Chasing warmer waters and heading north on a beach hopping adventure? Why not take advantage of the many museums situated along the Pacific Highway. Not only do regional museums provide us with unparalleled insight into local history and culture, but a visit to a museum is also a great opportunity to take a break from driving, stretch the legs, use the bathroom, enjoy a picnic or savour a treat in the museum cafe.
An hour and a half out of Sydney, reward yourself with a visit to the South Sea Islands Museum in Cooranbong. Exit the highway at Mandalong Road towards Morisset/Cooranbong, turn left onto Freemans Drive and tootle along until you hit Avondale Road. The museum showcases ethnographic items from the South Sea Islands that have been collected by Seventh-day Adventist Missionaries since the late 1800s.
Cruise along for another 40 minutes and stop into the Sketchley Pioneer Cottage & Museum. Continue on the Pacific Highway and turn left at the Raymond Terrace roundabout onto Adelaide Street. The cottage was the family home of William Sketchley (1810-1884) and his descendants from the late 1840s to the 1960s. Open every fourth Sunday of the month, call ahead to check if the museum is open - (02) 4987 1036.
After another three hours, you’re half way to Queensland and probably ready for another pit stop. Taking the exit towards Macleay Valley Way will lead you directly to Kempsey Museum. The museum traces the valley's history and is housed in a unique building by renowned architect Glenn Murcutt. Located in a leafy park with a visitor information centre and great facilities this is a great stop for road trippers.
Continuing north, turn off the highway at Macksville and follow the river to the right to find Mary Boulton’s Pioneer Cottage. The museum provides insight into the lives of early Nambucca Valley pioneers. Surrounded by a stunning cottage garden, this is a great spot to enjoy a relaxing picnic.
The Pacific Highway winds directly through Coffs Harbour, and the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum. The museum is a great toilet stop for weary travellers with the public bathrooms housing a display of toilet related artefacts and paraphernalia. Another highlight of the museum is the outstanding collection of over 100 Victorian and Edwardian apparel items donated by the descendants of the Bayldon family, one of the first European families to settle in the Coffs Harbour region.
Back on the Pacific Highway, follow signs to Brushgrove to turn left off the highway, driving along the Clarence River until you hit the Bluff Point Ferry. Take the ferry across the river to the Lawrence Museum. Highlights of the museum’s collection include an original settlers’ cottage and a replica blacksmith's shop with tools and equipment.
The last stop on our tour north is the New Italy Museum, located directly on the highway, just an hour and a half south of the Queensland border. The museum tells the story of early Italian pioneering families of the area and is also home to a great café, gift shop and leafy courtyard.
Find out more about accommodation, activities and dining at Visit NSW.
Travel tip – great first pit stop just 1.5 hours from Sydney.27 Avondale Road, Cooranbong, NSW, 2265, Australia
Travel tip – the park opposite is a great place to stretch tired driving legs.1 Sketchley Street, Raymond Terrace, NSW, 2324, Australia
Travel tip – great visitor information centre and toilet facilities.Lachlan Street, South Kempsey, NSW, 2440, Australia
Travel tip – enjoy a picnic in the stunning cottage gardens.38 Gumma Road, Macksville, NSW, 2447, Australia
Travel tip – giggle at the quirky display of toilet related artefacts in the bathrooms.215A Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour, NSW, 2450, Australia
Travel tip – kids will love the Bluff Point Ferry over the Clarence River.2 Merton Street, Lawrence, NSW, 2460, Australia
Travel tip – relax in the leafy courtyard with a sweet treat from the café.8275 Pacific Highway, Woodburn, NSW, 2472, Australia
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