Updated: Apr 20, 2021
Recently I was contacted by a local magazine - Coffs Harbour Focus - regarding what Woolgoolgaoffroad was all about. This magazine is very popular so I thought I'd re-shared the interview and let people know how it evolved.
FOCUS -Hi Kevin. Woolgoolga Offroad is your fantastic 4x4 organisation that you run here on the Coffs Coast. Tell us why you started up in the first place and share a little bit about its growth over the years.
I was introduced into the 4wd world back in the early nineties after years of having fast cars, and that was it - I got the bug. I started Woolgoolga offroad as a mates group for anyone who wanted to come along to explore or even go on camping trips. I really didn’t think much of it at the time, it was just getting out to explore our hinterland from Coffs down the coast behind Port and Taree.
Over time, more and more people wanted to tag along, whether it was for company or just to see what we have to offer around the area. I was finding that we had some of the most diverse and stunning landscapes on the Mid North Coast where the Great Dividing Range towers over the ocean in so many spots because of this the access from the beach to the bush is available everywhere. In fact we can thank prehistoric times when volcanoes erupted and created what we have, especially the Ebor volcano.
This was 10 years before SM and texting so I started Woopi Offroad as a blog to let others know when I was going bush and it's evolved from that. After our day out I would post a trip report with photos and trip details and that started my passion for writing. Which now allows me to travel extensively and write for national 4wd and camping magazines.
These days its so easy to throw an event up on FB to get a bunch of great people to spend the day with. Over time things happen and I had the chance to host and lead a DVD crew around the coffs coast, and with that I got my foot into the door for so many avenues. In fact over the past 30 years I’ve hosted no less than a dozen DVD crews here in coffs, several national TV shows and written my own 4wd book on the Coffs Coast.
With a stack of hard work I had the chance to submit a destination article for a national 4wd magazine, this opened up a few doors and now I reckon I have written well over 100 magazine destination articles spanning from our coastal fringes, desert areas, Tassie and just recently Cape York.
From this I have been working with some great companies on the Coffs and indeed Port Macquarie coast, plus an array of 4wd and TV celebrities. I’ve pretty much spent my time wandering down nearly every track along the coast and beach areas and found an array of stunning locations that have taken my breath away and wanting more. We are so lucky on the mid north coast having the freedom to explore. It's been great sharing and turning my passion into a wonderful lifestyle.
FOCUS - For anyone that enjoys the outdoors and is looking to get into 4WDing, then a club is a great place to start. What are the benefits to becoming a member of the club?
Totally agree. BUT, Woolgoolgaoffroad isn’t a club. I was going to go down that path but to me clubs are too regimented to some degree. I kept Woopi offroad as a social group where anyone from anywhere is more than welcome to come along and be part of the fantastic family that has been created. The best part of this is that anyone can host for a day out and everybody is on the same level.
There are so many benefits to blend in to our group and it starts from the friendships that form. We have different 4wd days from easy touring explore days, through to recovery days ( where we go over basic 4wd recovery technics ), to more advance hard days through to fun camping trips away. But you know what ? Everybody in the group has the same fantastic mind frame that if there is a newbie on the drive and they need help, there’s plenty of the right advice and help to help. No body judges when we go out. In fact I can go out with a newbie to run over how to 4wd so they feel more comfortable. Gone are the days of just selecting 4wd with a short lever, now there’s different switches that need to be done in a certain way, technology at its best. Often I see friendships form out on our days out and that makes me smile, seeing people connect.
FOCUS - What level of equipment/ basic requirements are needed on your truck to enjoy a day out?
Well, here’s the best thing, It doesn’t matter at the start. Everybody needs to start somewhere and I am more than happy to spend time with any newbie to get setup, come out for a drive, find some hidden gems and leave them wanting more for another day. But for those who have a little experience under their belt, the basics include proper recovery points on their 4wd, a UHF is a bonus for safety and a little banter on the tracks plus a sense of adventure. When we do other specialised drives like the more adventurous ones, include good tyres, recovery gear and a maybe a winch. I always prep people to bring plenty of water, snacks and footwear because we always spend time exploring any waterfalls or history spots along the way.
FOCUS - Your agenda is action packed with trips and adventures of all kinds. What's on offer for those that join in and how much 4WDing experience do you need to come along?
I like to mix it up and offer a variety of things on the day. One trip we might do a history drive where we will explore the history in the hills behind Coffs including some of the 300 mines that are still here. In this there’s old relics we walk into and check out ( great for the kids ), look down and walk in a couple of old gold mines that were dug over 100 years ago. We talk about the gold, the miners and in a few spots the old villages that once were up the hills. Sometimes even do a bit of panning.
