Rob Conolly at Blackheath

My husband Rob arrived home in Blackheath  with  a new car recently and I was slightly taken aback when he said;  ‘We could go for a Sunday drive tomorrow if you like.’  I hadn’t heard the expression since my distant childhood. I grew up in rural Tasmania, which I suspect was the true heartland of this gentle leisure activity.

Rob Conolly

I  love (and agree with) this description of a Sunday drive on Wikipedia;

A Sunday drive is an automobile trip, primarily in the United States and Australia, typically taken for pleasure or leisure on a Sunday, usually in the afternoon. During the Sunday drive there is typically no destination and no rush.

Hmm, so it was not universal….that’s a surprise.  Didn’t the Brits and the Kiwis potter around country lanes?

Sunday Drive

The peak of popularity was the post-war  forties and fifties, when many ordinary families were able to afford a car. It was on the wane by the mid sixties, and a  virtually a pleasure of the past by the seventies. Just too much traffic and too many other things to do.

In the old days there was often a gentle history lesson involved…..

Off for a Sunday drive.
No seat belts in those days.

Back in the day everyone had a wool travelling rug (always tartan). Oh yes, and a Box Brownie camera to take the odd black and white ‘snap’  of scenery along the way.

Sunday Drive travelling rug
Popular Father’s Day gift.
Box Brownie Camera

Many cars had a strip of rubber dangling below the chassis, supposedly to avoid travel sickness. Did that work I wonder?

Anti car sickness strap
Anti sickness or urban myth?

My father’s first motor vehicle  was a secondhand green Dodge ute, purchased circa 1959.  I hesitate to call it British racing green, but it was!  We kids loved to polish it up. Dad  affectionately called it The Bus. He taught himself to drive in a paddock, and did not even have to undergo a test.   I fear this was always reflected in his driving ability (sorry Dad). He did have the sense to proceed very slowly, which meant there was always a line  of frustrated drivers behind us.

In the photo below  (the only one I can find) we had actually been to the beach ….a different thing altogether.

Our Dodge ute.

On our Sunday excursions we just used to wander around other nearby farming districts, particularly the villages my father remembered from his own childhood; Sprent, Abbotsham, Gunns Plains.  A favourite spot was the site of his old  home at North Motton, where  my grandmother’s roses still flowered beside the only remains……the stone front  steps.

The beautiful countryside at Abbotsham has barely changed in 60 years.

There was no problem fitting us all in The  Bus, because we kids sat in the back on a makeshift seat, waving to passing vehicles.  There weren’t  that many, so everyone waved back.  If it rained we didn’t go; Sunday drives  were for fine weather.  Having waited  longer than most families  to own a vehicle,  my siblings and  adored  these outings.  Of course town kids, especially those to whom cars were not a novelty,  were less accepting.

One of the children pictured above in the back of our ute was my sister’s schoolfriend Norma Turner  Subsequently, Robbie went to stay  with the Turners and on Sunday morning  Norma confessed very  apologetically;

‘I’m sorry Robyn, but we have to go on a drive with my parents this afternoon. It’s so boring……all they do is look at trees!’ 

It’s a measure of how alien  this complaint  was to our family that my sister bothered to come home and tell us, and even more so  that I have remembered it ever since.

Service stations were just that. Windscreen cleaned, tyres checked….plus  oil and water. Sometimes they sold sets of opaque glass coffee mugs, which were of no appeal to my conservative father.  There were none of those awful bunches of carnations; everyone grew their own where we lived.

Shell Service Station
Fill her up please.

For some reason we rarely visited friends or relatives on our drives, but other people often called on us. We didn’t have a telephone, so the sound of a car crunching up the gravel lane on a Sunday would have  my mother flying into the bedroom to put her lipstick on. Sometimes it was a false alarm….the car would be a family of strangers who had meandered into our farmyard in error.

I don’t remember that we ever  stopped to buy food or drinks along the way either.  Our only purchases  would have been local produce from orchards with a roadside stall.


