Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? You do all the research, fill out the spreadsheets and lay out your gear all over the floor, weighing every item.
And then the perfectly planned plan falls over!
Yes, my 15-day Great North Walk adventure was turned on its head when, at the last minute as I was starting to stuff gear into my backpack, I thought I should check the National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) website for any alerts. And, you guessed it, wherever I looked and in letters writ large was ‘Great North Walk – CLOSED’!
The endless excessive rain that the East coast of NSW has experienced the last couple of months has created landslips, felled trees and generally made the path impassable. Bugger! Back to the drawing board.
With a little more research, I found I could walk the early stages through Sydney’s suburbs and that became my much-shortened Plan B.
Enjoy Day 1 of the Great North Walk.
Date: 16 May, 2022
From: Sydney CBD
To: Macquarie Park
Map #: 1, 2, part 3, part 4
Official Distance: 22.9km Actual Distance: 21.7km
Ascent: 389m Descent: 337m
Weather: A perfect blue-sky day.
Stayed At: Hornsby AirBnB.
Getting to the Start: I won’t include these comments in every post, but thought it may be useful for the urban sections of the Walk. After leaving the Obelisk in Macquarie Place, it is only a 2-minute walk northwards to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Woolwich. $3.66 one way and reduced services on weekends.
Finishing This Stage: The path ends about 1.5km from Macquarie Park Metro Station. On the metro head East to connect to the main trainline at Chatswood or westwards to Epping for another main line.
- What a magnificent start to a long-distance walk! I know of no other walk that kicks off with a glorious ferry ride across a sparkling harbour. It was an absolute pearler of a day and adventures just don’t get better than this.
- Map 1 leads you through the very well-heeled streets of Hunters Hill. Luxury cars, and homes to match, abound. I felt positively slovenly walking the streets in my hiking boots and daggy shorts.
- The signage/waymarking is good although I did miss one turn off and only realised that when I noticed a post/marker pointing back onto the street I was still on! Oh well, I made up for it later on having to backtrack after taking a wrong turn and ending up on the wrong side of a 3m high fence and locked gate.
- I have decided I am not going to be a purist on this walk. I will simply enjoy everything that is thrown at me. If that means a few diversions or unexpected shortcuts, then so be it.
- It was muddy and slippery underfoot in some sections as water continued to ooze from between the rock shelves. Be careful as you rock scramble – the sandstone boulders can be very slippery. I have the bruises on my knees to prove it.
- Plenty of birdlife, but no real wildlife today other than the disappearing tail of a black snake and some photogenic water dragons (lizards).
- One challenge I found was that even though there was plenty of Great North Walk signage, there wasn’t a lot of locality signage to indicate where you were on the map. Maybe the app would solve this small issue.
- Today’s walk is a real walk of contrasts – ferry rides, luxury homes, water views, mangrove swamps, industrial estates, noisy and smoggy freeways, and then finally into a peaceful and welcoming national parks.
Top Tips for this Section:
- Ferry Schedule: Make sure you check the ferry timetable as the weekend schedule starts much later in the morning and only runs on the hour. This is important if you want to maximise walking in the cool hours of the early morning.
- Distances: There are definite advantages in walking multiple stages, one stage after the other, as you save on the distance you must cover getting to/from the start and end of each stage. Those distance savings are certainly welcome at the end of the walking day when the legs are weary.
- Alerts: Check the NPWS website for any closures and alerts. Even with my hastily researched Plan B, I didn’t know the weir over the Lane Cove River (Map 4) was closed due to flood damage and had to adapt my walking plan (see previous comment about not being a purist).
- Riverside Walking Track Lane Cove National Park: This track became another Plan B (or am I now up to Plan C?) after finding the weir was closed. The friendly NPWS ranger recommended I take this path as it was far more scenic, a similar length and would take me to a very similar end point. It was a really good option and the only real difference was that the path hugged the southern edge of the Lane Cover River rather than meandering on the northern side.
- Traffic: Beware that in many parts of this stage, you are walking through a busy city. Traffic is constant, noisy and rude. I also found that parked cars often obscured waymarking signs (see previous comment about back-tracking!).
Stay tuned for Day 2.
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