Formerly part of the Pacific Highway from 1928 until 1952

A Federal Government sign informing motorists of the Commonwealth's commitment to upgrading the road. Oct 2005.

Length: 156km

Northern Terminus: Manning River Drive (Old Pacific Hwy ) & Old Bar Rd, Purfleet

Southern Terminus: Pacific Hwy, 12 Mile Creek

Route Markers: Tourist Drive 2

Focal Points: Newcastle, Stroud, Gloucester, Taree

RTA Internal Classification: Main Road No. 90 (Pacific Hwy to Krambach), Main Road No. 112 (Krambach to Burrell Creek), Unclassified Road (Burrell Creek to Purfleet)  

Bucketts Way is a former alignment of the Pacific Highway, stretching for 156km from 12 Mile Creek (north of Raymond Terrace) to Purfleet (south of Taree). It has retained its importance as a vital artery serving the Booral, Stroud and Gloucester areas as well as serving increasing amounts of tourist traffic to and from Thunderbolts Way and the Barrington Tops. However, traffic volumes are low - generally between 1,000 and 2,000 vpd - peaking at 4,000 vpd in the main street of Gloucester .

A well defined road along what is now the Bucketts Way had been established as early as 1840, however it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that there were sufficient improvements to the road to make it attractive for through traffic.

On 7 August 1928 what is now the Bucketts Way was proclaimed part of State Highway No. 10, which would stretch from Hexham (later North Sydney ) to Tweed Heads, and named “ North Coast Highway ”. In May 1931 this name was changed to “ Pacific Highway ”, following the Queensland Government’s decision to give that name to their section of the coastal highway between Brisbane and Sydney.

Construction of the highway had begun in earnest in late 1925 but, due to the vast amount that needed to be done across the state and changing economic fortunes, progress was relatively slow. During the depression, what little funds that could be obtained were put to work building bridges over the vast number of watercourses that the highway crossed en route to Brisbane and the Bucketts Way section suffered. However, as part of the construction of Martin Bridge over the Manning River at Taree, the route of the Pacific Hwy (now Bucketts Way) was altered, heading east from Tionee, where a punt took vehicles across the Manning River, to Purfleet and thence north across the Manning River into Commerce St, Taree.

Following WW2, the Department of Main Roads constructed a large number of bridges on the Bucketts Way , replacing timber bridges that had often dated from the late nineteenth centuries. The most notable work of this era is located at Booral - comprising of three concrete bridges over the Karuah River and its flood plain as well as a significant length of flood-free approaches. The previous bridge at this location was a 7-span timber bridge which had been in service since 1877 and could no longer carry heavy traffic. Furthermore, the approaches were regularly susceptible to flooding.

Work was progressing at such a slow pace that, by 1952, the Raymond Terrace-Taree section of the Pacific Highway was not fully sealed. It was then that a landmark decision was made to relocate that highway on a completely new alignment. A new line was selected between Twelve Mile Creek and Purfleet that was 20km shorter, passed through easier terrain and also serve an area that was distance from the railway line. On publication in the Government Gazette of 22 August 1952 the relocation of the Pacific Highway was official and its former route via Gloucester was declared Trunk Road No. 90.

However, due to the need to bridge the Karuah River at Karuah and the poor quality of existing roads between Karuah and Bulahdelah, the Department of Main Roads decided to reconstruct and seal the Booral-Bulahdelah road so that highway traffic could utilise the new alignment as soon as possible. Thus, from 1952 until construction of the new highway route was completed in 1963, Pacific Highway traffic continued to use the old alignment from Twelve Mile Creek to Booral.

Following its downgrading to a Trunk Road, Great Lakes , Manning and Gloucester Shire Councils worked together to progressively seal the road with financial assistance from the Department of Main Roads. On 27 October 1972 the sealing programme had been completed at a cost of $2.2 million (of which the DMR contributed approximately $1.9 million) and the road was opened by the NSW Premier, Sir Robert Askin, and given the name “ Bucketts Way ”. The name was derived from the mountain range known as “Gloucester Bucketts” which dominates the skyline of Gloucester .

