we don’t want to be stuck in it. After all we have enough breaks to be luckily enough to travel at other weekends. 

A friend posted this on her FB – leaving Sydney on the Thursday before Good Friday

Still, we planned a trip so we would avoid the traffic of Easter. Indeed this was our first Easter trip away in over 15 years as Easter fell in the middle weekend of our two week break so we couldn’t avoid being away at Easter if we were going to be anywhere but home for any length of time. 

The main purpose of our trip was to visit my mother who lives in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. We could fly up and it would “save” time. But saved for what? Chores at home?

It takes about 10 hours of non-stop driving to get to my mother’s place. We actually prefer to drive and break the trip with an overnight stay somewhere, exploring different regions and towns, and stopping for lunch along the way. 

Mr S is a man of habits. If he had his way, we would stop at the same lunch stop every trip. Once he has a place burned in his mind as being “our stop”, it is nigh on impossible getting him to change. Yet, conversely, when we exploring new places, he loves it. 

Our drive north was via the inland road, the New England Highway. It’s our tradition to stop for a lunch of tea and egg, mayo and lettuce rolls with something sweet for dessert. Mr S makes a thermos of tea and I pack the food, a tablecloth and my fine bone china mug. If I’m going to drink tea, it will be from something nice!

As highways are upgraded and towns by-passed, it becomes harder to get Mr S to stop at nice places. He just wants to keep driving and limit tea stops to roadside rest stops. It is not nice siting on the side of the highway with traffic roaring past and with very little to look at. These stops are utilitarian, rather than part of a sightseeing trip. 

Luckily the New England Highway is still mainly single lane and still goes through towns and villages, offering much to see and interesting places to stop. 

We stopped at Muswellbrook, on the Upper Hunter, in a well-maintained park next to the old railway station. It wasn’t actually very quiet as several long coal trains rumbled by. But in between it was peaceful. And it had various things to look at – a tree with aboriginal markings, gardens, a mural on reconciliation, war memorial, the old train station, playground equipment with families playing on them, information on various old trees in the area. Definitely worthy of a stop and a nice place to have a cuppa. 

Mr S in front of the tree with aboriginal markings and the mural in the background. The observant may notice Mr S wears a cap adorned with my favourite anti-hero.

It’s always sad to see so many family names repeated on war memorials in country towns. So many family lost multiple family members.

The war memorial at one end of the park. The blue sky hides the fact that it was a little cool, perfect tea drinking weather.


Satiated, we had a slow drive by of some of the interesting building of Muswellbrook. 

Another of our road trip traditions is to listen to BBC radio plays. We have the complete three series of Dad’s Army, various Agatha Christie adaptations and other plays. We have audio books too but much prefer full cast radio plays.  It really makes the road trip so enjoyable. 

As we set off late, we arrived at the historic guesthouse in Armidale in the New England Highlands where we were booked in for two night just as dusk was deepening.  

So are you a road tripper? Do you have traditions? 

If you make the trip between Sydney and the Gold Coast, do you have any favourite rest stops to recommend? Share away. New England or Pacific Highways? Which is your pick?

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15 thoughts on “Easter Adventuring – driving north

  1. Mr S appears to have gone to the same road tripping school as my Dad. He loves to pull up to rest stops that are usually fairly barren and uninteresting. A place to head to “the toot” and then have a quick cuppa from a thermos. He has still not realised I cannot drink tea from a plastic cup.
    Thank goodness I was lucky enough to experience your grander picnic standard, complete with tablecloth and tea from a china cup.

    • I hate the toots that are long drops!!! I know they’re environmentally sound but I just can’t stand them.

      I suppose I should be happy that Mr S understands the need for a tablecloth to cover a questionable table and fine bone China.

  2. Ugh, the thought of a road trip makes me cringe – I almost had a 14 hours one way for a WA wedding last year, and the money was more CERTAINLY better spent on flights… Canberra is probably my limit? I do Newcastle for work sometimes, or Central Coast. That being said, I have a friend at Nambucca heads, so I feel like I know that bit of highway well!

    • It’s about making the journey part of the adventure. Not just the destination. I want to drive across the Nullarbor. And do the Ghan. A four hour trip is really only about getting there. There’s not much in the trip to Canberra that makes it worth a road trip to stop and look. It’s all about the getting there. Same with Newcastle. Whereas driving for over 10 hours means the trip and overnight stops are part of the adventure. And Central Coast takes me just a bit longer than a train ride to the city! Lol.

      • Hmm I suppose you’re right. We drove to Orange years ago, I remember blogging about it, as I set a challenge of buying no food on the road, and we succeeded!

  3. I know the New England Highway well. When I was little my grandparents lived a few hours north of us along the highway, so we would travel it to visit at Christmas (and other times of the year). Then when I was at uni I would travel back and forth along the highway between uni and family.

    The old haunt of our family trips was Pat’s Cafe at Murrurundi. You can still see the remains on the left at the northern end of town. If you are looking for a naturally beautiful picnic spot, there is a lovely place near the Murrurundi Golf Course. If you look for the golf course on a map you will see the road loops just to the south east of the course. That loop is the spot you are looking for. The name Paradise Rd will help you if you are using a navigation system, but take a left at the golf course, and follow to the loop. It is only a few minutes off the highway, but secluded, peaceful and lush.

    The Bikini Tree was another landmark of our trips. Do you know it? The new highway makes it harder to find, but I hear it can be found at Pothana Lane, Singleton.

