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Travel on one of Australia’s oldest roads, the Great North Road (Tourist Drive 33), and enjoy a variety of interesting and historic stopping points. We feel that this is one of the best scenic drives for campers and travellers, due to the multitude of fun activities it offers and stunning county vistas! We have listed some of the activities and points of interest to get you started.
This journey in itself is just as interesting as each destination. As you travel on the Great North Road (also known as the Convict Trail) you’ll notice along the roadside historic viewing points, including timber, stone and sandstone built bridges and culverts. These stopping points also provide information boards about the sites. The Great North Road was one of Australia’s greatest engineering feats of the 19th century, the road was built by convicts in conjunction with the building of culverts and bridges, between 1826 and 1836.
With a variety of towns, events and festivals to see along Tourist Drive 33, from postcard-perfect grassy paddocks to lush vineyards, Australia’s renowned wine region – the Hunter Valley, is the perfect end destination.
Best Stopping Points and Places to Visit
Each town is quaint and unique, some even include wine boutiques, markets and galleries. Don’t miss the first historic stopping point – on the corner of George Downs Drive and The Great Northern Road, which is called The Bucketty Precinct, see map for further details. Here is a list of towns and their main attraction, in order and correlation with the Tourist Drive 33 map. However, you may like to stay on Tourist Drive 33 and only explore sites alongside this road.
Towns and Main Attraction:
- Calga – Australian Walkabout Wildlife Park
- Peats Ridge – has a variety of outdoors activities, from abseiling, kayaking, horseriding to quad biking, see Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures website and for camping options too
- Mangrove Mountain – yearly Country Fair
- Kulnura – Gerry’s Cafe (on Tourist Drive 33); this is a popular stopping point for motorcyclists
- Laguna – The Great Northern Trading Post (on Tourist Drive 33); the GNTP is another quaint and quirky, yet historic cafe, includes a mini-store, gallery and music venue
- Wollombi – Mulla Villa Farm (on Tourist Drive 33), accommodation (includes campsite) stay here or organise an event (such as a tour or wedding), it’s worth it – just to view this historic homestead. Offers a walking track and historic sites to see, such as convict holding cells and a convict-built bridge. When you arrive at Wollombi, this will be the first Wollombi stopping point before you approach the village.
- Wollombi village (on Tourist Drive 33) – there are two main markets (and festivals, listed below), for more detail see our article: A Guide to Wollombi Village and its Markets. Popular places; Grays Inn, includes – accommodation, restaurant and Noyce Brothers Cellar Door, Harp of Erin Gallery and Cafe, a general store, art gallery, Wollombi Endeavour Museum, which is included in the Historic Wollombi Walk – stroll the streets and learn about the town’s history. Or hire bikes from the Myrtle and Stone cafe and explore a little more. Wollombi Tavern will be the first destination you will spot when you arrive in this historic town (often there are rows of shiny motorcycles parked out the front). A three-minute drive from the village is Wollombi Wines; vineyard and wine tasting room.
- Cessnock – with numerous suburbs surrounding Cessnock, this is the Hunter Valley Wine region, explore the many boutique wineries and vineyards surrounding this region.
- Hunter Valley Wine Festival (Lovedale) – held in June. Camp at Big 4/Igenia Holiday Park
- Wollombi Music Festival (Wollombi) – held in September. Camp onsite
- Wollombi Valley Sculpture Festival (Wollombi village) – held October – November. Camp at Wollombi Tavern
- A Day on the Green; Bimbadgen (Pokolbin) – various acts perform throughout the year. Camp at Dashville, campground only open during particular festival events, check the website
For some great walks in the area see our guide Walking Trails off Tourist Drive 33.
Camp and Set Up
There are two main areas for camping along or close to Tourist Drive 33 (it is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from North Sydney to Wollombi and from Wollombi to Cessnock a thirty-minute drive), to book and organise your campground click on the underlined company link:
Wollombi – Wollombi Tavern (is on The Great North Road) in the heart of historic Wollombi and provides free camping on the pub’s grounds, a convenient spot, camping couldn’t be any easier here, the Tavern provides popular drink choices and substantial meals – a popular spot for motorcyclist’s. And if all else fails during camping, they also offer cosy log cabins for hire too! Amenities for camping include toilets, no showers. Bookings are made via phone.
Cessnock – Big 4/Ingenia Holiday Park, (is on Mount View Road, a two-minute drive from Wollombi Road) this one is popular with families, and includes a pool and spa, onsite BYO Thai Restaurant, Kids’ Club, and Jumping Cushions. The supermarket is a short drive away, as with most places here, such as wine boutiques, and other restaurants and cafes – you’ll need a car to get around town, or you can hire bicycles.
Tourist Drive 33, offers a myriad of stopping points and great sites to see, it’s the perfect scenic, fun road trip holiday! (For more information on what’s on and activities in the Hunter Valley see the Hunter Valley Visitors Centre website.)
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Shelley has published a variety of online articles. With a master’s in special education, this has allowed her to write in the area of education, through platforms such as The Huffington Post. Being an outdoor enthusiast, she has written for The Weekender Travel and currently writes for Kombi Lifestyle. She is keen to share her knowledge and enjoys writing informative articles that help the discerning traveller prepare for road trip holidays in Australia. Shelley is the founder of Kombi Lifestyle.