Other days it will be a technical drive day for the more enthusiastic where a high clearance 4wd is needed and we will tackle some of the more challenging tracks around. Our route on designated sign posted roads might only be some 20km but may take all day, due to obstacles, recoveries and just enjoying the day.
Occasionally a couple of us might head down behind Port, Kempsey or Taree and explore. When the events are posted detailed info is given out for the day so people interested can judge wether it suits them. With this its easy to either shoot me a message asking if I think they will be ok or simply come along and progress their 4wd skills. Plus there are always plenty of experienced and great people to safely assist if anyone has a whoops moment.
FOCUS - You have spent many a year enjoying our beautiful country, travelling all over AUS with your camper in tow. Tell us about some of your most memorable experiences to date.
I’ve dabbled in touring Australia the past 10 years but the last two it's been full time touring and asking that is like how long is a piece of string. With my exploring and magazine writing ‘out there’ I get to see the country in so many ways. I’ve seen desert areas in full flood, covered with flowers and then the next time in severe and heart breaking drought.
To me everywhere I go is pretty monumental like standing at the tip of Australia a few months ago, explore the stunning and magical Tasmania early this year, seeing Lake Eyre full with thousands of seabirds, standing on top of Uluru and so much more. But you know what keeps me grounded ? Showing people my backyard and discovering what we have here. For example spending time in the Daintree rainforest last month realising that ours here along the coast is so much better, except without the Cassowary’s.
FOCUS - In your personal experience, what are some of the best 4WD tracks along our coast or inland for people to try out?
Best 4wd tracks along the coast ?
We are so lucky here with so much at our fingertips. One of my favourite touring drives and camp trips is down to Crescent Head along to Point Plommer for a camp ,then follow the dunes and across the ferry to Port Macq. From here follow the coast down to Crowdy for another camp, then west of Taree through Coorabakh NP.
Its a great one for the novice or just an easy three day explore. Out in Coorabakh you can see a couple of old volcanoes plugs, plenty of stunning coastal and valley views plus you’ve got the drive up to the Brother Mountains. But then saying that out the back of Wauchope in an area called the Cells, there’s some truly stunning cross valley drives, with creek crossings, mining relics and some of the best camping on the great diving range. Finally at coffs, I could rattle off 5 pages of drives.
But one that is a favourite is the Friday Creek explore where it takes you only minutes behind coffs, then high up along several ridge lines where you have stunning ocean views. Along the way there’s a host of old red cedar tree stumps that were cut down by the early explorers back in the day and still have the standing board marks cut in them.
Then 4wd off the Ridgeline down a steepish track passing several stunning waterfalls and large swimming pools. All this only minutes from the town centre. I think I rave on about our backyard because it is regarded as the 4wd capital of NSW due the closeness of the tracks and the vast variety. I mean what other areas can you name where you can stay in a coastal resort, jump across the highway and get straight into some of the best 4wding on the east coast. Either taking a picnic lunch for beside a stunning and pristine creek or eating at one of our delicious cafes or pubs then 4wd back to your accommodation and then delve into a fresh and tasty evening meal.
Oh and don’t forget that there are nearly a dozen beach drives up and down the area too which opens up a whole new world for the explorer, fisher person or sun chaser, just make sure you get a permit where needed tho.
The 4wd community on the coast is one of the best I have come across as most are aware to keep the tracks tidy and respect the bush. In fact in early next year I’ll have a track cleanup day where we go out to address any rubbish we find, plus drive some great tracks, but more importantly socialise and network with great people.
FOCUS - Age old question... In your opinion - what vehicle’s the best for 4WDing?
Im a Toyota guy through and through. My old girl is nearly 30 years old and is seriously one tough 4wd. It's been with me through thick and thin up and down the eastern seaboard, across the desert areas and tackled some of the hardest tracks in Australia. In fact I was told its the most photographed Toyota 80 series in Australian magazine history. Pretty proud of that. The reason why I reckon that the Landcruiser 80 series was one of the best 4wds ever to hit the market ?
Super reliable, easy to work on and still a head turner.
If I put this aside and had to buy new today it would be a hard one. The reliability is there in a lot of modern 4wds but I don’t think a lot are actually designed for our tough conditions plus if you tow a trailer you need to consider weights. Technology has advanced immensely the past 20 years with hill descent, traction control and the rest which is great when it works or when the driver knows when and how to deploy it. So for the time being I’ll stick with my trusty Landcruiser where I’m happy to pull the 4wd lever into low.
FOCUS - Automatic or manual?
For me today I love my manual as it suits my driving style. It’s nice to be able to hold the same gear as I drive a technical and challenging track without the hassle of an auto box trying to shift around. But the advancement in autos have come a long way especially if you add a lock up feature. #Woolgoolgaoffroad