There’s something about tunnels that inspires wonder in the inner child or engineer in us. The historic narrow tunnel carved through the granite Dalmorton Bluff on the Old Grafton-Glen Innes Road was our primary reason for riding this loop between the Clarence valley and the tablelands, but there is a lot more to enjoy.
Built around 1867, the old road was a Cobb and Co stage run. The Gwydir Highway, which takes a more northerly route between Glen Innes and Grafton, replaced this route in 1960.
From Grafton, the road is sealed as far as Buccarumbi, after which you turn off onto the old Grafton Road and cross the Nymboida river. The dirt road follows the Boyd river. The tunnel appears soon after the old gold mining town of Dalmorton. Leaving the Boyd valley, the road crosses over a ridge to the Mann River valley.
There’s a turnoff to Tommys Rock Lookout just before the Mann River crossing. Across the Mann River is Diehard creek, which reminded me of Diehappy in the Bellingen valley. Time to concentrate on staying alive now, as the narrow road climbs 800m in the next 45km, with lots of twisty corners. Fortunately, much of it is now sealed.
Meeting up with the fast Gwydir Highway, we turned east and then took the turn off to Raspberry Lookout for a picnic lunch and rest break. Back on the Gwydir, we took another short detour to inspect the very pretty Bellbird campground for future walks. Continuing, the Gwydir Highway drops 1000m from its peak into the Clarence Valley over a short 20km – quite a ride!
We took the leisurely route back to Coffs through the Orara valley via Glenreagh.