I was having lunch with a group of riders that included a couple of regular readers of this web-site. One of those, Greg, and I were discussing different places we’d eaten, comparing quality of food and prices etc. He said, “You should do an article on your web-site about that!” Hmm, yes, a feature listing places that have good food at cheap, or at least reasonable, prices seemed like a good idea! You know what it’s like: You ride into a town around lunchtime and want somewhere to eat. But where? You want somewhere that sells good food, but you don’t want to pay 5-star restaurant prices for it. Maybe somewhere with a bit of atmosphere too. Add all those features together and the place itself could become the reason you ride there, a ride destination in itself. It used to be easy, especially in the country areas. Pretty much any pub would sell a good “counter-lunch” – a decent meal at a cheap price. Not so now. The food in some places leaves a bit to be desired, and the prices some charge make you wonder if you’ve walked into an up-town restaurant by mistake! So having recommendations of where to get a good cheap meal in various cities and towns across the country would be a great help! I started, of course, with my own recommendations. I tried to think of all the places I’d been to that I could recommend. Some I’ve forgotten (actually there’d be many places I’ve forgotten!) and some would just not be suitable for what we’re wanting here. You see, when I’ve been out and about, it’s often been in the car with my wife. We often end up in a shopping mall (sound familiar, fellas?), so our lunch-stop becomes one of the typical places in the food-court. Some of these are good, others not so, but in either case, if you’re out on the bike you’re not likely to go into a shopping mall to eat. If nothing else (and there’s a dozen other reasons why you wouldn’t go there!), the food is usually over-priced compared to what you’ll get at a café, pub or club in the street. Having written up some of my recommendations I threw it open to readers, (plus a few friends and other contacts), to submit their recommendations. I then collated all the recommendations and wrote them down in this article. I’ve firstly divided it into a separate page for each state, then arranged the places in alphabetical order of their location. At the end of each one I’ve put the name of the person who recommended it. Where it’s been recommended by more than one person I’ve listed the names of each person who recommended it. (And what they said appears in quotation marks). Any subsequent recommendations will be added in an Up-Date section at the bottom of each page. (So keep the suggestions coming!). Now, some things I should tell you about my choices, and what I was looking for with this article. The main focus of this is places to have lunch, but we’re also thinking of places that provide a good cold drink, or perhaps a nice afternoon-tea, such as the one I am enjoying in the photo at left. My tastes for lunch are pretty simple; and I’d reckon most people on a ride would be the same. We’re wanting simple basic food, not master-chef specials from a ritzy restaurant. What we’re looking for here is places that provide good food at reasonable prices. To give you a better idea, think in terms of places where a burger and chips will be under $15 and a decent main-meal will be no more than $25. The food isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s very reasonable, and it’s good. And there’s lots of aviation-type atmosphere about the place, which makes it interesting. A good place to eat. Rod recommends this too. He writes, “Most of their prices are a little above your requirement but some people won’t mind paying a little extra to watch aircraft flying in and out and the food is good. Also it is table service and they are open from 8:00am every Saturday and Sunday for breakfast.” Apparently there are a few motorcycle groups that frequent the restaurant. (Rod and Elwyn). (P.S. At the time of writing there has just been a fire which has gutted the building: so if you’re thinking of going there in late 2013, don’t, it ain’t open! It is going to be rebuilt though).
BATEMANS BAY. There are a huge number of cafes and restaurants in Batemans Bay – as you’d expect in a touristy place like this. Most of them are very expensive. Here’s one I’ve found that is very reasonable and the food is pretty good too. It’s called 3 Fish Cafe and is on Clyde St, which is the main road you turn into at the bridge. It’s on the entrance to a shopping mall opposite the river. Eat in or out, and there’s a nice view out to the river bank and passing tourists etc. (Elwyn).
