Ultimate Sydney to Melbourne Road Trip
27 March 2017 / Words & Photos by Philip Yee
"Find a job you love, and you will never work another day in your life."
In light of the fact I had planned to attend the Mazda MX-5 FanFest first and foremost as a fan(atic), but instead invited by the event organiser, Steve Maciver and NSW State Manager Daniel Morris to attend and provide support on the day as an Mazda Australia employee I can’t help but be grateful to work for a brand I am so passionate about.
Being Sydney based, what surprised the office was when I politely declined the company paid return flights to Melbourne from Sydney and instead opted to drive (in an MX-5 of course)!
I now had two very serious decisions to make:
- Which of my two MX-5s to take?
- Which route(s) to take between Sydney and Melbourne?
Decision number one, the emotional or the logical choice? The emotional decision was to take my sentimental favourite, lightly modified with lowered suspension, custom exhaust and BBS RS wheels, utterly raw but truly a driver’s car and very close to my heart. However it wasn’t without significant compromise and over any long stretches of highway with the drone of the exhaust, lack of air-conditioning and power steering might be traumatic after 300kms into 3,000kms over the course of days (not weeks).
Alternatively sharing the same driveway was my company drive ND with the same (if not improved) handling and driving dynamics it had additional engine capacity, comfortable stock suspension and as well as added creature comforts like bluetooth handsfree and power steering, this MX-5 would provide far greater comfort over long highway stretches of road on the journey south.
Decision number two, in an MX-5 it is always about the journey and less the destination. And I’ve been doubly fortunate to inherit a geographic patch of dealerships to work with along the Eastern coast of NSW which can be travelled via some of the best driver roads in New South Wales. As such the trip south would ideally coincide with the opportunity to conduct some business visits to those South Coast dealerships I work with (Nowra, Clyde and Eden Mazda).
And so began my itinerary building by google mapping the most jagged set of B and C roads minimising as many long stretches of highway as possible and a compromise of backtracking ground just to hit certain roads versus actually getting to Melbourne within 36 hours of departing my most southern Dealership Eden Mazda where I would join a convoy of MX-5s to attack some of the most spectacular scenic and driver roads the New South Wales and Victorian border has to offer.
What follows I consider to be the ultimate Sydney to Melbourne MX-5 road trip!
The ultimate “ultimate” road trip from Sydney to Melbourne Approximate 1,600kms and 23 hour drive time.
Day 1: Mazda NSW State Office (Sydney) to Nowra Mazda via the Royal National Park and the Seacliff Bridge
Distance: 181 kms
Section Highlights: Royal National Park, Seacliff Bridge and Mt Pleasant Lookout
It was in the last few moments before I set off on my trip that I made the rational and logical decision to drive the ND over the NA.
It was especially timely in order to escape the sweltering 38 degree temperature in the chilled air conditioned cabin of the MX-5 ND. An easy run down the classic Royal National park via Stanwell Tops and the sublime Seacliff Bridge. Had time permitted, an optimised run would have included a roundabout detour trip between Wollongong to Nowra via Macquarie Pass and the Cambewarra Ranges.
But, taking advice from a good friend and former NA6 driver; “Proceed down south as quickly as possible. There, your real journey begins”.
Day 1 Departure point. Mazda NSW State Office.
Mt Pleasant Lookout.
Day 2: Nowra Mazda to Eden Mazda via Tilba Tilba and The Sapphire Coast Drive
Distance: 316 kms
Section Highlights: Hyams Beach, Tilba Tilba and the Sapphire Coast Drive from Wallaga Lake to Merimbula
I started the morning with a dealer visit to Nowra Mazda sharing my journey ahead with Dealer Principal, Ian Henry whom enthusiastically made great recommendations for scenic highlights including Hyams Beach and the incredibly picturesque Tilba Tilba.
After lunch at Huskisson I was joined by fellow MX-5 car club member Adam “Reggie” Walker in his NC where we stopped by Clyde Mazda in Batemans Bay for a coffee and pit stop and took some scenic detours adding a little over an hour to the commute to Eden Mazda via Tilba Tilba and the Sapphire Coast Drive.
We took a quick exit from the Princes Highway and passed through Tilba Tilba, with its incredibly lush rolling hills and mountains, it is something reminiscent of the Hobbit town The Shire. Jumping back onto the Princes Highway and made a tight left hand turn towards Wallaga Lake, here the scenery is especially surreal, crossing single lane bridges between the crystal clear ocean waters on the left and verdant pastures on the right between Bermagui and Tathra. The final leg of this section became more exciting but at the same time increasingly stressful as dusk approached so did the wallabies and kangaroos on the side of the road mulling whether or not to play a game of chicken with the frontends of our roadsters.