Anyway, I was delighted with  Rob’s suggestion and we set off after lunch  next day. No shortage of places to go in the  beautiful Blue Mountains.  Sydneysiders  were heading for the Mountains almost as soon as the first motor vehicles were registered.

Early motoring Katooma
Early days at Katoomba. (Photo credit – Blue Mts. Library)
Springwood garage 1920s
1920s ‘service station’. ( Photo credit – Blue Mountains Library)

We decided to wander down to Shipley Plateau, a few kilometres from Blackheath. I even stopped to take a photo.

Landslip near Blackheath
Wow, a bit exciting for a Sunday drive. Landslip near Blackheath.

It was all very nostalgic, especially when we called in to Logan Brae orchard  to buy some local apples.

Pauline Conolly at Logan Brae
Royal Gala apples and apple jelly, from Blackheath’s Logan Brae.
Logan Brae Orchard,Blackheath.
Logan Brae, I think this shed is  survivor from  the 1950s.

Is it possible to revive the Sunday drive? Well, maybe it is in regional and country areas. I certainly enjoyed ours.


  1. I love reading your stories, but I felt I needed to comment on this one . I am from the Uk and when I was little my parents and I used to go for a Sunday drive with our tartan picnic blanket. Exploring roads we didn’t know . In the Uk ‘Sunday driver ‘ is now used as a term for someone who drives slow with no purpose . It is used as a derogatory term , which is sad as I loved our excursions when I was little. People are now in too much of a hurry . Luckily my partner likes a Sunday drive and wee often turn down a road just to see where it goes , if it includes a coffee and cake stop so much the better. Thank you for reminding me of the lovely trips I spent with my parents. I look forward to your next story xx

    • Pauline

      Thanks for your kind words,Carrie. I know it’s a bit of a hassle leaving comments, so I really appreciate it. Yes, we use that derogatory term here too. I know Wikipedia says Sunday drives were a US/Australia thing, but I was pretty sure they were popular in the UK as well.

  2. Dear Pauline, vous lire est toujours un régal ! J’adore vos histoires de la vie quotidienne d’avant … 🤗😃😉😘

  3. Yet another great post. Thanks. Here in the UK in the 40s and 50s I remember “Sunday driver” being used as a term of abuse (so sometimes was “woman driver”!!)

    • Pauline

      Thanks for taking the trouble to leave a message, Barbara. Yes, that derogatory term of Sunday Driver is used here too.

  4. I LOVE your family photo above. Rob with his new car is pretty good too! Obviously very pleased with it as well to want to go out for a ‘Sunday ride’. Nice memories. There were 7 of us, and I don’t recall my dad actually owning a car until at least one or two of us had already left home, whereby the rest of us could then squeeze in together. He did have an old van at one time, but it only possessed two seats in the front. There was a loose car seat in the back, and I recall sitting on it and sliding up and down the floor of the van as he drove along. No seat belts back then, and certainly nothing that reflected health and safety. I confess to still having a tartan rug in my car, although it is now used as a boot liner. I’m taking Canadian friends who are over here visiting, out for the day on a magical mystery tour tomorrow. I shall pretend it is a Sunday as I tootle along the Dale.

    • Pauline

      Your father sounds such a character, Marcia. I think we had an old bench seat in the back of the ute. It was very comfortable in my memory. Hope your magical mystery tour went well. x

  5. I’m finding a lot of old e-mails that I haven’t responded to, so am trying to get caught up. I remember going for Sunday afternoon drives and always loved it. Both my parents drove, so sometimes one, sometimes the other would take the wheel. When my mother drove, my father always teased her that she got us lost. She would always come back with, “But I got us home again.”

    I have a “car rug”, one of those plaid woolen blankets, in my car. We used them for picnics and on the beach, though we seldom went to the beach. My dad didn’t like it. I still like to wander down new roads in the car and see new places. I tend to use the back way when I can, even when I am going somewhere particular.

    I enjoyed your post, Pauline. I hope to soon get all those I missed read.

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