A little further down the road there is a kind of Y-junction. On the left is a place where you can get on a river cruise. There’s also a fish-n-chips shop. Okay, we’re probably looking a bit more up-market than fish-n-chips, but this one is a famous one and they do serve other than just that. The fish-n-chips are nice anyway, and at the sort of prices you’d expect to pay – or maybe just above, but still cheap. (Elwyn). I’ve tried most of the clubs in Batemans Bay, including the Golf Club (not great), the Catalina Club (good but a bit pricey) and the Soldiers Club in Beach Rd. It’s a big place, and has great views out over the river. Food is generally good; prices are a bit on the expensive side, but not too bad. Probably better than the other two alternatives. I’ve eaten lunch and dinner there – mostly dinner – on many occasions over the years. (Elwyn). There’s a pub in Orient St, the name of which I can’t remember (and now can’t find out), but if you go to the Zorba Motel, it’s directly opposite. Quite a big place and the food is good from what I hear (I’ve been in there but not actually eaten there). Prices are good. (Elwyn).
BATHURST. Ivor has a favourite place at the famous motor-racing city. “The Panthers Club is a favourite place of mine. It’s not anything like the typical biker’s pub, so mightn’t suit a lot of people, but I like it. It’s a pretty swanky sort of place, and is in the middle of town, but I like the classy sort of atmosphere. And the real surprise is that the food is good and it’s cheap. You can get a roast for about $11, and during the week there are lunch-specials for about $8. I checked the web-site recently and these prices were still right.” (Ivor).
BERRY. Berry is another one of those touristy type places with a million cafes and restaurants. Many are very expensive. (A mate found a “gourmet pie” for $19 in one place!).
ALBION PARK. If you’re travelling through the Wollongong area you’ll travel through Albion Park. Actually there are two places called Albion Park, although one is more correctly called Albion Park Rail, and that’s the one I’m referring to here. It is the more easterly one, with, as you’d expect, the railway running through it.
The Aviator is located at the airport: so look for the signs to the airport (it’s on the northern end of Albion Park). It’s an interesting place, with a view out over the airport, so you can watch planes coming and going. My usual fair is a burger and chips; or maybe fish and chips, or perhaps even just a couple of sandwiches. But that doesn’t matter; it’s all relative. If your choice for lunch is a full main course, the comments will still apply. For example, if at one place my burger and chips costs $10 and your main course costs $18, then, if at another place my burger and chips costs $15 you’ll be paying, say, $28 for your main course. You can take a couple of basic items as a guide to what prices other items are going to be. My chicken-burger and chips pictured here cost $7. And it was nice! That's the sort of thing we're looking for! So, the choice of what you eat will no doubt vary considerably from the items I mention, but the relativity in terms of price and quality will usually be the same. A big requirement for me is cleanliness. I know that, traditionally, bikers would oil their chain and then hoe into lunch without even washing their hands. (“The Castrol under the nails improves the taste!”). The lunch was usually bought at some pub with a kitchen that looked like a third-world version of “The Greasy Spoon.” That’s not what I’m looking at here! (And I suspect it’s not what you’d be after either). I don’t even like a lot of cafes because the look of the cooking facilities leaves a lot to be desired. So cleanliness is something I always check when I’m looking at places to eat. You’ll find that a lot of my recommendations are clubs. That’s because over the years I’ve found clubs to generally provide good value meals. Yes, I know they don’t have the atmosphere of a good pub, and there’s the hassle (if you consider it that) of having to sign in, but they fit the bill of providing a good meal at reasonable prices. As I mentioned above, that “good meal at reasonable prices” thing used to once be the domain of pubs, but pubs are often expensive now. They still have the atmosphere, but now you’ll often find you’re paying restaurant prices to eat in a place surrounded by drunks. I haven’t given full contact details, like address and phone numbers. For many I have included a description of the location, but for others it’s just the name. I was going to include address and phone number for each, but thought that would probably just clutter up the article with details that are readily available from phone directories, or even Googling the name on your mobile. The name of the place, and perhaps a few other details, is the important thing.
