This route takes in the beaches and seaside towns and villages of Sawtell, Mylestom, Urunga and the Bongil Bongil nature reserves.
For easy turnoffs and access back onto the highway, attractions and diversions to the east of the Highway are taken in on the way south from Sawtell, also using many of the smaller roads between the highway and the ocean. The return leg is much more direct and stays mostly on the highway.
Highlights of this route: Bays and beaches, headlands, breakwaters, creeks, rivers, estuaries, lagoons, parks, picnic areas, nature reserves, lookout points, walkways and boardwalks, viewing platforms, seaside towns, potteries, galleries, gift shops, wineries, many cafés, taverns and restaurants – several of them overlooking the water.
South from sunny Sawtell
If you’re based in Sawtell, skip to the next paragraph. If you’re coming from Coffs Harbour, follow Hogbin Drive to the Toormina roundabout and turn left into Sawtell Road, which takes you right into the delightful village of Sawtell. Just before you see the railway bridge, you can turn left into the Boambee Creek Reserve. There are picnic tables and a kiosk with refreshments, and the crystal-clear creek is great for swimming. If you turn left immediately after the railway bridge, you can drive up to Boambee Lookout for a fantastic view of Boambee Beach to the north and Sawtell village to the south. Try to spot migrating whales if you’re there between June and November. You might follow the walking trail that leads down around the headland to Sawtell Beach, or drive into town by continuing along First Avenue.
Park your car somewhere around the RSL Club and spend some time exploring the boutique shops and cafés around the huge old fig trees in the town’s main street. Visit Cooinda Gallery which specialises in contemporary Aboriginal art, or visit the Sawtell Gallery just south of the village. Have coffee or lunch at one of the al fresco eateries along First Avenue, or at the Surf Club café overlooking Sawtell Beach, just behind the RSL Club. Walk or drive up to the lookout on Sawtell Headland, at the end of Boronia Street, and admire the views out over the ocean, the surf beaches, Bonville Creek and the Bongil Bongil National Park.
Leaving Sawtell, follow Lyons Road and turn left onto the Pacific Highway, going south towards Kempsey. You may visit the Bongil Bongil National Park (follow the signposts) and stretch your legs on one of the walking trails, or have a picnic at one of the picnic areas. You can either take the Highway to Repton and Mylestom, or for a more scenic alternative, take an earlier left turn into Overhead Bridge Road and follow the road, which becomes Old Coast Road, through the Pine Creek State Forest (some unsealed sections) to Repton.
From Repton, beach access for 4WD vehicles is available from Tuckers Rock Road. You can drive north along the beach to Bundagen Headland – excellent for a spot of beach fishing along the way. Or come back another time for a bushwalk taking the 3km Bundageree Trail from the end of Tuckers Rock Road through Bongil Bongil National Park to picturesque Bundagen Headland, returning via the beach.
To go to Mylestom, take Mylestom Drive, which runs from Repton right along the Bellinger River, and continue all the way to the end to get to North Beach with its viewing platform, boat shed and Surf Club. Again, 4WD vehicles can access the beach south of the Surf Club and drive to the river mouth opposite Urunga Heads.
Get some fish & chips or drinks from the general store in Mylestom and enjoy a picnic at one of the many picnic tables along the stunning, deep-blue Bellinger River.
Rivers Restaurant is open for picture-perfect waterfront dining (BYO) Wednesday to Saturday and lunch Wednesday to Sunday. To explore the Bellinger River up close, hire a boat from Bellinger River Tourist Park, located on Mylestom Drive at Repton, closer to the Highway.
Don’t get back onto the Highway, but continue along the river towards Raleigh. Follow the signposts to Raleigh Winery, Australia’s most easterly vineyard, to sample a fine selection of wines and brandy cremes. Open Wednesday to Sunday and every day during NSW school holidays. From Raleigh, either get back onto the Pacific Highway and drive further south to Urunga or alternatively, take a scenic little detour along the river, offering some good fishing spots along the way. From the winery, take North Street which becomes Yellow Rock Road and follow the river which takes you past farm lands and oyster farms in Back Creek. This will take you back to the Pacific Highway just north of Urunga – the place ‘where the rivers meet the sea’.
Just after crossing the bridge over the Kalang River in Urunga, turn right at the Visitor Information Centre towards the town centre. The road loops back towards the river, where you can park your car at Joy Mitchell Park and have a wander around the waterfront and boat ramp. You might want to hire a boat or rest and relax while enjoying some food or a drink at the Anchors Wharf Café in a wonderful location right on the beautiful Kalang River.
Follow the road (signposted Tourist Drive 16) into town and park somewhere around the Ocean View Hotel (1927), which has a restaurant and a beer garden. Boardwalk Café, next to the Star Supermarket, is a charming little café and takeaway – browse among the gifts and goodies while you wait for your order. The park across the road has picnic tables and overlooks the Kalang River mouth. A must-see is the nearby Urunga Footbridge – an amazing 700m raised boardwalk through the mangroves of the river estuary out to the breakwall and beach. Entry is via the grounds of the Urunga Heads Holiday Park.
Head south on the Pacific Highway a short way and you will reach The Honey Place on your right hand side, which is definitely worth a stop. You’ll recognise it by the big yellow replica of a beehive around the entrance of the building. Here you can taste different varieties of honey, see a real beehive at work, enjoy an afternoon tea, visit the fern nursery and doll collection and browse around the souvenir shop.
Returning north to Sawtell
From Urunga, follow the Pacific Highway back north towards Coffs Harbour. As you near the turn-off to Toormina there’s the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House at Strouds Road, Bonville. Take an hour or so to wander among the beautiful live butterflies in an indoor subtropical rainforest setting. Or stop for afternoon tea in the tearoom.
Down the road you might like to book in for a round of golf at the award-winning Bonville Golf Resort. It is a beautiful place to stop for lunch or dinner and offers a stunning setting across the tees.
Travel a few kilometres further north along the highway, past Toormina, and visit the studio and gallery of Southern Cross Pottery at Caba Close in Boambee for beautiful water purifiers and other handmade pottery. Garden enthusiasts can stop over at nearby Garden Mania on Lindsays Road in Boambee, which also has a lovely café. From here, take Sawtell Road across the Pacific Highway to go back to Sawtell, or return to Coffs Harbour via the highway or Hogbin Drive.