Unfortunately, since then the State Government has allowed the road to deteriorate to such a state that, in November 2001, the Federal Government stepped in with a pledge of $20 million towards upgrading the road to an acceptable standard. According to the Federal Government, “the road is rough, narrow, and its shoulder width is generally inadequate. It has too many pavement defects, such as potholes, and has half the number of safe overtaking opportunities that are normally required. There have been 790 accidents on the road over five years, including 4 fatal accidents and 154 cases of serious injury.”1 The Federal Government has also estimated that it would cost in the vicinity of $66 million to upgrade it to an “acceptable standard” of which the Federal Government contributed $20 million, and another $1.6 million under the Black Spots Programme. Gloucester , Taree and Great Lakes Councils have also contributed $2 million towards the project.

Unfortunately, due to hold ups by the State (Carr) Government work was not able to begin until early 2003, yet funds had been available in the Federal Budget since May 2001. John Anderson, Federal Transport Minister at the time, responded to some shockingly untrue reporting in the Newcastle Herald in May 2002 and had this to say about the delays:

"Our $20 million is on the table and is definitely in the Budget papers," Mr Anderson said. "The Carr Labor Government has not done the necessary work for the upgrade to start. These are plain and simple facts which should not be obscured by anyone.
"The Newcastle Herald has sadly shown stunning political bias by letting the State Government and its Transport Minister Carl Scully off the hook on Bucketts Way ," Mr Anderson said. "The people of the Hunter have been badly let down by this failure to correctly point the finger at the real villains of the piece.
"The State Government let Bucketts Way deteriorate to such a level that the Federal Government was forced to step in last year. Bob Baldwin put forward compelling arguments why the Federal Government needed to step in. Make no mistake, the Federal provision of $20 million is making up for years of Carr Government failure.
"There is one simple rule here that has been conveniently forgotten. Federal governments do not build roads. Their role is largely one of planning and properly overseeing the funding provided from federal coffers.
" Bucketts Way is no different. The State Government MUST provide a program of works for Bucketts Way , otherwise the Federal Government cannot properly schedule funding. Despite the promise of the Prime Minister made last November to put $20 million into Bucketts Way , six months later the NSW Government has failed to provide that program of works.”2

Aside from political wrangling, construction finally commenced in early 2003 and the federally funded works, aimed at improving the worst sections of the road, are on schedule to be completed by June 2007. As yet, the State Government has refused to contribute any funding to upgrade the remaining sections of the road so unfortunately the job will remained unfinished for some time.

Gloucester Shire councillors have, in recent times, tossed up the idea of renaming the section of Bucketts Way south of Gloucester “ Thunderbolts Way ”. This would see one continuously named road stretching from the Pacific Highway near Raymond Terrace to the New England Highway at Uralla and beyond. However, community opposition to the name change has seen it dropped from the agenda.

Since it was proclaimed Trunk Road No. 90 in 1952, its classification has changed twice. The State Roads Act 1986 abolished the Trunk Road classification, absorbing all former Trunk Roads into the ordinary Main Roads classification. Further to this, during the 1990s, Main Road No. 90 was altered to leave the Bucketts Way at Krambach and terminate at the Pacific Hwy, Nabiac, via Avalon & Wallanbah Roads. Main Road No. 112 was extended south from its former terminus at Burrell Creek along the Bucketts Way to Krambach. The remaining section of Bucketts Way, from Burrell Creek to Purfleet, is now an unclassified road under the control of Taree Shire Council.

For administrative purposes the Bucketts Way is a Regional Rooad between 12 Mile Creek and Krambach - north of Krambach it is a local road.

Since 1995 the Bucketts Way has been graced by the Tourist Drive 2 shield - one of the first to be rolled out under the RTA's tourist signposting scheme in the mid 1990s.

