A brief history of the Hume Highway

In 1824 the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, commissioned Hamilton Hume and William Hovell to lead an expedition to discover new grazing land and to resolve the mystery of where New South Wales’ western rivers flowed. The two explorers set off from Lake George in New South Wales and ended up at Corio Bay, now known as Geelong in Victoria. Following roughly the route taken, The Great South Road was born. In 1928 it was re-named the Hume Highway.

The Hume Highway has had a number of starting points over the years however, at this time it starts/finishes on Parramatta Road in Summer Hill in Sydney and starts/finishes at the Western Ring Road in Melbourne. Just for your information the road is known as The Hume Highway in New South Wales with a section between the towns of Prestons and Berrima known as The Hume Motorway. In Victoria the road is referred to as The Hume Freeway.


Driving The Hume Highway today

Today the Hume Highway is around 840 kilometres in length and is dual carriageway. It is a main route linking Sydney and Melbourne and is a vital road freight route to transport goods. The other drive between Melbourne and Sydney is the Princes Highway along the coast.  

It is possible to drive the distance between Sydney and Melbourne in around 10-12 hours. This depends on sticking to the 110 km per hour speed limit and the number of stops you make. And there are many interesting towns to visit along the way, so making a holiday of The Hume Highway is a realistic option. And in a number of them, there are small memorials dedicated to Hume and Hovell, such as at Euroa and Gunning.

It should be noted that all towns have been bypassed – so you will need to exit the freeway / highway to stop at any of them.

Also be aware there are a number of fixed speed cameras along The Hume Highway / Freeway to catch you if you are travelling above the 110 kilometres per hour limit.


Transport options to travel The Hume Highway

Being a road the best way to travel is to drive the road yourself. Although you can travel by bus, you will be limited as to stops when travelling this way. The best way is by car. If you don’t have one already you can rent one. Check out AutoEurope for a great car rental deal.


Accommodation along The Hume Highway

Accommodation is available along The Hume Highway. However, you will need to visit one of the towns along the highway. Accommodation can be found by driving through town and seeing what is available. If you want to book somewhere in advance then check out HostelWorld for a hostel bed and Booking.com for a hotel room.


Suggested Towns to stop at along The Hume Highway


For the purposes of writing this blog I am travelling south down the The Hume Highway from Sydney to Melbourne. To find out what to do and see in Sydney read our blogs Sightseeing Sydney Harbour and things to see and do in Sydney. If you are travelling from Melbourne to Sydney I suggest you read this blog backwards!

On leaving Sydney you will bypass a number of towns that are part of the Sydney Metropolitan Area sprawl, such as Campbelltown, Camden and Picton. However, your first stop heading south down the Hume Highway could be in the Southern Highlands. Here you will find many notable towns including Mittagong and Bowral, where cricket enthusiasts will find the Donald Bradman Cricket Museum. This museum not only highlights ’The Don’s’ cricket career but has loads of cricket history and memorabilia to see. The cricket oval adjacent to the museum may even have a game of cricket to watch! You could easily spend a few hours at the museum discovering all things cricket.


Consoling cricketer at the museum

Next stop could be the city of Goulburn. As you are arriving, you will see the massive Goulburn Gaol, but don’t let that deter you. This city is the centre of a rich agricultural area where some of the finest wool comes from. The main street – Auburn Street – is worth a drive through and possibly a stop in one of the coffee shops. There are a number of architectural and historical buildings you could visit, including the courthouse and the train station. But a visit to see to the Big Marino that celebrates all things wool is a great photo opportunity!


The Big Marino, Goulburn, NSW

Gunning could be your next stop. This town has an extremely wide main street from the time of horses and bullock-drawn wagons. It also has a couple of good coffee shops – including a place I often stop at, the Old Hume Cafe with its famous lamb burger.

Further down The Hume Highway is Yass. This town has a historic main street with well-preserved 19th century pubs. It is a popular stop. You may want to visit Cooma Cottage, the home of Hamilton Hume until his death in 1873. It is located east of Yass, close to the intersection of the former routes of the Hume and Barton Highways.

You will see the names of a number of smaller towns you could stop at, such as Bowning, Bookham and Jugiong on your way to Gundagai. Gundagai is famous for the statue of the ‘Dog on the Tuckerbox’. You will see signs for the turnoff to the statue as you drive along The Hume Highway. The statue isn’t in the actual town but north of the town. The statue is inspired by a bullock driver’s poem, Bullocky Bill, which celebrates the life of a driver’s dog which would guard the driver’s tucker box (lunch box).


