The National Trust (NSW) has long worked to protect special places for all to enjoy. Take advantage of the cooler months and hit the walking trail for the perfect combination of heritage highlights and the great outdoors.
This is an edited version of an article first published in the National Trust (NSW) magazine.
Whether you fancy a short stroll or a far longer trek that tests your stamina over many kilometres, there are a myriad of choices for people keen to make the most of the autumn days that lie ahead.
Three of the State’s best long-distance walking trails encompass both stunning scenery and heritage places, ranging from some of Australia’s oldest architecture to a simple tradesman’s cottage. Whatever path you choose, make sure to do your homework first and plan head.
Hume and Hovell Track
The Hume and Hovel Track is often described as one of the State’s best kept secrets. The 426-kilometre route starts at the National Trust’s Cooma Cottage, home of Australian-born explorer Hamilton Hume, who reputedly fell in love with the location when he camped there during his expedition to Port Phillip in 1824.
After initially missing out on selecting the site for his own pastoral ventures, he later purchased the land and cottage, expanding the complex of buildings visitors see today. From Cooma Cottage, the track follows as closely as possible the route Hume and William Hovell took to Albury.
Tackling the entire distance demands a commitment of 18 to 26 days, incorporating both easy and strenuous stretches that embrace stunning countryside views, as well as forests and wetlands.
If completing the full track isn’t an option, the first section covers about 72 kilometres. Graded easy for the entire length, it takes about 25 hours to complete, making it suitable for a long-weekend ramble, with rest and campsites conveniently spaced along the way. The route passes through the beautiful Burrinjuck Nature Reserve. Hikers cross Lake Burrinjuck by boat before resuming the trail near Cathedral Rocks. Bookings are absolutely essential for the boat service which does not operate every day.
This section of the walk ends at the Fitzpatrick Trackhead, named after James Fitzpatrick, one of six convict servants who accompanied Hume and Hovell on their expedition. Transported from Ireland for an offence under the Insurrection Act, he was given a Ticket of Leave because of his contribution.
Find out more at humeandhovelltrack.com.au or plan your visit to Cooma Cottage.
Great North Walk
Stretching from Sydney to the Hunter Valley and Newcastle, the Great North Walk offers outdoor enthusiasts very different prospects, encompassing both urban streets and potential wildlife encounters.
The 250-kilometre route was created in 1988 to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary. The full walk incorporates challenging elements, and takes between eight and 14 days to complete, however there are plenty of easy one-day options.
Completing the first section from Sydney’s CBD to Boronia Park offers the perfect opportunity to visit the National Trust’s Vienna Cottage, and absorb the old-world charm of Woolwich and Hunter’s Hill on Sydney’s North Shore. Six kilometres one way, this walk is rated easy to moderate and takes only a few hours if you are not tempted by one of the area’s many popular bakeries and cafés.
Walkers begin their adventure at Macquarie Place and the obelisk which served as the original “zero mile” marker for principal roads built in New South Wales for almost 200 years. Then comes a ferry ride across beautiful Sydney Harbour to Woolwich Wharf where the trail picks up again, passing through historic streets almost to the front door of Vienna Cottage.
Built in 1871, this humble artisan’s cottage has a slate roof, four rooms and a detached kitchen and laundry at the back. It was originally the home of a German shoemaker, John Jacob Hillman, his Irish wife, Ann, and their five children. The cottage remained in the family for more than a century, retaining much of its original character, which has been carefully conserved by the National Trust to provide a rare example of a tradesman’s home in the late nineteenth century. Originally run as a dairy, the property incorporated a productive orchard that is now a small park and also open to the public.
Find out more at thegreatnorthwalk.com/track or plan your visit to Vienna Cottage.
Great West Walk
Another trail that combines iconic urban landscapes and spectacular scenery is the Great West Walk. Stretching from Parramatta to Katoomba, this relatively new trail opened in 2019.
Despite its mostly urban setting, the eastern half of the route provides surprising reminders of the farming and grazing that once occupied land in western Sydney, and passes through protected Cumberland Plain woodland, precious public parklands and local river systems.
An 80-kilometre extension added in 2022 takes in spectacular locations in the Blue Mountains, with most walkers preferring to descend from Katoomba to Emu Plains rather than walk up the thousand-metre elevation.
Some of Australia’s oldest architecture features among the highlights of the Great West Walk, including Old Government House and the Dairy Cottage precinct at Parramatta. Closer to the other end of the trail is National Trust property Woodford Academy, built on the lands of the Dharug and Gundungurra people.
The oldest complex of colonial buildings in the Blue Mountains, Woodford Academy began life as an inn in the 1830s. Its multi-layered history includes years as a gentleman’s country retreat, guest house, and an exclusive school, which operated from 1907 to 1936. Today, the property regularly hosts an innovative program of art events, performances and talks.
To find out more visit greatwestwalk.com.au or plan your visit to Woodford Academy.
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