The Great North Walk

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Introduction

This is a marked 250km track from Sydney to Newcastle.

Starting in the centre of Australia's largest city, the track winds a devious route through the suburbs into the surrounding forests then heads north to the city of Newcastle. While not a wilderness walk like some other tracks this route has great appeal in that it is easily accessed, can be walked in any season of the year and crosses a wide variety of natural landscapes. Campsites have been established at about 3 hour intervals so there is a wide scope for variety of itineraries.

The best time to walk this track is winter and spring (July to November). This is because this period has the finest weather and the lowest rainfall for the year. The track can be walked at any time of the year. The only real weather problem are the occasional extremely hot days. See weather graphs for more details.

Running through a heavily developed region, parts of the track have been moved and sometimes even temporarily closed due to conflicts with land owners, other users and bushfires. Expect changes and follow the signposts when in doubt. Be aware that long sections of this track passes through suburban areas and there are some long road bashes.

History

In 1981, two walkers from Sydney, Garry McDougall and Leigh Shearer-Heriot come up with the idea to walk from Sydney to Newcastle. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and Newcastle is a large industrial city to the north. They spent a lot effort finding as they described 'a corridor of green between the red brick housing'. They went past the stage of finding a walk for themselves to do and decided to create a formal track.

In 1983 they approached the NSW Bicentennial Committee for support. The idea became an obsession and involved the two of them writing many submissions and reports. Minor grants followed and in 1986, the Bicentennial Committee allocated a major grant. The track was then adopted by the NSW Lands Department and became a reality in 1988.

Access & Location

Good access exists to both ends of the track with regular public transport to Sydney and Newcastle. The track heads inland from Sydney and runs north through low mountain ranges and forests then heads back to the coast to Newcastle. Crossing numerous roads, it is possible to walk almost any part of this track as a short walk. The only section there can be problems with is around the Hawkesbury River - Marine Cabs, tel 0448 101010 provide a water taxi for the Brooklyn, Wondabyne, Patonga area.

Maps and Track Notes

The Department of Lands, publish a 'Discovery Kit' (for A$14.85 posted) which includes 6 maps and notes to the entire walk. Also useful is the original guide book 'The Great North Walk' by Garry McDougall and Leigh Shearer-Heriot. Published in 1988, this is now out of print – copies might be found for reference in libraries. I have heard a second edition was printed by Simon and Schuster in 1996 with the identical ISBN (which might indicate its the identical content) but I have not seen it to compare. The regular CMA topographic maps can also be used although they do not always show the track's current location. Information on current track conditions are available from the Department of Lands website.

Permits

None are needed to walk the track. As the track passes through some urban areas, there are restrictions on where you can camp. All streams should be assumed to be polluted and clean water should be obtained from public taps and carried to campsites.

Note

Thanks is given to Jim Happ for his personal comments and detailed itinerary about his trip along the entire track in September 2001. We have now walked most of the southern half of this track and it is surprizingly pleasant with few signs of the surrounding city.

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Last updated : December 5th 2015