Thousands of us Sydneysiders head north out of Sydney every Christmas Holidays via the Pacific Highway to spend time on the beautiful Pacific Coast of NSW. Instead of dropping into McDonalds or one of the other international fast food joints along the way, where every man and his dog are using the toilets, why not support some small businesses and take a wee detour off the highway into one of the many pit stops listed below. The pit stops cover the area from Sydney to the Qld border. You will not only be eating some decent food and drinking some perfectly brewed coffee but you will also be doing the right thing - because we all know that we should Stop Revive and Survive.
Located right on the Pacific Highway you may have zoomed pass this little gem without even realising it was there. The gardens are on the right hand side of the highway at Heatherbrae as you are heading north from Sydney. They are an ideal spot to stop as they are approx. 2 hours from Sydney. The gardens cover 140 hectares of land and include a visitors centre and café that serves light refreshments and Devonshire teas; and of course there is loads of space to have a picnic and stretch your legs. The entrance fee to the gardens costs $4.00 per car. You pay at the café and they give you a token to exit the car park through the boom gate. If you would like to stop in on your way north there is a turning bay available for you to use on both side of the highway. Please note the gardens are closed on both Christmas and Boxing Days.
Just over 2 hours from Sydney, Raymond Terrace is the ideal spot for a loo break and to stretch the legs. Raymond Terrace is situated on the majestic Hunter River. The fantastic Riverside Park on Hunter Street is perfect for bored kids to run around in. There are toilet facilities, picnic shelters and an excellent playground in the park. If you have arrived in time for lunch or you just require a refreshing drink you can also check out the Junction Inn at the end of the street.
Now that the bypass has been completed you will probably hoon straight pass Buladelah almost forgetting that it ever existed. This would be a shame as it is such a cute town and it still needs to survive financially. You've just driven 2.5 hrs so you must need a caffeine hit. So why not stop in for some coffee and cake at the lovely Myalla Magic on the main street. This café occupies an old house and serves very decent coffee and an excellent selection of cakes and lunch items. If you need a playground for the kids, a good size one is located around the corner on Crawford St. Called Wade Park it has both toilet facilities and a picnic shelters.
You may have seen this brightly coloured café located in a church like building on the left hand side of the Pacific Highway just past the Taree turn off. It is most definitely worth veering off the highway for, as it is not only home to some very interesting artworks but also the most delightful tearooms that you will probably find on the north coast. The coffee, the cakes and the meals that are served, are oh so delicious and will make you so happy that you drove straight past the big McDonalds a little while back.
This is a slight detour from the highway. You turn left into the Wauchope exit from the highway and approx. 5 minutes later you will see a turn off to Bago Vineyards. This winery is home to the amazing Bago maze - you can lose the kids for a while whilst you enjoy a tasting of some of their wines and also a local cheese platter. The maze costs $10.00 for adults and $7.00 for kids - open 7 days a week from 9.30am.
This place is so much fun! You can pick your own strawberries! There are loads of polytunnels that are home to the biggest and fattest strawberries you have ever seen. Grab a bucket and a pair of scissors from the front counter in the cafe and pick as many strawbs as you can (and don't be naughty and eat too many along the way!). Once your bucket is full you take it inside and have it weighed for payment. Now you have a bucket load of strawberries to feast on during your holidays. Take a seat in Café Red and have a Devonshire Tea, served of course with loads of Ricardoes strawberry jam. All around the café are shelves stocked with Ricardoes products as well as the beautiful hydroponic tomatoes that they grow on site. The café is open from 9am – 3pm everyday and the farm gate sales are available from 7am – 5pm each day. It's about 15 minutes off the highway and definitely worth the detour.
Another town that is now bypassed, Kempsey is home to the gorgeous River Café located right on the Macleay River. River Cafe belongs to a charming B & B called Nerthby House. The café is open from 10am, Tue- Sun and offers late breakfasts, morning and afternoon teas as well as lunch. The vista from the alfresco dining spot under in the trees in the garden is breathtaking.
By now you have driven almost 6 hours. You may be stopping for the night or heading further north. Whatever you are doing, make sure you drop into this delightful florist and teahouse located just off the highway in Vernon St. They serve a delicious assortment of teas served in Nanna's best china as well as perfectly brewed coffee and an assortment of cakes. You can sit back and relax amongst stunning floral arrangements whilst you recharge your batteries – why not pick up a beautiful bunch to take with you to your holiday destination?
Woolgoolga is probably best known for the stunning Sikh Temple that you drive past when heading north along the Pacific Highway. "Woopi" is also home to beautiful beaches and the very yummy Bluebottles Brasserie. Here you will find food that is as delicious as you will find in Sydney and great coffee to keep you alert. After your meal why not dip your toes in the crystal clear waters of one of Woopi's beautiful beaches.
You will not regret stopping in at the art gallery and café in Grafton. The gallery is home to works from many local artists as well as some amazing photographic and print works. Take a wander through the space to recharge the mind and spirit and then partake in some of the delicious food on offer in the cool café. Don't worry kids are welcome with open arms, there's something for all members of the family here. Open from Tuesday – Sunday from 10am – 4pm.
This fascinating little piece of Italy located in northern NSW is the perfect pit stop to immerse yourself in some Italian culture and partake in some delicious Italian fare. The land that the museum and café are located on is part of the original settlement of land that Italian immigrants were given back in the 1880s. It was known as Little Italy and still is to this day. Descendants of the original settlers have created the museum and café and they say it's the best coffee along the Pacific Highway! New Italy is 10km south of Woodburn open 7 days a week.
You've done it! You have arrived in Queensland, no doubt a bit weary and no doubt in need of some sustenance. Head straight to the water and straight into a comfy armchair at the spectacular Café D'Bar. Situated on the border of NSW and QLD at Danger Point, D'Bar is both a gallery and an eatery/bar. Their motto is "Art you can feel, food to inhale and taste, views to delight your eyes and music to soothe your soul." Your five senses will be rewarded for stopping at D'Bar. Open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Enjoy!
If you need any more information on the above pit-stops make sure your check their websites. You can also find more information on the fantastic Legenday Pacific Coast website and App.
Remember people - it's just as much about the journey as it is the destination. So make sure you make the most of the above pit stops these Christmas holidays and arrive alive and full of the joys of life. Happy Holidays!