Most of this walk follows parts of the convict built road, and a number of information signs along the way give a good insight into the construction and history of the road, making the walk more interesting. The last section of the walk, along Wisemans Ferry Rd, has some great views of the cliffs above. The historic Thomas James bridge, just before the end of the walk, is the oldest in-use bridge on mainland Australia
THE GREAT NORTH ROAD surveyed in 1825 and completed in 1836, was constructed using convict labour. Up to 720 convicts – some in chains – worked on the road, which spanned 264 km, connecting Sydney to the settlements of the Hunter Valley. It features spectacular and beautifully preserved examples of stonework, including buttresses, culverts, bridges and twelve metre high retaining walls.
HISTORY: – FINCH’S LINE was the original ascent up the steep escarpment from Wisemans Ferry. Construction began in March 1828, carried out by the No 25 Road Party and part of the No 3 Iron Gang under the supervision of Lieutenant Jonathon Warner. The gangs worked from either end of the line. GOVERNOR DARLING inspected the route later in 1828, and found it too steep and winding. He demanded that a new route be surveyed. Work was abandoned in January 1829 in favour of this new route, which travelled up Devines Hill.
THE MIDDLE SECTION OF FINCH’S LINE was never completed. However, enough work had been done for the route to be used by travellers while the Devines Hill road was being constructed.
THE DEVINE’S HILL ROUTE, with its steep two-kilometre ascent, was selected by surveyor general Sir Thomas Mitchell. Over 500 convicts, many in irons, constructed the road. It features impressive 12-metre-high buttressed retaining walls and an elaborate drainage system.
ONLY 43 km OF THE ROAD REMAINS undeveloped and relatively intact. Running through and alongside Dharug National Park and Yengo National Park, this section has been named the Old Great North Road. It goes from Wisemans Ferry in the south to Mount Manning (near Bucketty) in the north, and includes the oldest surviving stone bridges in mainland Australia. The road is closed to motor vehicles, but makes a great walk over two or three days – or an exhilarating day’s cycle.
WHERE TO START: traditionally from the car park near the walk.
HOW TO GET THERE: By car to Wiseman’s Ferry.
WHEN TO GO: We recommend all year round, but it does get hot in summer.
FACILITIES: located at the town of Wiseman’s Ferry and the Inn.
FOOD & WATER: Take at least one litre per person and some snacks in case you get hungry.
WALKING GEAR: Weather: can change at anytime, so pack appropriate wet weather gear, sun hat and glasses.
THE WALK: 9 kms of varied walk along the well-defined Old Great North Road up Devine’s Hill and then along the less defined Finch’s Line back to the main road which you follow back to the car park.
A good half day walk which will give you glimpses of our colonial past and sections of the convict built Great North Road Take the car ferry to the northern river bank and start your walk from there.