Linking the pre-existing Gradys Creek Road in NSW and Running Creek Road in Queensland, it was so named because most of the early funding, planning and voluntary labour came from the Kyogle branch (later supported by the Beaudesert branch) of the Lions community service club.
Completed only in 1971, the road joins the Summerland Way, about 20km north of Kyogle, with the Mt Lindesay Highway, at Rathdowney, through Richmond Gap in the McPherson Range.
As well as a triumph of sleeves-rolled-up, self-determination, this home-brewed ribbon of road is the gateway to a diversity of natural beauty as it winds its way through lush, open farm land and into the spectacular Border Ranges National Park and beyond.
Best of all, because the locals lacked much of the heavy road-building equipment to level the topography, the Lions Road follows every crest and curve sinuously, making it a driving/riding enthusiast’s dream.
Just inside the Queensland border, the road rises and falls like a roller-coaster with gradients of up to 19 percent. On the NSW side, it cuts through thick rainforest in a succession of hairpin turns that delight as much as challenge.
‘Unique’ is so often misused, but what other word is there for a scenic drive that plaits its way over some 25 (many narrow, low-set and wooden) crossings spanning the crystal-clear waters of Running Creek and around the raised concrete/steel bridges of the main Sydney-Brisbane railway line?
With the crossings able to support only low vehicular weights, the Lions Road is unsuitable for trucks, trailers and large caravans. From where I sit, behind the wheel of Nissan’s awesome 2014 GT-R Black Edition, this adds considerably to its appeal.
Less (slower) traffic equates to a better drive, does it not?
Even standing still, the GT-R commands attention. On our drive, from Brisbane to Kyogle and back, we had no end of people taking shots of it with their smartphone when pulled up at traffic lights, or parked.
But it’s the driving experience that truly bares the GT-R’s soul and here Nissan’s halo car operates at a rarefied level inhabited by only supercars costing three and four times more.
All-wheel-drive, fat rubber, electronic ‘smarts’ such as switchable drive modes and race car-like suspension plus limited-slip diff enables the GT-R to unleash and put to optimum use an avalanche of performance from its twin-turbo, 3.8-litre V6.
It launches like a Saturn rocket (0-100km/h in a claimed, ballistic 2.7 seconds) and demolishes a racing circuit like few others.
Six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembos bring it back to earth in a flash.
The Black Edition is top-of-the-range. In keeping with the moniker, black with red highlighting features prominently throughout the interior, such as on the specially-commissioned Recaro front seats. And there’s a carbon fibre rear spoiler and metallic, black forged 20-inch lightweight alloys.
The GT-R has been called the all-conditions supercar, suitable for anyone, anywhere, any time, but on parts of the Lions Road we beg to disagree. Sure, it has a usable boot, and the rear seat can fit two short passengers (read as primary school children), but the ride is uncompromising as an everyday drive – even with dampers set to the optional COMF (comfort) setting.
In some ways, driving the Black Edition on a cracking, but tight, twisty road such as this is like taking an AK-47 to a knife fight. Overkill.
In reality, a hot hatch costing a quarter of the price and putting out one-third of the power would be better suited and arguably even more fun.
Still, we never regretted pitching the GT-R against the Lions Road. Never. Which is why I’m writing it up here, nearly 10 and many, many drives of some truly memorable machinery later.
The heads-up . . .
Much of Lions Road is un-fenced and cattle graze with right of way. It’s also narrow and lined with gravel verges, so be prepared to put two wheels off the black-top where necessary.
When ‘go’ needs to give way to ‘whoa’, there are several creek-side picnic spots as well as at the Border Loop from where, should you chance it, the occasional train – a not so common sight these days in rural Australia – can be seen using a switchback to traverse the steep terrain.
Camping is permitted at Andrew Drynan Park, but if you prefer a roof over your head, pull into Ripples on the Creek which, as well as catering for hungry and thirsty travellers, offers a comfy overnight stay in self-catering cabins. And for boutique accommodation, Cougal Park B&B comes with personal recommendation.