You could simply drive the Oxley Highway, staying with the bitumen surface all the way.
Or you could detour on the wriggly dirt road known as Myrtle Scrub Scenic Drive. This road traverses Cotton-Bimbang National Park, crossing Cells River on a remarkable heritage timber bridge – make sure you stop at the picnic spot to admire the bridge from below. The Cells River is a tributary of the Manning River.
The current Oxley Highway opened in 1933. Before it, convicts built a road that opened in 1841 linking Port Macquarie and Walcha on the tablelands, although the local diarist Annabella Boswell noted in 1843 that it “never was a good road, and there were no men available for keeping it in repair”.
The name of the Cells River refers to the cell wagons which housed the convict road gangs. Drays carrying loads of wool took 10 days to travel from New England to Port Macquarie on the road. Gold was mined in the Cells State Conservation Area east of here in the late 1800s. Forestry roads were built to access the hardwoods in the rainforest, with a sawmill at Myrtle Scrub.
Dry rainforest of myrtle is found in the area, as well as old growth wet sclerophyll forest and rainforest. The name of the park Cotton-Bimbang derives from the aboriginal term for the walking stick palm.
The Oxley Highway more recently has suffered first from significant fire damage (2019) and then floods (2021) and good men have been working hard to repair it. Check for road closures.