Driving the Hume Highway from Sydney to Melbourne: Hume rules

Pit stop: A stopover with the family dog at the Dog on the Tuckerbox.
 Photo: Kylie Pickett
Pit stop: A stopover with the family dog at the Dog on the Tuckerbox. Photo: Kylie Pickett
Pit stop: A stopover with the family dog at the Dog on the Tuckerbox.
 Photo: Kylie Pickett

Pit stop: A stopover with the family dog at the Dog on the Tuckerbox. Photo: Kylie Pickett

Pit stop: A stopover with the family dog at the Dog on the Tuckerbox.
 Photo: Kylie Pickett

Pit stop: A stopover with the family dog at the Dog on the Tuckerbox. Photo: Kylie Pickett

Pit stop: A stopover with the family dog at the Dog on the Tuckerbox.
 Photo: Kylie Pickett

Pit stop: A stopover with the family dog at the Dog on the Tuckerbox. Photo: Kylie Pickett

The best thing about road trips is that they don't involve airports. Photo: iStock

The best thing about road trips is that they don't involve airports. Photo: iStock

The best thing about road trips is that they don't involve airports. Photo: iStock

The best thing about road trips is that they don't involve airports. Photo: iStock

The best thing about road trips is that they don't involve airports. Photo: iStock

The best thing about road trips is that they don't involve airports. Photo: iStock

The best thing about road trips is that they don't involve airports. Photo: iStock

The best thing about road trips is that they don't involve airports. Photo: iStock

Some find the Hume boring, but not Lee Tulloch. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Some find the Hume boring, but not Lee Tulloch. Photo: Paul Jeffers

I'm unusually fond of the Hume Highway. I say "unusually" because it's hardly Australia's most picturesque strip of road and its perilous stretches are legendary.

Clogged with huge trucks and semi-trailers, caravans, sneaky cops behind bushes and L-platers racking up the requisite hundreds of hours for their licences, the Hume gives most sensible people pause, especially at the time of the year most navigate it – during the summer holidays.

I should declare right here that I'm a passenger, not a driver. I'm the pourer of drinks, the finder of snacks, the dog-waterer and walker and the person assigned to chat brightly throughout the trip so the driver does not fall asleep.

We don't do the10-hour Sydney-Melbourne stretch of Hume (and return) every year, but the years we do tackle it I find myself looking forward to it with unnatural excitement. For a start, it's a trip that does not involve airports.

You get in the car and go, without standing in line with 200 frazzled others who are waiting for the single person on the bag-drop desk to finish with the family who have not attached their sticky tags properly on seven suitcases.

And then there's the nostalgia aspect. When I was kid, our family made annual excursions from Melbourne to Noosa, via the Hume and other inland highways. Mum spread the Naphthalene flakes around the house and then Dad would pack up the old Holden, with plenty of pillows and cushions in the back for his two daughters.

My sister and I would wear cotton playsuits or our bathers and we'd stop at various swimming pools and water holes along the way to cool off. Christmas for me was the smell of Naphthalene and the feel of wet bathers and the sticky drip of icy poles in a hot car.

The journey took days. Nowadays we have air conditioning and the Hume is a far-improved highway, with few of the danger spots remaining, and swish new segments of road that bypass most towns.

But that is a shame. There are some charming old towns along the highway that deserve a detour, even if you're attempting to break personal records and do the drive in nine hours. (Stop. Revive. Survive.)

In recent years, we've stopped in Albury to have one of the great old-fashioned burgers at the Mermaid Cafe. But the Albury bypass makes that impractical and perhaps the burgers are no longer the same anyway.

We once took a detour for fuel to Violet Town, a sleepy little place, where the local op shop was selling bedroom furniture belonging to the town's most famous celebrity, Ella Hooper, of the band Killing Heidi.

I love Holbrook, the town exactly halfway between Melbourne and Sydney. Parents like this stop because there's a park with the HMAS Otway, an Orion class submarine, a delight for kids. I love it because it's a genuinely lovely, classic Aussie town, with veranda-shaded shops along a wide main drag, a famous bakery for traditional cakes, and a pretty park that our dog thinks is nirvana.

Kids love the Dog on the Tuckerbox outside Gundagai, and it brings a lump to the throat of adults versed in the old song, but the stop, being just off the highway, can be a bit of a bun fight. We tend to avoid it.

But that means you have to be careful you're not forced to stop at one of the "service centres" along the way. These are the places you buy fuel, $4.50 Crunchie bars, tired old Chiko rolls, or worse, fast food of the Kentucky Fried or subhuman variety. This year we stopped at one in Victoria and I was very glad I was on day two of my 5:2 fast diet.

Each time we drive down the Hume, we pass a sign for a Victorian town called Boho. I've always wanted to go there. Has anybody been? What is it like?

Some may think the countryside along the Hume is boring, but I adore the Australianness of it as it varies from dry grasslands dotted with sheep, to clumps of gums that promise koalas crossing (never seen one) and rolling hills hiding faded old homesteads and sheds. Sadly, the only time we see kangaroos and wombats are as roadkill.

What's best?  Apart from a few signs advertising cafes in towns, it doesn't have a single billboard to mar the view.

The Hume rules.

This story Driving the Hume Highway from Sydney to Melbourne: Hume rules first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.