Built between 1826 and 1836, the Old Great North Road was a remarkable feat of colonial engineering. It is also one of 11 Australian convict sites inscribed as World Heritage in 2010. Treading it is a bushwalking New South Wales experience like no other.
Some sections of the original road are now well-used roads, stone bridges and restored culverts the only clues to the history beneath the bitumen. But a 43km ridgetop track that was more popular with bushrangers than settlers is little changed from when the scrub rang with the clang of convict chains and pick axes.
An 11km loop walk in Dharug National Park climbs Finch’s Line and descends Devine’s Hill, the two steep “lines of ascent” constructed from the Hawkesbury River onto the sandstone escarpment. On this route you follow in the footsteps of the visionaries whose dream this road briefly fulfilled, the engineers who realised it, and the convict slave labourers who built it stone by stone.
Ride the free ferry across the Hawkesbury from the village of Wiseman’s Ferry and walk down the road (and downriver) to the base of Finch’s Line. Over the next few hours you’ll see assorted wildflowers and stand atop 13m high stone buttresses supporting elaborate walling, every stone block pitted with pick marks.