Kev Smith has had a passion for 4WDing for many years, and has been operating Woolgoolga Offroad since the ’90s. We had a chat with him about some of his discoveries, his favourite destinations and what keeps him motivated to keep exploring the local landscape.
Hi Kev. You have been on the Coffs Coast for the past 35 years plus; what brought you to the Coffs Coast?
Mum and Dad dragged us up here to the Coffs Coast in the mid ’80s from the Blue Mountains for a better life, and after being here for 35 years, I’m now a genuine local.
You have been operating Woolgoolga Off Road since the ’90s. How has the landscape changed since starting out?
Over time there have been some big changes. Lack of maintenance in the forests around the coast has been the biggest issue. But, this comes from lack of funding to organisations. So with lack of track clearing, maintenance of roads, very minimal back burning, no fires and wild weather, the bush and tracks just get out of hand.
The Lantana is ridiculously thick in the hills, there are trees down everywhere, and a lot of the tracks we used to drive 10 years ago are now stupidly impossible and dangerous to drive. I support when the loggers come in and selectively log, as they fix the roads and push back the thick undergrowth.
Where are some of the most exciting places you’ve been off-roading?
That’s a hard one! I’ve been lucky enough to compete in 4WD events, I’ve done a huge amount of outback touring, explored our East Coast and just recently came back from Far North Queensland. I really don’t know that I could tag any one place, as I get a buzz out of all destinations. But Coffs has been rated as the 4WD capital in NSW, as it’s only 10 minutes from some great tracks.
How did you first become interested in 4WDing?
I bought a little Rocky 4×4 years ago, and a mate from Grafton dragged me into (and out of) the bush one weekend – from then, I was hooked. On to my fourth 4WD now; it gets in your blood with where you can go, and the 4WD community is great, as we all share the same passion.
Your tours are not just for adventure, but they touch on some of the Coffs Coast’s history. How important is sharing the history of the Coffs Coast to you?
Very, very important. Most people don’t think about or know a lot of Coffs history, but we have so much hidden history here. Most weekends I take groups out for a bush experience with some 4WDing and then always do a little history lesson as well. Even I learn every trip, as everybody has something to share on the local area. History in the hills has been bloody hard to dig up, so the more I can gather and learn, then the more I can share, so it can last just a little longer.
Through your own study of the local history, what is an interesting fact that not many locals might know?
I suppose the gold fields might be a good one. While only short lived, the gold rush we had here in Coffs was pretty significant, where towns evolved and are still growing today. Coramba and Nana Glen are two prime examples. There were over 300 registered gold, tin, silver and copper mines back before the turn of the century. Even today we go looking (and have found a lot of them) for the old mines, claim areas and even found some old relics out in the bush. They need to be preserved, and I would love to see some of the old relics out of the bush and displayed in town.
We hear you’re off on your own adventure soon. Where are you heading?
We (my partner, Sally and I) have been planning to go touring Australia wide. With the support of some great local companies, we are slowly getting ready to leave soon. I am lucky enough to have several national 4WD magazines on board, so we can share our travels through their publications too.
How would you compare the Coffs Coast to some of the other 4WD locations in Australia?
Where else can you stay at a 5 star resort then hit the bush just 10 minutes away, maybe 4WD ’til lunchtime, drop into a café for a feed, then 4WD back to your accommodation? It is that easy, and I think this is what attracts the off-road community to Coffs.
Where would you say is your favourite spot to get out and drive on the Coffs Coast and why?
That’s like giving away my little secrets. Honestly, that’s why I started Woolgoolga Offroad, and why I do drives nearly every weekend to show people my hidden secrets. To me, that’s what it’s all about. I have gained so many friends with what I do – that’s been my ambition all along. This has been my hobby and passion for nearly 30 years, doing it all off my own back. Exploring, sharing, helping and hopefully guiding people so they can experience nature and to develop friendships.
Where can we find out more about Woolgoolga Off Road?
As well as my blog www.woolgoolgaoffroad.blogspot.com.au where I share my adventures, you can also find me on Facebook and Instagram by searching woolgoolgaoffroad. If anyone wants any specific information, they can definitely contact me through those outlets, and I’ll do my best to help them out. You can also pick up a book I wrote on 4WDing on the Coffs Coast at ARB Coffs Harbour.