After an early morning train journey down to Sydney from the Central Coast, I arrived at the official starting point for the Great North Walk, an obelisk in Macquarie Place erected in 1818 by Governor Macquarie as the zero milage marker for the colony’s roads. I’d expected to find a sign, plaque or something associating this spot with the GNW, but if there is, it’s well hidden. Oh well.
With time to grab a coffee from the adjacent cafe, it was a leisurely stroll down Loftus Street to Circular Quay’s Wharf 5 where I boarded the 9:45am ferry for Woolwich.
Passing under the bridge, the ferry meandered around the harbour to Balmain, Birchgrove and Greenwich before setting me down at the beginning of the walk proper in Woolwich.
Next to the wharf is a rather faded sign, the first mention of the Great North Walk and showing 245km to Newcastle. I’m almost there!
Following The Point Road, the walk passes the old dock in Goat Paddock, excavated from the sandstone in 1898 and still in use by container vessels and the local boating community.
Avoiding the main roads as much as possible, the route markers zig-zag across the peninsula along quiet footpaths and back lanes, with occasional views of the water on either side.
Arriving in Hunters Hill at around 11:30, I stopped at a cafe to grab an early lunch but was told that no, I couldn’t order anything from the lunch menu until after the hour of twelve. Not wanting to wait around, I pressed on, following signs to the Village Shops along a convoluted route looping back to a collection of boutique cafes with no publicly-displayed menus and a fish shop that doesn’t open on Mondays or Tuesdays. Not liking my chances of finding anything in keeping with my low sodium diet, I grabbed some flavoured milk and assorted chocolates from a service station, making a mental note to be more self-sufficient on future legs of the walk.
From Boronia Park in Hunters Hill, the route at last becomes a bushwalk, with the path descending into the Lane Cove National Park, following a series of tracks along the river bank as it meanders north-west through Sydney. This section brought back memories from a year ago when I’d paddled my kayak from beneath the Burns Bay Road bridge upstream to a geocaching event alongside the river in Lane Cove.
At Buffalo Creek, the path heads inland a bit along a raised walkway through the wetlands, an area that was once used as a tip but which has now been restored thanks to the efforts of local bushland enthusiasts. At the crossing of Buffalo Creek itself, I passed a geocache hidden in the walkway structure, making a quick find before pressing on to Sugarloaf Point.
Once around the point, the path headed north, running parallel with Pittwater Road for a while before returning to the water’s edge. From a rock platform jutting out into the water I caught my first glimpse of the day’s destination, the industrial park at North Ryde with its prominent Honeywell building.
A little bit further along I came upon a pile of leaf litter that looked awfully familiar, and sure enough just ahead of me on the track was a brush turkey. Although originally extending as far south as the Illawarra, urbanisation had pushed these birds north of the Hawkesbury until fairly recently when they have started reappearing in Sydney’s northern bushland. Gardeners beware!
Leaving the Narional Park at the Magdala Park sports fields, the track then crosses the river over a 150 metre steel footbridge and past a factory smelling like salt-and-vinegar potato chips, before looping around and back over the river on the Epping Road bridge. From there, it’s down a flight of stairs and under the bridge.
The final few hundred metres of bushwalking took me past some impressive moist caves, before leaving the GNW on a side track up and into the heart of the Delhi Road business park.
From there, it was back through the jungle of bitumen, traffic lights and 4WDs to North Ryde railway station and the train back home.
Coming up next: North Ryde to Thornleigh.