To continue my Year of Adventure theme, I am delighted to share with you a little-known walk that delivers an amazing blend of city hustle, harbour views, and a dose of suburbia, before it launches off into wild and pristine Australian bush, past hidden rivers, then lurching back into suburbia and swamping you with glorious ocean views.
Phew! What is this walk that includes a bit of everything?
Welcome to…The Great North Walk.
What is the Great North Walk (GNW)?
The GNW ambles from the very heart of the Sydney CBD northwards for around 260km, ending at Newcastle’s harbour. Sydney needs no description – think Opera House, Harbour Bridge, aquamarine waters etc – while slightly lesser-known Newcastle, is a large city of around 450,000 people located a 170km drive up the freeway from Sydney.
Previously a major industrial hub with steel, manufacturing and coal transport driving its growth and polluted reputation, Newcastle has since reinvented itself into a vibrant city with a strong arts and coffee culture, as well as its ageless beach and surf scene. A fitting end to this walk.
How Was the GNW Developed?
In the early 1980s, Garry McDougall and Leigh Shearer-Heriot spent many of their weekends exploring the bushland between Sydney and Newcastle. They were looking for existing tracks they could use to create one long journey linking the two cities.
In 1986, the project received formal support and financial assistance from the NSW Bicentennial Council. The NSW Lands Department took on management responsibility and injected further funding.
In 1987, the advisory committee selected the name Great North Walk. The name was derived from the Great North Road, which was built by convicts between 1826 and 1836 and linked Sydney Town to Newcastle.
The walk was opened as part of the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations. Source.
Where Does it Go?
The route is broken into 30 separate stages with maps available for each. Many of the stages are relatively short and that will be very welcome when you balance distance with the steep terrain in some sections.
The official stages are:
Day 1: Sydney to Boronia Park – 6km. Here.
Day 2: Boronia Park to North Ryde – 7.2km. Here.
Day 3: North Ryde Fairyland Circuit – 6.9km. Here.
Day 4: Roseville to Macquarie Park – 8.9km. Here.
Day 5: Macquarie Park to Thornleigh – 11.6km. Here.
Day 6: Thornleigh to Hornsby – 10.2km. Here.
Day 7: Hornsby to Galston Gorge – 9.7km. Here.
Day 8: Galston Gorge to Mt Kuring-gai – 12.6km. Here.
Day 9: Mt Kuring-gai Track to Berowra Station – 9.7km. Here.
Day 10: Berowra Station to Berowra Waters – 5.7km. Here.
Day 11: Berowra Waters to Cowan Station – 7.2km. Here.
Day 12: Jerusalem Bay Track (Cowan to Brooklyn) – 13.4km. Here.
Day 13: Patonga to Wondabyne Station via Mt Wondabyne – 19.5km. Here.
Day 14: Wondabyne to Mooney Mooney Creek Track head – 10.1km. Here.
Day 15: Mooney Mooney Creek Track head to Somersby – 16.1km. Here.
Day 16: Somersby Store to Ourimbah Valley Track head – 6km. Here.
Day 17: Ourimbah Valley Track head to Greta Road – 15km. Here.
Day 18: Bumble Hill Dray Track (Greta Road to Forest Road to Yarramalong) – 5.6km. Here.
Day 19: Yarramalong to Cedar Brush – 11km. Here.
Day 20: Cedar Brush to Basin Campsite – 9.7km. Here.
Day 21: Basin Campsite to Watagan Creek Road – 13km. Here.
Day 22: Watagan Creek Road to Flat Rock – 4.1km. Here.
Day 23: Flat Rock to Congewai Valley East Track Head – 13.8km. Here.
Day 24: Congewai Track Head East to Watagan Headquarters – 17.2km. Here.
Day 25: Watagan Headquarters to Heaton Lookout – 8.1km. Here.
Day 26: Heaton Lookout to Heaton Gap – 4.3km. Here.
Day 27: Heaton Gap to Teralba Station – 14.8km. Here.
Day 28: Teralba Station to Charlestown Park Track head – 13.3km. Here.
Day 29: Charlestown Park Track head to Merewether – 7.9km. Here.
Day 30: Merewether to Queens Wharf – 4.4km. Here.
Yes, this adds up to more than 260km as each stage (above) is detailed as a day walk (connecting to public transport etc) rather than a continuous thru-walk where you omit the sections of the path that lead you out of the National Parks, to train stations etc.
Where to Stay?
With easy access to public transport in the early stages, it is possible to walk much of the urban section as day walks, returning to a motel or home each night. As you move further North, and away from suburbia, it may still be possible to walk ‘out’ of the National Parks to connect with a bus or train, or stay in the Parks camping at designated camp sites.
Surprisingly, the path wends it way close by a few remote motels and B&Bs. Check out the Wild Walks website to find a walking plan that enables you to avoid camping completely.
Waymarking & Information Resources
While this is a relatively unknown path as a thru-walk, signage is available to keep you on track.
Want to Know More?
- Websites: Wild Walks and its more detailed partner website, The Great North Walk , are really handy resources to help you plan.
- Maps & Guides: Are available from the Wild Walks website. They are ‘old-school’ download-and-print maps.
- Book: The Great North Walk book by Matt Mcclelland has comprehensive details and maps about the walk.
- Apps: You may like to research apps such as Far Out (previously called Guthook), Windy Maps and Maps.me to support your walk. Wild Walks also has an app for Apple devices only as far as I can see.
- You Tube: Wild Walks has a short introductory video and Jase in the Wild dives into more detail. He does talk A LOT, but you do get some good insight into the terrain.
- Facebook: Has a couple of options including the Great North Walk Walked page which includes photos and short videos of sections of the walk.
So, the planning phase begins! I am excited to get out and explore my own country. I have no illusions that some of these sections with be crossing pretty tough terrain, but the beauty of the Aussie bush will make it all worthwhile.
Do you have a favourite patch of bush?
What: The Great North Walk, not to be confused with the Great Ocean Walk, will be a challenge with some quite remote stages through steep terrain. I need to brush up on my map reading skills and do more research into the availability of water.
Where: The walk officially starts at the Obelisk in a small park at the corner of Loftus and Bridge Sts, in the heart of Sydney. There is nothing stopping you walking southwards from Newcastle instead.
When: Mid and late Autumn 2022.
Why: To embrace my Year of Adventure and see some gorgeous scenery at the same time.
How: I love that this walk starts with a ferry ride from Circular Quay. Talk about a cushy and beautiful way to start a long-distance walk.
Who: Myself and another adventurous soul who may, or may not, be talking to me by the end of the walk.
Related Posts: For a little insight into another bushwalk adventure I have planned in the next month or so, read about Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk.
Related Blogs: For a detailed review of the GNW and its stages, check out Andrew’s blog. Although I warn you, he does some BIG distances. Too big for me!
Read About it: For tonnes of great information and background on this path, grab your own copy of the Great North Walk Guidebook. Available from Book Depository.
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