Okay, before we proceed I should put up a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, The comments and prices apply at the time this article was written, which was late 2013. If you are reading this at a much later date, there may have been changes, obviously, to the quality of the food and particularly to the prices. I will try to keep it up-dated though, so if you know of any changes, please let me know. Secondly, the comments are somewhat subjective – they are what I thought of the place and the food. You might have a different opinion. Although my opinion has usually been agreed to by other people, such as my wife or a riding companion. Thirdly, I cannot, obviously, vouch for the opinions of others. So don’t blame me if you find that a place a reader has recommended is a real dive! (But let me know, though, so I can amend the entry). I’ve been caught by following other people’s recommendations; so that is an important disclaimer. Okay, so here we go. We’ll start with NSW on this page as that’s where we have the most recommendations (including almost all of mine). There are a couple of pubs in town, but The Great Southern Hotel is the standout, and a popular one for motorcyclists. It does its own version of the famous Ettamogah pub by putting, not a truck, but a couple of boats on the roof. It’s an old-style country pub with a verandah around the front, so you can eat in or out. Inside is nothing flash, but it’s old-style country and comfortable. The food is good. Prices are perhaps on the expensive side, but not too bad. During the week there are some good specials: at the time of writing a selection of lunch and dinner meals for just $10. (Elwyn). My personal choice is the Berry Bowling Club on the northern end of the town. I like small quiet clubs, and this is one of those. It’s also one where there are big windows in the bistro that look out over the bowling greens, and to the mountains beyond. Pleasant and relaxing. The bistro is Chinese, but they serve Aussie tucker too. My usual burger-and-chips is about $7.00. And it’s good! (The photo of the burger-and-chips at the top was taken here).The fish and chips is nice too, for about the same price. A schnitzel and chips is still less than $10 and is always good. (Elwyn).
BILPIN. Bilpin is located along the Bells Line of Road, from Richmond and Lithgow.
With hills and valleys and twists and turns it’s a favourite biking road. Along this road, is the Tutti Fruitti café, which is one that Lisa recommends. The café is proud of it’s products and its location. This photo, taken from their web-site, is of the gardens at the café. Looks good, doesn't it! (Lisa).
BOOROWA. This little town has grown in significance as it is sort of middle-distance between Cowra and Yass, with Young and Crookwell also not far away in opposite directions. At one time roads out around there were all dirt, but now they're all sealed.
The last road to be sealed was the road from Boorowa to Crookwell and this really seems to have opened up the area. It’s a pleasant little place with a noticeable lack of graffiti and such. It looks clean. Surprisingly perhaps, for such a little town, there are a couple of eateries there. The Superb Bakery really lived up to its name. I haven’t had a meal there, but stopped in for a cuppa and a snack while passing through. I was so impressed that I stopped there again on the return trip. (Elwyn). When Michael rode through there – and he’s been there a couple of times – he stayed at the Boorowa Hotel. This is one of those typical country pubs with the big verandah and balcony upstairs. Michael said the rooms were cheap and they served up “An excellent menu”. He sums it up as, “A top pub with great food!” (Michael).
BOWRAL. Ah, welcome to the Southern Highlands. Mostly if I’m in Bowral I go to Mittagong to eat. But there are a couple of places to try. There are a heap of cafes and restaurants, but most are pretty expensive. One that isn’t, is situated in the parking area in the Oxley Mall shopping arcade. It’s called the Walkway Café. It’s a fairly small place, but the food is quite good and prices pretty reasonable. If you’re visiting during the annual tulip time you might want to book ahead, as the main display area (Corbett Gardens) is right opposite the mall. (Elwyn).
The Bowral Hotel is on the southern end of the main street. Parking is around the back. It’s an interesting place and has been in Bowral since about the horse-and-buggy. Inside there are fascinating photos of the early days around the walls, like the one shown here. The food is good, but prices can be a bit expensive on the weekends. (Cheaper during the week). Noel first suggested this then Rod did as well. I've been there a few times too. (Noel, Rod and Elwyn). Another well-liked pub in Bowral is The Scottish Arms. It’s in Boardman Rd and is a little hard to find because it’s off the main road. (Look it up before you go, or check your GPS). It’s a modern-looking establishment that has more of a club feel to it than a pub. Inside is clean and bright and has framed tartans along the wall and big swords up on display. A nice atmosphere. The food is good, but it’s expensive. On a weekend a child’s chicken-burger and chips (and the chips were the thin Maccas-type, not the larger healthier ones) cost me $14.50. I don’t think I saw anything (apart from the kid’s menu) that was less than $25. It’s too expensive for what we’re looking at here, but I mention it because it’s often visited by car clubs and bike clubs etc. During the week the prices are apparently better. Visit during the week. (Elwyn).
