IT'S been seven years in the making, but the Hinterland Way tourist drive has been officially launched.
New signage at the Coolamon Scenic Drive lookout was revealed yesterday.
Macadamia Castle owner Tony Gilding - who has been working on the project with the relevant councils, tourist organisations, chambers of commerce, politicians and the Roads and Maritime Services - said it was an important step forward for the region.
"We knew there was going to be an Old Pacific Highway (once the upgrades were opened), but there are so many of those and we wanted something different," he said.
"We eventually decided on the Hinterland Way.
"We're really happy with how the marketing looks - the signs are great and we'll have brochures soon.
"Driving along the Hinterland Way, you get some of the best views in the world. You've got the hinterland, the coast, the mountains, the canefields and the macadamia plantations.
"What we are saying to people is that once you have done Byron Bay and Ballina, the popular coastal towns, come and find out what else we have to offer.
"There's Newrybar, Bangalow, the Macadamia Castle ... the Hinterland Way has the potential to become a destination in itself.
"There are a lot of great tourist drives in the world and this is one of them."
The Hinterland Way information sign at the Coolamon Scenic Drive lookout has been a joint process between Lismore, Byron and Ballina councils along with Bangalow Chamber, Newyrbar Progress Association and Macadamia Castle. It was funded by RMS.
The sign was designed to mitigate the effect on destinations on and to the west of the old highway.
Mr Gilding said the first few months after the new highway opened had a "shocking" effect on his business and it was only now starting to ease.
"People are now starting to find us again," he said.
"People are realising that there's so much more to see than the coast."
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