Guest contributor: Matthew Wilmot on the Oxley Highway and other driving roads of New South Wales
When you mix in MX-5 circles, you discover that there are certain roads that are often spoken about. These are roads that are unanimously coveted as being particularly suited to the enjoyment of Mazda’s Roadster. In Australia, specifically in the state of New South Wales (NSW), one road seems to receive most of this praise: the Oxley Highway.
As a b-road enthusiast, it’s been the cause of some amusement amongst some members of the local MX-5 club that I had yet to drive down the Oxley Highway. So when a friend approached me about organising a roadtrip for a small group of us, the Oxley Highway was at the top of the list.
Typically, when coming from the south, you also use the opportunity to take in two other great driving roads: Bucketts Way and Thunderbolts Way. So, at 8am on a Saturday morning, a small group of us assembled at Pie in the Sky, a restaurant on the Pacific Highway known for its (Australian) meat pies.
What followed was two days and 1100kms of driving down the Old Pacific Highway, north to Bucketts Way, through Gloucester, and up Thunderbolts Way to Walcha. Then we’d head back via the Oxley Highway, the freeway to Gosford, back down the Old Pacific Highway, and finally back to Sydney.
After a nice cruise-y run along the Old Pac, we hit the freeway.
Bucketts is a nice flowing road.
It has some appalling sections of very patchy tar, but for the most part it’s nice flowing 100km/h of open bends and low hills, and the countryside coming into Gloucester is quite open and picturesque.
We stopped at Gloucester and did a bit of cafe hopping, as Roadster drivers like to do (I can highly recommend Perenti Cafe— they serve good food and decent coffee (Toby’s Estate)).
There was a storm brewing directly over Thunderbolts, but we pressed on.
Thunderbolts Way put on an impressive show for us.
As we headed out of Gloucester the rain started to fall. With the two Roadsters up front, tops down, we opened throttles to sustain 80+km/h (in order to remain dry!) and charged up the valley.
This is a fantastic road which winds over some great hills and waterways and then twists its way up the valley and up the mountain.
In these conditions, the results were quite epic.
At the top of Thunderbolts, the lookout was dry but fogged in. However the mist parted to give us a glimpse of the view:
From there, we descended off the top of the mountain in pouring rain. However, as we dropped onto the plains, the cusp of the storm was clearly visible overhead:
We stopped, dropped tops, and rolled on across the plains beneath a majestic sky:
There’s some great open sections for the next hour as you roll towards Walcha.
It was here that we stopped for our overnight stay at the Walcha Cafe. Apparently, Wheels and MOTOR (two Australian car magazines —Ed.) often stay here— the Oxley is a favourite spot of theirs.
The Oxley Highway
The build-up to driving this road had been quite immense.
When booking the accomodation, Toni had asked me on the phone if we were bike riders.
“Close,” I said. “Cars.”
“What kind?” was the reply.
“A mix of Japanese cars— MX-5s and the like.”
“Have you ever done the Oxley before?”
“Oh, you are going to love this road!”
At the B&B, there were pamphlets for motorbike riders, with suggested routes around the area. They proclaimed the Oxley to be “arguably the best motorcycle road in Australia.” So, suffice it to say, our expectations were high.
We awoke to a cloudy but dry day and headed off down the Oxley.
Heading south out of Walcha across the Tablelands, the conditions were excellent for photos.
From the plains, you hit your first flowing section through the forest, 20kms of nice flowing 3rd and 4th gear bends.
Then, you see this sign, and the fun really begins:
We continued our descent.
As you descend out of the mountains, the view opens out while the road hugs the side of the valley.
All in all, it’s like 65 kms of the best bits of the Old Pacific Highway. 4th, 3rd and 2nd gear corners, hundreds of them linked in a perfect ribbon.
At the base of the climb you cross a river, and there’s a perfect place to stop.
From this point, it’s a flowing open run to Wauchope, and then to the freeway.
Tasmania aside, this would have to be the best piece of driving on mainland Australia.
I’ve done the Alpine Way, the Snowies are impressive.
I’ve done the Great Ocean Road, a proper sea cliff drive is a must.
But for sheer cornering thrills, the Oxley Highway is hard to beat.
Naturally, we took in the Old Pacific Highway on the return leg.
Truly a memorable driving adventure.
Words and images: Matthew Wilmot, Roadster Life