BULLI. If you’re coming into Wollongong from the north and come down Bulli Pass looking for somewhere to eat, there is one option you might try. If I’m just passing through a place, I don’t like going out of my way to find somewhere to eat, so something that’s on the main track is good I reckon. As I mentioned above, I prefer proper food to the plastic takeaway type you get at McDonalds and so on, but if there’s nothing else around that I know and trust, I’ll put up with Maccas.
There is one here, actually at Woonona which is the next suburb along from Bulli. Having come down the Pass, you’ll travel along the highway until you come to a roundabout where you branch off onto the Northern Distributor – a kind of ring-road that skirts around Wollongong’s northern suburbs. When you get to that roundabout, instead of going left, go straight ahead. You’ll find Maccas just a couple of kilometres along on the right, so it’s not too far out of your way. It’s a typical Maccas, but it’s okay, and I’ve quite often stopped in for a cuppa and lamington. (Elwyn).
BUNDEENA. Bundeena is located in the famous Royal National Park. The road through there is a famous one for bikers, although it is heavily speed-limited these days. Being a typical touristy type place, there are cafes around, but my choice has been the RSL club. The club is built on a sloping section of land, so the parking area is on a slope; but at the top of the parking area, just near the driveway, is a flat area that is reserved for motorbikes. Gotta like that!
The bistro area is quite big and there are windows affording a magnificent view out over Port Hacking. The food can be expensive, depending on your choice, and the amount of main ingredient can also be a bit disappointing. My wife was surprised when she ordered a fish dinner to find that the fish part consisted of a few small slivers of fish about the size of fish-fingers. But choose carefully and you can get an acceptable light-lunch for a reasonable price: although your options will be limited to only a few choices. If you can work around that, it’s worth it for the view. (Elwyn).
BURRAWANG. If you’re in the Southern Highlands area, particularly around the Moss Vale / Robertson part, a popular place to eat is the Burrawang Hotel. Burrawang is a small village located just off the southern side of the Illawarra Highway, a few kilometres west of Robertson. There are a couple of roads into it: the eastern one is not much more than single-lane and a bit choppy, but the western one is shorter and not as narrow.
The pub is a typical old country pub, with lots of that atmosphere. Order your meal at the bar. You can eat in or out, but out is usually where most people eat. There you can admire the rolling green hills of the Southern Highlands. Give it a big tick for country atmosphere and serenity! The food is good enough and reasonably priced. I said it was a popular place, and it is, especially on weekends. So you might find all the tables fully-taken, but it’s worth a try, especially if you are early or late arriving, or you’re there on a week-day. (Rod, Greg, and Elwyn).
CANBERRA. The Alchemy Bar in the suburb of Manuka impressed Phil. “Brilliant food and wonderful, friendly, service. We'll be going back again any time we're in the ACT.” (Phil).
CANYONLEIGH. Now for something different. If you’re in the Southern Highlands area and feel like “getting away from it all” you could try the Canyonleigh Store. Canyonleigh is on the western side of the Hume Highway in the area where the Illawarra Highway meets the Hume. Go to that intersection and turn west. Travel along there for just over 9km and suddenly the road turns to gravel. Just as it does there’s a turn to the right that is still sealed. Guess which way you go: no, you follow the bitumen to the right. About a kilometre along that road on the right is a little general store. There’s nothing around it, just bush. So if you want to “connect with nature” and “check the serenity”, this is a good place to do it. Food is quite good and not too expensive.
