THE new 36km stretch of Pacific Highway that opened this week between Glenugie and Tyndale promises to save time on highway travel, but the Big River Way could still be the quickest option to get from Yamba and Maclean to Grafton.

For the past four years I have commuted from Maclean to Grafton for work on the old Pacific Highway and watched as the various stages of the new upgraded work came to fruition.

Yesterday was my first chance on the new road, and it was exciting. Nice wide open road, 110km/h speed limit and the chance to see country I had never seen before.

It's really something special to be able to see parts of the Clarence between Maclean and Glenugie that is now on show thanks to the highway upgrade.

However, if you think taking the new road from the Lower Clarence to Grafton and back again will save you some time, you may be surprised.

Going on a time trial yesterday, I found the trip from Maclean to Grafton on Big River Way took me 33 minutes, 22 seconds, with some minor delays due to roadworks.

The return trip on the new highway was almost six minutes longer.

There's good reason for the extra time, and I'm genuinely surprised the gap wasn't bigger. To get from South Grafton McDonalds to Maclean via Glenugie on the new Pacific Highway was 38 minutes, 56 seconds.

Going further south to head north and the extra distance that takes on top of the 48km between Glenugie and Maclean accounts for much of the difference in time, but to get on to the new Pacific Highway from Grafton you have to either go to Glenugie or get on at Tyndale.

People travelling within the Clarence Valley from Grafton or South Grafton will probably find it quicker on the Big River Way, and hopefully with less long haul trucks going from Sydney to Brisbane on the old highway it will be a quieter drive with less traffic and even further reduced travel times.