Check out David in Oz
, a blog by a British guy who did Aus in 07/08. The blog has a page
that covers the leg from the Sydney area up the NSW coast to Yamba -- he even talks about a day tour to Katoomba. It's a while since I read it but I seem to recall he described lots of alternative routes to avoid the highway.
Also, check the blog
by Kris and Erik from San Francisco (they stayed with us for a couple of days during the Sydney to Brisbane leg of their worldwide tour, lovely people). They took an alternative route between Coffs Harbour and Grafton, to avoid the Pacific Highway but found it more difficult than the highway had been because the hills were steeper and more frequent and the roads were narrower (not to mention the timber trucks!). Their Sydney to Yamba leg is covered at http://www.vent5.com/Vent5/Blog/Entr...0_Entry_1.html
They said the route we suggested along the Clarence River from our place to Yamba was one of the most pleasant days of their trip.
You might find more info in the touring section of Australian Cycling Forums
. Just noticed there's a new thread
there by someone doing Newcastle to Brisbane soon.
Generally speaking, the highway up the coast (aka Highway 1 or the Pacific Highway) has reasonable shoulders and doesn't have too many hills steeper than maybe 7 or 8%. However the NSW RTA (Roads and Traffic Authority) does have the really
annoying habit of stealing the hard shoulder space when it adds an extra lane (but at least at these points there is
an extra lane for traffic to pass). Last week I drove most of the route you're planning and kept watching the shoulder and gradients and it wasn't too bad. There's a fair bit of road work happening about 200km north of Sydney though, and while the detour roads are always speed-restricted, some of them are pretty narrow.
There used to be restriction on bicycles using freeways, including the F2 Freeway north of Sydney, but I think the bicycle lobby has been successful in getting them removed. I just did a search on the RTA site and the only comment I could find was that only experienced riders should ride on freeways/motorways, which implies it's not illegal. I'll get my brother, who works at RTA, to check it out and let you know if I'm wrong about that. The Old Pacific Highway is still in place alongside much of the F2 but it would be much harder going.
By the way robertv, your tour has one extra point of interest for me -- my mum grew up just up the road from Katoomba and I live just down the road from Yamba.