A couple of things to mention. Firstly, the road in from the highway is narrow and a bit choppy in places. It wouldn’t stop you going there, but just something to be aware of. Secondly, if you decide to eat outside – which is more pleasant and enables you to get that “connecting with nature” feel – be aware that when a vehicle drives in it will be followed by a thin cloud of dust, which will probably settle on your food. (Rod and Elwyn)
COFFS HARBOUR. Coffs Harbour is roughly half way between Sydney and Brisbane.
Actually it’s about 100km closer to Brisbane than it is to Sydney, but for people journeying between the two it is a popular stop-over. Coffs Harbour is home to the popular Big Banana. (So you can park your Goldwing next to it and make the bike look positively tiny!). The Coffs Harbour Ex-Services Club has had a couple of good recommendations. Linda said the evening meal that she had there (pictured here) was very big (she said she had to leave some of it), and very good. They provided a free bottle of water to the table, so if you didn’t want anything more potent, you could have free drinks. (Linda).
COLEDALE. This is in the Northern suburbs of Wollongong, right on route of you’re riding the SeaCliff bridge. Steve reports. “Cheddo's Place, just south of Sea Cliff Bridge, on the western side of Sir Lawrence Hargrave Drive. Have had several breakfasts there, $12 to $17; a couple of lunches, it's all been beaut. And there is usually a bike show out the front for breakfast time as well.” (Steve).
COWRA. Located right at the Tourist Information Michael recommends the Rose Garden Café. He wrote, “Really nice food and coffee, with an interesting little Breakout Museum in the Information Centre.” (Michael).
COWAN. This is a location on the old highway between Sydney and Gosford, which is a popular biker's road. Cowan is a bit to the north of Berowra. Angelina recommends The Pie In The Sky. It gets some good reviews on-line too. (Angelina).
CROOKWELL. This is an amazingly popular little place; popular for bike groups and car groups. Terry suggests Lynams Café. “Ran by the same people for over 30 years. They must be doing something right.” Indeed they must! (Terry).
GLENREAGH. This is a small village on the back road between Coffs Harbour and Grafton.
The Golden Dog Hotel is recommended by Geoff. With a population of less than 500 at last count, the whole town could probably fit in there! The pub claims to have a very friendly atmosphere, with icy cold beer and great lunches from the bistro. There’s also an on site barbeque that is free to use. It also claims to have, “An attractive beer garden adjacent to tennis courts, swimming pool, playground and river.” (Geoff).
GOSFORD. Just a few kilometres to the south of Gosford is one of the most iconic stopping-places for bikes in the area; the Road Warriors Café. It’s located on the old highway, which is where you’ll be if you choose the more interesting (Although heavily speed-limited) route in preference to the boring journey along the expressway. The place has had a bit of a chequered history, having closed and opened again, but it’s still the same iconic biker’s draw-card it always was.
Inside, the atmosphere is great – lots of biking photos and memorabilia, plus an actual bike sitting right there in the place: you can’t get better than that! I haven’t had a lot of experience with the food, but it seems okay and the prices seem reasonable. If you’re going there in summer though, and expecting to find relief from the heat, you won’t. It’s not air-conditioned, and when I was there on a hot summer’s day there was hardly even a fan going. (Elwyn).
GOULBURN. If you’re just passing through, there is a collection of eateries on the southern end of the city, where the big sheep is. A couple of places look good, have a good reputation, but are a bit pricey. If you don’t mind takeaway type food there is a Subway there. There is also a café attached to the servo which serves sandwiches and light meals: they’re pretty good. The food is quite good (for the type of thing they serve) and not too expensive. (Elwyn).
If you go into the city you’ve got a couple of options. The Roses Café is in Montague St which is right beside the park in the centre of town. It’s a nice place. It's quite big, so it can get pretty noisy, but the food is good and prices reasonable. And if you feel like a dessert or afternoon / morning tea, there is a big display counter packed with plenty of sweet things to tempt your taste-buds. Eat in or out. (Elwyn). Almost opposite the park (just a bit to the south) on the main street, is the Paragon Café. They’ve been there forever almost and probably have customers who’ve been going there that long. Yes, it’s a bit of an institution in Goulburn. I haven’t been there a lot in recent years, but from my experience – and that of others – the food is still good and prices reasonable. Sharon and husband Brad are regulars there whenever they pass through and recommend it. You’ve got to remember that cafes are generally not cheap, but neither are they too expensive, well ones like this aren’t anyway. (Sharon, Brad and Elwyn).
