Culture and heritage

Heritage of NSW

Walking or cycling the Old Great North Road

The short walk

If you have a few hours up your sleeve, you can follow the original ascent of the Old Great North Road from Wisemans Ferry up Finchs Line. You can combine this with a walk up Devines Hill to complete a loop track of about 9 km, (including a 2 km walk along Wisemans Ferry Road). The track offers spectacular views over the Hawkesbury River, and allows you to compare the construction work on both ascents.

This walk really gives you a feel of the blood, sweat and tears that convict road gangs endured in constructing the road. Although some of these convicts were shackled in leg irons, escape was easy for many. The fact that the road was completed - and in only eight years - shows that these men were skilled, diligent and interested enough to stay on the job. You can:

  • Marvel at the quality of the road's culverts and 12-m-high buttressed retaining walls.
  • See how sandstone blocks were quarried from rock faces, using dynamite and brute strength.
  • See how the blocks were finished off, so they were ready to place into the walls, culverts and drains of the road.
  • Look for convict graffiti in the rock faces beside the road.

The long walk

It takes two or three days to comfortably walk the 43-km section of the Old Great North Road from Wisemans Ferry to Mogo Creek Camping Area. If you're planning to do this walk, make sure you have plenty of food and water - there's no permanent water supply along the track. Also bring equipment for all weather conditions, since you'll mostly be walking along exposed ridge-tops.

Along the road, you'll see:

  • Evidence of the convicts' day-to-day life, including stockade sites, handpicked waterholes, and graffiti engraved into the sandstone.
  • Clares Bridge, one of the oldest bridges on the mainland
  • Circuit Flat Bridge, probably built around the same time
  • Frog Hollow, a volcanic diatreme. Diatremes are pipe-like lava flows that have intruded into the surrounding sandstone. When the solidified lava wears away, it leaves craters in the sandstone.

Camping is available at the following locations:

  • Mill Creek, which is not on the Old Great North Road, but is 5.5 km from the walk's starting point, along Wisemans Ferry Road.
  • Ten Mile Hollow, around a third of the way along the track. This camping ground has a pit toilet but is inaccessible by road.
  • Mogo Creek, at the end of the walk near Bucketty.

The mountain bike ride

You can cycle the 43 km section of the Old Great North Road in a day, or take alternative shorter routes. The steep ascent of Finchs Line is not suitable for mountain bikes and is a walking track only.

The road is recommended for experienced mountain bike riders only, as some sections are quite rocky and difficult to ride. If you're less experienced, be prepared to push your bike in many areas! Remember to take plenty of water with you because there is no permanent water supply along the road. And pack suitable clothes - the route is mostly along the ridge-tops and can be quite exposed.

Old Great North Road bike ride

View map

Plant and animals along the road

The vegetation along most of the Old Great North Road is open forest, dominated by Sydney red gum, yellow bloodwood and turpentine trees. At Ten Mile Hollow, watch out for a slight change in vegetation, with plenty of scribbly gums.

Because there's volcanic rock near Clares Bridge, the forest becomes dominated by the rough-barked apple, forest oaks, narrow-leaved ironbarks and fern-leaf. This area provides habitat for a rare wattle, Acacia matthewii, which was discovered by a local botanist.

Observant walkers may see or hear glossy black cockatoos or gang gang cockatoos (both listed as threatened) in the forest along the road. Lace monitors are fairly common, and koalas have been spotted in trees beside the road - but only deep within the park. And while resting at Ten Mile Hollow, look for wombat burrows amid the foundations of the inn that was planned (but may not have ever been built) there.

Cars

Until the opening of the Pacific Highway in 1930, the Old Great North Road was part of the major road route between Sydney and Gosford. It's now closed to motor vehicles (including motor bikes) to halt its rapid deterioration and for public safety reasons.

More information

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Page last updated: 19 February 2016