Day 2 Departure point: Nowra Mazda and Clyde Mazda visit
Hyams Beach. Considered the whitest beach sand on earth
Spectacularly scenic Tilba Tilba where a diamond python was spotted casually crossing the road!
Murrah River. No passing or overtaking on bridge
Day 3: Eden Mazda to Lake Hume via Mount Darragh and Mount Kosciusko
Distance: 456 kms
Section Highlights: Mount Darragh Road and the Alpine Way from Crackenback to Khancoban
An early morning start to eat local smoked fish for breakfast and talk shop with Steve Mitchell and Troy Altman of Eden Mazda, here the journey to Melbourne truly began. I was a few moments late when I caught up with Adam at the start of Mount Darragh Road and It was at this moment looking at the nearly half empty petrol range to empty reading 170kms I dismissed the back of my mind consideration to drive back into town and fuel up “Surely we will pass a petrol station before arriving into Jindabyne…”
As we neared Jindabyne that hopeful petrol station never appeared, and at this point in time air-conditioning was turned off and without mobile reception Google maps was unavailable, we punched into the Navman the nearest petrol station; village of Dalgety. Anxiously driving and counting down to zero the vehicles fuel range to empty and the navigators distance to destination. Thankfully we made it with a reading of range to empty being approximately 2kms. Less thankfully when we looked left and right for a supposed petrol station and were met only with dilapidated shed and rusty bowsers with a “CLOSED” sign hanging off it.
We left the ND parked at the decoy service station and jumped into Adam’s car to get to the nearest village 22kms away in Berridale to fill up a jerry can to which the service attendant made us aware the Dalgety petrol station had been closed for nearly 10 years!
With a 5 litre top up, we made it to Lake Jindabyne to fill up, have some lunch looking over Jindabyne Lake proceeding via the delicious Alpine way. These roads, these roads are everything that the MX-5 was designed to drive, if ever I had to choose a day of ground hog day it would have been today with the roads we drove, our hands and feet were constantly kept busy endless back to back switchbacks and tight twisty bends. This was pure driving heaven.
We converged onto Lake Hume where nearly 50 other MX-5 club members had arrived (Mostly via the more time efficient Hume Highway!).
Eden sunrise overlooking Twofold Bay and Honeysuckle Point.
We made it! But not really. With 2kms to spare, it turns out the service station had been out of action for 8 years!
Stark tree trunks lining Mount Koziosko, Australia’s highest mountain
Day 4: Lake Hume to Melbourne via the Yarra Ranges National Park
Distance: 456 kms
Section Highlights: Yarra Ranges National Park
As special as it is to experience rolling into a rural town with a 30-40 plus convoy of MX-5s literally stopping traffic, a smaller group of us decided to break off from the main group of MX-5 members to travel via some more intense Victorian alpine ranges (Mount Beauty and Mount Hotham), if I thought Day 3 was driving heaven, by the looks of these alpine road sections I was salivating at the prospects of hitting apex after apex for the next 6-8 hours.
But timing is everything and severe storms were coming our way. Some of the guys being the true roadster warriors they were (namely “Big Red”), maintained their commitment to the open top driving cause and drove roof down until just short of torrential downpour the wind bubble was unable to deflect the water.
With limited visibility, sheer cliff drops without barriers, we pottered through Whitfield and Powers Lookout we were forced to speeds below 40kmh with hazards turned on. A safety decision was made by the convoy to avoid the Alpine Way and instead find some more relaxed routes and proceed directly through to the Yarra Ranges National Park. Here we were delighted by what was claimed by some members of the convoy the best roads ever (affectionately referred to as C513 and C511) where it was nothing but back to back winding, twisting between the stark contrast of black tar and lush green rainforest vegetation.
Today culminated into the longest stretch of roads to finally get to Melbourne and but we got there! After nearly 1,600kms (Nearly 1,000 of which in the past 36 hours) it felt strange not being seated and having hands at 9 and 3’o clock position!
It's raining, it's pouring
Visibility around 50m with fog and rain through twisty mountain passes.
Affectionately referred to by the run team as road C511.
Iconic Melbourne trams arriving into Melbourne CBD
Looking back this was indeed the road trip of a life time and one I am highly appreciative to have had the opportunity to participate in. Thanks to the MX-5 club members who joined me throughout the run (special shout out to Adam getting me through my first ever forced jerry can fuel run) and especially to Steven Maciver and Daniel Morris for the invitation down to attend FanFest as a Mazda Australia representative!