GREENWELL POINT. This is one of those touristy-type places, with the accent very much on fishing, situated on the water-front – with the water being an inlet, not the ocean. It’s a pretty place.
I like the Greenwell Point Bowling Club. This is a small club, with the bistro affording picturesque views through large windows that form one wall. The scenery makes eating there very relaxing: you look out onto the water, watching fishing boats and speed-boats coming and going. (The photo here was taken looking out from the bistro). Pelicans are frequent visitors to the area outside the club too. The food is good, and it’s very cheap. My typical burger-and-chips costs about $7. (Elwyn). Rod has a suggestion for here too. Pelican Rocks Café. “Burger with chips and salad, $13. A huge meal and it tastes good.” It’s right on the waterfront too, so you also get a great view from here. And acting on Rod’s recommendation I’ve been there now, and agree with Rod; it’s a big meal, good food, and the service is good too. (Rod and Elwyn).
GUNNEDAH. Richard recommends the Chip Inn, and mentions the late-great bike journo Mr. Smith as further reference. “As Smith always said, the Chip In at Gunnedah has the best fish & chips in Australia. He would often ride the 82k from Quirindi, where he lived, to Gunnedah just the get his regular fill of their fine food. I often have lunch there when working in Gunnedah. The way he does the batter is what makes it so great; it's always golden brown, never burnt, never soggy, just crisp and clean. The fish is always the best, no skin, no black gut lining, no bones. I give the Chip Inn 15 out of 10 for the fish & chips.” (Richard).
HUSKISSON. The Huskisson Pub is favourite destination for bikers. It’s located right on the headland at Huskisson. You can’t actually see the coast from the dining area, but it’s just a stroll across the road to look out over the coastline and the harbour. The food is good, but unfortunately the prices are getting a bit expensive, especially for a pub meal. So I’ve tried elsewhere.
I’ve tried some cafes, but my choice has been a club again; the Huskisson RSL Club. Prices are better than the pub, the food is good, and the view from the bistro out over the harbour is great! (The photo was taken from inside the bistro). The downside is that the bistro is usually pretty crowded, especially in the summer months, and you usually end up sitting on a long table with a bunch of people you don’t know. (Elwyn).
KANDOS. Susan has a couple of suggestions for here. “The Kandos Hotel (pictured below) serves good meals for $8.50, and a roast dinner/lunch on Sunday for $10.50.”
She says, “I don't think you will better those prices anywhere! “There is also a new business called Bikes & Buds serving burgers and coffee. I haven't been there yet so not sure of prices or what else they serve, but they have a motorcycle museum, mostly Harleys and some motorcycle gear for sale also in the main street of Kandos.” Those prices – at the hotel – are indeed great, and the sort of prices a pub meal used to be! (Susan).
KANGAROO VALLEY. This is in the middle of a very enjoyable road from the Princes Highway at Nowra up to the Southern Highlands.
There are basically three mountain passes (up, down and up again) along the way. A great riding road! Rod suggests the Kangaroo Valley Pub. It’s an historic old building that is almost as iconic as the famous bridge. And it is hugely popular with bikers! On a weekend there are almost always a line-up of bikes out front. “The food was a bit pricey, $16 for a burger, but it was a big meal and very tasty. On the other hand, I think there would be a long wait on a busy day.” It is a very busy touristy place. (Rod).
KYOGLE. Chris has stayed at the Commercial Hotel. He says the rooms were good, and writes that, “The bistro downstairs had good food at affordable prices, with specials $10. I had BBQ Chicken pizza med size $16 very filling.”
He said he had breakfast at a café / bakery just down the street from there in the main street which was, “Again a good place for food.” (Chris).
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