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  • Writer's pictureLinda Schlencker

Going North Road Trip, May 2021

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Day 1: Port Macquarie to Grafton

Wednesday 12 May 2021

293km, 4 hours 45 minutes

11.20am finally on the road on our maiden voyage with the off-road caravan, named within the first 20km as the “Mini Mahal”. Thank you to Tom our neighbour's son for this wonderful parting drawing.

We took the highway straight up the coast as we can discover this part of NSW any time as it is our backyard. About 45 km north of Grafton on Summerland Way to Whiporie where the General Store offers free camping with toilets in a paddock. We read that they put on a slap up meal so we decided to give it a go.

It was burgers or burgers, but they were good and washed down with a nice chilled white wine a good first meal in the mini mahal!

There is not much to Whiporie – it is pretty much the general store (no fresh provisions like fruit and vegetables but bought some local organic t-bones to take with us. Population 73 and in the Richmond Valley.

Our first night on the Emma mattress was comfortable but a bit disturbed as there were still a few large trucks rolling by in the night.


Day 2: Whiporie to Tenterfield

Thursday 13 May 2021

170 km

An early cup of tea and we decided that breakfast in Tenterfield was a good idea. Packing up is super easy in the Mini Mahal so we were on the road by 7am gently bouncing along the Summerland Way with Mike concerned about the way the battery was charging in the van. You’ve got to worry about something right? Thankfully we started to see the volts coming up and the cabin of the Troopy was calm and happy again.

At Casino we turned west onto the Bruxner Highway. Casino has around 11,000 population and is the capital of beef farming NSW. beef week is in here each May.

The countryside is pretty here with rolling hills dotted with cattle. The Bruxner highway must be a hit with motorcyclists - loads of twists and turns and we climbed the Great Dividing Range to over 888m - nice and cool here!

We arrived in Tenterfield (pop. 4,000) around 10am and checked in at Craig’s Caravan Park before heading off for “brunch” at the Willow Tree Cafe. The breakfast eggs Benedict was enough to keep us going all day.

We took a walk around town, which reminds us a bit of Berrima with antiques, homewares, cafes all in lovely historic buildings.

The Tenterfield Saddlery built in 1860 is still there and there’s a Peter Allen motel (not so sure how he would feel about that!). Peter Allen’s song is about George Woolnough who owned the saddlery for 52 years, saw a son go off to war only to come back and shoot himself and Peter Allen is his grandson.

Sir Henry Parkes is also on a motel - he made a speech here in 1889 which apparently led to the federation of Australia.

After getting the valves on our tyres replaced (one was leaking) we took a drive up to Mt McKenzie 9km out of town to look at the view.

We couldn’t resist trying the wine called Our Place. The bottle of Symphony Hill Pinot Gris went down a treat with the truffle Brie - we might get to this winery in the next few days...

Then back home for a home cooked dinner in the Mini Mahal.


Day 3: Tenterfield to Stanthorpe

Friday, 14 May 2021

62 km

Brisk this morning 2.9, feels like 1.3 degrees. Clear skies and we had a much better sleep on our second night in the Mini Mahal.

One of us decided to go out as the sun rose for a morning walk around the quaint colonial Australian houses of town. Lovely wide streets and still rural blocks in town with sheep, cattle, horses, chickens and barking working dogs.

Mike was up and getting breakfast ready in the sun when I arrived back at Craig’s Caravan Park.

We were on the road at 9.15am on another stunning day and heading off to Stanthorpe only about 60 km away on the New England Highway.

We stopped for coffee at St Jude’s in Ballandean then set up camp at Top of the town Caravan Park which was to bee our home base to explore from for the next few days.

We read that there is a Market every Friday morning at Farley Piazza. There were only two stands. One was a farmer who had dorper lamb so we bought some for the bbq we plan to have Saturday night. We discovered the next day that the markets are in the railway Precinct 7.30 to 1pm...

We’d read that there was a South African wine maker that had planted Pinotage at Raven’s Croft Wines so we went to try it but because of the drought last year they didn’t get a crop. This area is known for its “Strange Bird” wines. These are varieties that we usually wouldn’t have heard of or find in Australia. 274 Spring Creek Rd Stanthorpe,

Lunch was at Brass Monkey Brewery, one of a couple of businesses that brew their own beers. Their ginger beer was delicious.

Friends Alison and Wim arrived from Brisbane around 5.30 pm and it was time for a G&T then dinner at The Aussie Beef Steakhouse. Excellent Beef Cheeks.


Day 4: Stanthorpe

Saturday 15 May 2021

The day started cold and clear and perfect for a ride along the gorgeous cycle path through Stanthorpe. Colourful Autumn leaves, bubbling weirs and shimmering water. Then into town for a coffee at Zest bakery before heading back to the caravan park.

We moved our campsites as we found some quiet sites in a bushy area where we could have a campfire and much more space. The beers and gin and tonics started early after our wood foraging and cutting was complete.

The bbq was burned clean getting ready for our dorper chops for dinner. My stepsister Kirstin and her little 9 month old sweetie of a son Otto arrived around 5.30 and set up their swag by the fire and we settled in for a night of chatting, drinking and eating.


Day 5: Stanthorpe / Ballandean

Sunday 16 May 2021

There was frost on the chairs this morning but the sun was out and the sky so blue. We packed up our bikes and drove to Ballandean to St Jude’s for a tasty breakfast before heads off to try some wineries on our bikes.

It was a 6km climb to Symphony Hill - Kirstin dragged Otto all the way in his little trailer while most of the rest of us had e-bikes to help power up the hill.

It was fast back down the hill and farewell to Wim and Alison who headed back home to Brisbane. We continued into Tobin Wines set on a lovely quiet country road.

We arrived back at St Jude’s for a late lunch and then we followed the bike route back to Stanthorpe.

A shower and a cuppa and then some more firewood was collected to stoke up the fire again.


Day 6: Stanthorpe / Girraween NP

Monday 17 May 2021

Brrrrrr feels like -5.5 degrees the weather app says - yes it does.

At 8am Mike was still enjoying the warmth of the bed as the sun warmed up.

When the sun has warmed up the day we headed to Girraween National Park to do a short walk to the Pyramid. But it was closed for track work... so it was just to the Granite Arch and Bald Rock Circuit that was an easy and peaceful 45 minute walk.

We took the 8% gradient drive up to see Stanthorpe from Mt Marlay lookout before a bite of lunch at Brinx Deli on the Main Street and a bit of shopping for a new duvet and some groceries from the excellent Supa IGA.

One last ride along the Quart Pot Creek with beautiful reflections on the water and a sundowner back in the park and we were now ready to head north to Caloundra.


Day 7: Stanthorpe to Caloundra

Tuesday 19 May 2021


We timed it perfectly to arrive at Sutton’s in Thurlimbah just north of Stanthorpe as they opened at 9.30am to pick up some of their famous apple pie. As much as having it for second breakfast was tempting, we took two massive slices with us for dessert tonight.

In the same town is Stanthorpe Cheese and Jersey Girls. We can’t resist a cheese shop so we dropped in, had a tasting and bought some samples for the road.

Then on to Warwick 47km away on the New England Highway then to 96km Gatton on the A3 and 80.

The road towards Gatton was lovely and twisty and quiet and we stopped in the sweet little park in Esk for lunch.

We took minor roads through Toogoolawah, Kilcoy and Beerwah with glimpses of the Glasshouse Mountains along the way as we then hit the highways and traffic at Caloundra.

Mike’s sister Anne had cooked a lovely chicken stew for dinner and the finally got to tuck into our apple pie.

We spent the next couple of days cycling around and hanging out with family.

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