The dog on its Tucker Box

A few kilometres down the highway is the actual town of Gundagai with its wide main street and historical buildings. This is not the original location of the town. It was originally located on the river flats beside the Murrumbidgee River but after a flood in 1852 which destroyed the town and drowned 89 people, the town was relocated to where it is today. There is plenty of food on offer in the cafes and pubs and also lots of accommodation if you want to stay the night. 

On leaving Gundagai you will cross Sheahan Bridge over the Murrumbidgee River on your way to Tarcutta. Before getting there though, 38km south of Gundagai, is the Sturt Highway turn off to Adelaide. Though we aren’t going there today.

Tarcutta is located almost exactly half way between Sydney and Melbourne and is a popular stop and change-over point for truck drivers. There is a great park to sit and eat in with a playground. There is a memorial to truck drivers who have died along The Hume Highway. It is well worth a walk around to pay your respects.


The Truck Memorial at Tarcutta

Holbrook could be your next stop. Once called Germanton until anti-German sentiment during World War 1 led to the town being renamed after Lt Holbrook who was awarded the Victoria Cross. The town has a great park with good facilities to rest. In the park you will find a partial reconstruction of HMAS Otway, an Oberon class submarine. You can climb on and explore the submarine. Holbrook also has a great bakery up the road from the park which is often busy.


The Submarine at Holbrook

Albury and Wodonga are popular stops while driving the Hume Highway. Their history is linked to Hume and Hovell as the two explorers crossed the Murray River here. Before you get there, you may want to eat and drink at the Ettamogah Pub, situated 15 kilometres north of Albury on the Hume Highway. The look of the pub is based on cartoons by Ken Maynard. Inside has lots of character and some great food and drink – after all, the word ‘Ettamogah’ is Aboriginal for ‘place of good drink’. 

The towns are on the New South Wales and Victorian border – Albury in New South Wales and Wodonga in Victoria. To be honest I have never been to Wodonga. If I get off the Hume Highway I go to Albury. Albury is a large town and is a hub. There is a great park along the Murray River where you can swim. There are plenty of food places to enjoy the local fare and if you want to stay overnight, there is plenty of accommodation. Most advertise on their front boards whether they have a vacancy or not. It is easy to walk in off the street and get a room. If you want to book in advance I suggest you compare and book through booking sites such as HostelWorld if you want a hostel bed and Booking.com if you are wanting a hotel room.

As you cross the Murray River you leave New South Wales and are in Victoria.

About 60km south of Albury you will find Wangaratta, the largest centre in the north-east of Victoria. It has a population of over 17,000 people and so is a large town with lots of services for you to enjoy during your stay. The town came to being after Hume and Hovell passed through the area on their 1824 expedition and the town was founded when the surrounding area was opened for farming.

Wangaratta is also the junction for the Great Alpine Road. If you take this road you will find yourself in the Victorian Ski Fields. Also nearby are the popular wine and other produce areas such as Milawa.

Not far from Wangaratta is the town of Glenrowan, made famous for being the last stand of Ned Kelly and his gang. The town is dominated with Ned Kelly statues and an interactive museum and show where you can learn all there is to learn about Ned Kelly. If you walk over the bridge you can visit the scenes of the last stand. They are well signposted with historical facts. Whether you love or hate Ned Kelly the town of Glenrowan is a great place to visit.


The statue of Ned Kelly dominates Glenrowan

Benalla is some 200km north of Melbourne and well worth a visit. The town is located quite a way off the Hume Freeway and exploded during the gold rush in the 1850s. It has associations with the Ned Kelly ‘gang’, as the courthouse was the venue for a number of their trials. There is also a memorial to the Australian war hero Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop. There is also a beautiful rose garden to explore.

Euroa could be your next stop. It is on the Seven Creeks and often floods if there has been a lot of rain. It is famous for a Ned Kelly gang bank robbery. The bank is still there today if you wish to visit. There is also a memorial to Hume and Hovell who passed through the area on their expedition.

There are some small towns to visit as you head towards Melbourne. They come and go very quickly as you drive the last couple of hundred  kilometres of the Hume Freeway. Then you reach the last bypass – the Craigieburn Bypass. Not long now and you will be off the Hume Freeway and on the Metropolitan Ring Road and in Melbourne. To find out what to see and do in Melbourne check out our blog.



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