    If you are travelling in autumn it is worth stopping around Armidale. Only two blocks from the highway, Alma Park in Uralla is a lovely stopping point in autumn. Not too far out of your way, but peaceful. And the trees are beautiful at this time of year.

    Choosing between the New England and Pacific Highways I would always choose the New England. The Pacific has such a bad reputation for accidents, and we still have plenty of people to visit along the way with the New England. Actually, we were travelling from the Gold Coast to Sydney over New Years. We stopped for nights in Grafton (cheaper than Byron Bay!) and Port Macquarie, so were definitely planning on taking the Pacific for that trip. But then we did a (long) loop from Port Macquarie to Walcha, Uralla, Armidale, Tamworth and Muswellbrook visiting friends and family before heading on to Sydney. We turned a 400km trip into a full day, 700km, 18 hour epic! It seems I just can’t get away from the New England Highway!

    My father-in-law shakes his head at me – he chooses to go through Gloucester, then probably Walcha, maybe rejoining the highway at Uralla?? .

    • Oh thanks. Some good ideas. I want to do the Waterfall Way one time and definitely will do your father-in-law’s route. We will have more journeys to see my family so exploring different routes means it is not just about getting to my family but seeing things on the way.

      That was a big detour you did! What’s your entertainment in the car? Music? Driving in silence and letting your thoughts wander? Talking?

      • Probably a little of all of the above! We listen to a lot of music in the car. When the kids were little we really enjoyed the long hours to talk while they napped. Now they are older there is less privacy for those long, wandering dicussions. Sometimes we listen to audiobooks. Our boys always play computer games in the car, unless we tell them it is time for a break. It means they look forward to car trips, and we don’t dread them! Their screen time is restricted at home, but we allow almost unlimited screen time while driving. But music is probably the number one for us. My husband can never remember song lyrics, no matter how many times he has heard a song. Luckily he doesn’t mind me singing along to everything (lyrics stick in my head). Our daughter enjoys singing, too. And I’m working to help her develop a good taste in music! I did a lot of driving with her in the past week and was very happy with her song selections on the trip. 🙂

      • Hahaha. I remember lots of lyrics. But often I have remembered my version of the song. We also saw driving as a way to “educate” our boys’ music tastes.

  4. We are road trippers! Most of the time if we go anywhere, we drive (did fly to Sydney because we only had a week). The longest trip was to the Gold Coast and back (4,000km in a 1959 Plymouth Belvedere. Epic!) but we normally do 2-3 trips a year that are at least three hours. We went to Bendigo over Easter – we haven’t been there together before, bit of an experience with two cars – but stop at Gisborne for lunch and job done. Our normal trips are to see Reg’s family in western Victoria – we change drivers at Beaufort and try to remember to fill the car!

    I lived in SA until I was nineish, and we had many many road trips back and forth between mum’s family in Anglesea, and home; and even after we moved over here, back again to visit friends. Dad was a big fan of getting there as fast as possible.

    • Mr S hates being captive of the airlines and airports. All the queueing and waiting. So we normally drive. Three hours drive is doable for a weekend away. And I wouldn’t worry about stopping off for a cuppa, and obviously no need for an overnight break.

      I’ve just had to wean Mr S off the thought that it is only about the destination. If it was just that, I’d fly.

  5. Rom knows I laugh at/with him because any time he does something once, it becomes a “tradition” that he looks forward to next time! Restaurants especially. But when he visits a new one he likes, it gets added to the tradition list too. So I keep dragging him to new places that I might like 🙂 We have not done any long road trips due to lack of vacation time. We don’t have an Easter term break, just a 4-day weekend. Instead, public schools get a week off in March (March Break) and universities get a study break for a week in February (foolishly referred to as Spring Break, maybe because some students spend their student loans on a trip to somewhere sunny). I like your sunny photos; what were the temperatures like?

    • In holding onto traditions, Rom and Mr S are twins. My kids and I laugh with/at our tradition maker. Last few years, Easter has not been in the end of term 1 break (we get two weeks’ break at the end of Terms 1, 2 and 3 and then 5 weeks at the end of Term 4 which is Christmas summer hols.) Sometimes the public holidays fall in the breaks, sometimes they are sweet extras.

      The temp was very pleasant. Bit cool in the shade and with a breeze so needed a cardigan or flannelette top (I don’t own one of those but steal Mr S’s). Warm in he sun, though. It still had a bit of bite. It was low to mid 20s. We had to pack for different climates. As we got north it was warm and shorts weather in the day, jacket at night. But in the highlands it was cool, again low to mid 20s in middle of day but about 13° in the morning, dipping to 5 at night.

  6. I just love a road trip. Absolutely love it. Even reading about it relaxes me. I don’t know the Sydney to Gold Coast route well off the top of my head; but name almost any bigger town on either route and we have memories of being there (for Mr D and I both as kids; or as 20-somethings doing the coast drives with friends; or once or twice as a family.) Our traditions are playlists of our entire music collection. I do like your idea of shows though as well. Hope you had a great trip!

    • It is great having the memories of different places. I love the driving past places and saying that’s where we stopped last time. Or that’s where we got attacked by mozzies. My boys say things like what was that place we played putt putt. Or where were we when we went to the fair with all the rides.

      Try the radio plays. Full cast ones are great. Our boys loved the Stephen Fry Harry Potter but put up with Dads Army. Not that they had a choice. We listened to some creepy 40 min Agatha Christies this time

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