The first distance sign heading north from Pacific Highway at 12 Mile Creek. Oct 2005.
The second distance sign heading north from Pacific Highway - this time the standard Tourist Drive RD sign. Oct 2005.
Looking north along a yet-to-be-upgraded section between Limeburners Creek and Allworth. Oct 2005.
New bridge over Cromarty Creek, constructed from Federal funds in 2004. Oct 2005.
Typical signage found at each end of a federally funded upgrade section. This particular section is just south of Allworth. Oct 2005.
Typical excellent quality road on a recently upgraded section. Oct 2005.
The second of three bridges constructed in 1947 over the Karuah River and floodplain at Booral. Oct 2005.
Looking north in Booral, approaching the turnoff to Bulahdelah. Through traffic on the Pacific Highway used to turn right here between 1955 and 1963 to access the current alignment at Bulahdelah. Note how the intersection is poorly located - on a crest. Oct 2005.
The distance sign looking east on Booral-Bulahdelah road from Bucketts Way. This road carried Pacific Highway traffic between 1955 and 1963, and was sealed specifically for this purpose. Oct 2005.
Reconstruction underway on the northern side of Booral. Oct 2005.
Looking north in the main street of Stroud. Oct 2005.
Another northbound view in Stroud. Oct 2005.
Distance sign looking south from Dungog Rd, 2km north of Stroud. Note how "Pacific Highway" is a focal point and "Newcastle" doesnt rate a mention despite being the focal point used on AD and ID signs south of Stroud! Oct 2005.
Nice view showing the undulating road between Stroud and Stroud Road. Oct 2005.
Recently upgraded section hugging hillsides adjacent to the Karuah River north of Stroud Road. Oct 2005.
Old mountain section complete with 1930s wire mesh fencing, south of Wards River. Oct 2005.
Looking north from Wards River with the North Coast Railway joining Bucketts Way for the trip to Gloucester. Oct 2005.
Very old black distance sign northbound at Craven. Oct 2005.
This time looking south at Craven. Oct 2005.
Rail subway just north of Stratford. Oct 2005.
Distance sign heading south from Gloucester. Oct 2005.
Looking north along Church Street in Gloucester. Oct 2005.
Faded National Route 90 shield southbound on Ravenshaw Street in Gloucester. This sign (and the others) would probably have been installed by Council and the route marker is an error. Oct 2005.
Very poorly design AD sign at the intersection of Ravenshaw & Denison Streets in Gloucester. Again note the incorrect NR90 shield. Oct 2005.
Fingerboard signage complete with a very old "The Bucketts Way" name plate at Bundook Rd, 5km east of Gloucester. Oct 2005.
Distance sign heading east from Gloucester. This section of Bucketts Way (between Gloucester and Krambach) serves an increasing amount of regional traffic between the Barrington Tops and Forster/Tuncurry. Oct 2005.
The eastern entrance to Gloucester. Oct 2002.
High standard, federally upgraded section between Gloucester and Krambach. Oct 2005.
Photos like this explain why Bucketts Way has become colloquially known as "Bucket Way" because of all the damn potholes! Oct 2005.
Fingerboard signage in Krambach. Oct 2005.
Replacement of the last single-lane bridge on Bucketts Way, north of Krambach. Oct 2005.
Distance sign heading south from Gloucester Rd at Burrell Creek. Oct 2005.
Quaint old narrow wooden bridge between Burrell Creek and Tionee. Oct 2005.
Floodway across Dennies Creek near Tionee. Oct 2005.
ID signage at the junction with Manning River Drive (Old Pacific Hwy) at Purfleet. Oct 2005.

1. “Bucketts Way Upgrade” http://www.pm.gov.au/news/media_releases/2001/media_release1366.htm Accessed: 18/11/2005
2. “Federal Government has kept its Bucketts Way promise” http://www.ministers.dotars.gov.au/ja/releases/2002/may/a58_2002.htm Accessed: 18/11/2005

Back to Pacific Hwy