For anybody hoping to escape the city and enjoy a weekend of scenic driving, comfortable sightseeing and uninterrupted relaxation, this North Coast getaway is for you.
Covering about 550-600 kilometres (depending on where in Sydney you live), the itinerary is: Sydney – Windsor – Wilberforce – Singleton – Port Stephens (Nelson Bay) – Newcastle – Sydney. This map provides an overview.
Reasonably early on Saturday morning, start by driving to Windsor, on the north-western outskirts of the city. This historic town is where the urban sprawl ends and the countryside begins. It is situated on the Hawkesbury River and, with its numerous heritage-listed buildings, makes the perfect place to stop for a coffee and a gentle stroll.
Continue on to nearby Wilberforce, a tiny and historic community, whose old church is worth a look. This peaceful little place is where Captain Thunderbolt was born.
From Wilberforce, join the Putty Road (also known as the Singleton Road) and follow it to Singleton. For most of the 168 kilometres it glides alluringly through the forest. Elevated for much of the way, it provides sweeping views of the valleys and farmland below, and the ranges and gorges in the distance. But be careful: as the plethora of roadside crosses indicates, people die on this narrow highway. There are two roadhouse along the way, where you can stop, revive and survive.
Singleton is a quiet and unremarkable town- although it does boast a remarkable sundial. Formerly the largest in the world, a host of international upstarts has since relegated it to being merely the largest in the southern hemisphere.
The 123 kilometres of road between Singleton and Port Stephens is excellent, though uninspiring, as it journeys through Maitland and Raymond Terrace. You should arrive in Nelson Bay- the region’s unofficial capital- in the mid-to-late afternoon.
There is no shortage of attractions and activities: dolphin watching, whale watching, scuba diving, kayaking, fishing, parasailing, boating and sand dune adventure tours, to name but a few. However the greatest pleasure may simply lie in all the marvellous aimless walks and drives and coffees and meals that can be savoured there.
Port Stephens will suck so much stress out of you that, come Sunday, you won’t want to leave. With that in mind, try to negotiate a day or two’s leave with the boss. Otherwise, bid your reluctant farewell in the early afternoon. Upon reaching Newcastle, take the time to head into the city and cruise along the coast, because the scenery is gorgeous. After a drive- and perhaps a stroll too- hop back on the highway and begin to mentally prepare for that moment you hoped would never arrive. The real world beckons…