Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Sea Cliff Bridge.

Here's another one for the 'Bucket List'. The Sea Cliff Bridge.

Here is what 'The Age' has to say.

Coast with the most

Terry Smyth
October 29, 2007

A spectacular bridge heralds our hottest new drive, Terry Smyth writes.

You're driving south from Sydney, heading for Wollongong or beyond to the Southern Highlands, Canberra or Melbourne, or maybe you just fancy a day trip, going nowhere in particular.

And if you're in no hurry you have a choice of routes: the busy Princes Highway, with its traffic fumes and white line fever, or Grand Pacific Drive, with its sea air and postcard views.

No contest.

Opened on December 11, Grand Pacific Drive is a new tourist drive hugging the coast from the Royal National Park to Wollongong. The 70-kilometre drive winds through some of the state's most spectacular scenery - ocean panoramas, surf beaches, heathland, rainforest and coastal villages beneath the towering cliffs of the Illawarra Escarpment - and across the route's crowning glory, the new Sea Cliff Bridge.

An impressive sight and an engineering marvel, the $49-million bridge follows the curve of the coastline below the cliffs and straddles the sea and rock shelves. It replaces a dodgy section of Lawrence Hargrave Drive that wound around the base of the cliff. Prone to landslides, the road was closed for more than two years, cutting off the coastal villages from major access north and south.

The village communities did it tough during those years of isolation, but all that has changed since the opening of the bridge, linking Coalcliff and Clifton once again. Suddenly, and none too soon, there is a constant and increasing flow of visitors to the area, and cafes and shops are busier than ever.

Drive across the bridge or do yourself a favour: stop and walk across. It's an easy 20 minutes each way on a wide, safe walkway, and the views along the bridge, and above and below, are best appreciated at a walking pace.

Moving on, the coastal villages en route all have their charms. Take your pick for a pleasant meal or a quiet drink with jaw-dropping views thrown in free, family-friendly beaches and laid-back ambience.
And so far, not a tourist trap in sight.

The sights

While Grand Pacific Drive has been compared with Victoria's Great Ocean Road, the latter mostly winds through bushland and only occasionally justifies its name. Grand Pacific Drive, in contrast, never loses sight of the sea. It hugs the coast between the high battlements of the Illawarra Escarpment, looming like the great wall of a lost world, and the vastness of the Tasman Sea, an ocean view so wide you can see the curve of the Earth. Looking south, the coast is scalloped with bays, all the way to Wollongong and beyond.

The road

If driving south from Sydney, turn off the Princes Highway at Loftus and drive through the Royal National Park to Stanwell Park.
You could turn off the highway further south, at Waterfall, but a drive through the park is an adventure in itself. At the southern boundary of the park, past Otford, stop at the lookout for your first sight of the Sea Cliff Bridge and the rugged coast beyond, then turn left for Stanwell Park and you're on your way.

The park

To drive through the Royal National Park is to travel back in time to Gondwanaland. A vast preserve of the pristine ancient continent, and the world's second-oldest national park after Yellowstone in the US, the park was established in 1879 and is just 32 kilometres from Sydney. You can picnic on the lawn or mess about in boats at Audley causeway, wander on walking and cycling tracks, or swim at secluded beaches and lagoons. The park includes rainforest, woodland, heathland and clifftop dunes.

The villages

The coast between the Royal National Park and Wollongong is sea change central. Drop in at any of the 10 villages - Otford, Stanwell Park, Coalcliff, Clifton, Scarborough, Wombarra, Coledale, Austinmer, Thirroul and Bulli - and you can see why. With good community and sporting facilities, housing stock ranging from fibro fixer-uppers to stately piles, and town beaches with classic Art Deco kiosks, no wonder the locals look relaxed and comfortable. Here, even the schoolyards have ocean views.

The bridge

When you drive onto the Sea Cliff Bridge it's almost as if it disappears.

There's a curious feeling of driving on the sea - just you, your vehicle and the ocean below. Unlike the old road, the bridge sits safely out from the cliff. The 665 metre span gently inclines but is mostly level, making the protected walkway and cycleway, with its stainless steel guide rails and hand rails, popular with pedestrians and cyclists.

On the roadway, cars, coaches and motorcycles parade across the bridge.

Trip notes

Grand Pacific Drive hugs the coast for 70 kilometres from the Royal National Park - just 32 kilometres from Sydney - south to Wollongong.

Driving south, turn off the Princes Highway at Loftus or Waterfall to Stanwell Park.

Don't miss the spectacular view from the Headlands Hotel at Austinmer.


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