Federation Track South starts in the centre of Sydney’s historic precinct at Macquarie Place and passes by Sydney Cove, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and Elizabeth Bay House to Centennial Park and the Federation Pavilion. Cape Banks, Bare Island, La Perouse Museum and Cook’s Landing Place at Kurnell provide another historical perspective. The remnants of the Hospital Cave at Long Bay, the giant middens at Boat Harbour and the rock carvings of the Royal National Park are forcible reminders of the Eora and Dharawal tribes. The remnants of cave dwellings and shacks all along the coast bear mute testimony to the disastrous Depression years.
At Appin the nearby monument to Hume and Hovell commemorates their departure in 1824 and in the town itself St Bedes and the Macarthur Southern Boundary House stand as monuments to the hardy pioneers who first settled this area in 1811. At Douglas Park the Track cuts the path of Hacking, Wilson and Barrack in 1798 to Mt. Towrang and at Thirlmere Lakes you camp on a grant that dates back to Lieutenant Dawes. Here an abandoned musket from the Barallier expedition was discovered where the route crosses Barallier’s unsuccessful attempt to cross the Blue Mountains in 1802. Further on are ruins of the original homesteads of the Burragorang, the intriguing Sheepwalk and the even more intriguing Slide Trail around Mt. Egan. A more contemporary history is revealed by remains of the access track cut by Neville Lang in the 1960′s to re-connect his property to civilisation after it was cut off by the Warragamba Dam.
At Wombeyan Caves the Track passes several ruins of single teacher schools, some still sporting wall-lining dating back to the 1920′s and ascends from the Cave Reserve via the original coach road to the living history of the Macarthur township of Taralga where it crosses the tracks of Charles Throsby’s 1819 expedition from Moss Vale to Bathurst. From Taralga to Goulburn the track follows the abandoned railways, built in the early 1900′s to open up this country, but now rendered obsolete by bitumen roads and motor vehicles.
At Woodhouselee the Track cuts Meehan’s route in 1820 when he opened up the western slopes from Yass to Wellington. Mementoes of Hume and Hovell abound from the beautifully restored Cooma Cottage and Hume’s grave at Yass to the Hume and Hovell Track itself. This Track is littered with abandoned sluices and remnants of the mining and timber enterprises that sprang to life in these remote areas as a result of Hume’s epic journey.
In the Snowy Mountains the track passes dams, aqueducts and all the other visible reminders of the greatest engineering feat in Australia’s short European history. Nestled away in the corners of the Kosciusko National Park are the huts and abandoned homesteads of the pioneers of this tough country now peopled only by the wild brumbies, relics of the most prized cavalry horse in the world – the Walers – who saw service in the Indian and Boer Wars and took part in the last cavalry charge at Beersheba.
Over the border the history continues in the High Plain huts and the empty sites of the old gold towns in the Mt. Wills Historic Area. Stone cairns mark the old miners route from Harrietville to Glen Wills. Remnants of the timber towns destroyed in the Ash Wednesday fires of 1939 and the old gold diggings on the Jordan River provide a reminder of older and tougher times whilst more tangible reminders of the web of steam train and tram tracks are still to be found in the Powelltown Tramline Track and the Puffing Billy Railway.
The Track then winds down the Yarra Valley past Heidelberg, home of the Heidelberg School and still an artistic colony. The canoe trees of Templestowe remind us again of the original inhabitants and the Pound Bend Tunnel, Como, Fairfield and Dights Falls Mill contribute to the historical ambience. In Melbourne itself, the track passes Cooks Cottage and through the Eastern Hill precinct to reach the Royal Exhibition Building – one of the very few examples of 19th century Expo buildings still standing and the site of the opening of the first Australian Parliament in May 1901.