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The coast of New South Wales from the Queensland border to the Victorian border is separated from the inland by an escarpment, forming the eastern edge of the Great Dividing Range. To climb from the coast to the tablelands the Hume Highway uses the Bargo Ramp, a geological feature which provides one of the few easy crossings of the escarpment.In the first twenty years of European settlement at Sydney (established 1788), exploration southwest of Sydney was slow.On another expedition in 1818, he reached Lake Bathurst and the "Goulburn Plains".After Charles Throsby's 1818 journey towards present day Goulburn, followed by Hamilton Hume and William Hovell's overland journey from Appin (near Campbelltown) to Port Phillip and return in 1824, development of the Southern Tablelands for agriculture was rapid.Any settlement would have to await the construction of an adequate access track, which would have been beyond the colony's resources at the time, and would have served little purpose as a source of supplies for Sydney, due to the time taken to reach Sydney.In 1804, Charles Throsby penetrated through the Bargo brush to the country on the tablelands near Moss Vale and Sutton Forest.The Main Roads Management Act of June 1858 declared the Great Southern Road, from near Sydney through Goulburn and Gundagai to Albury, as one of the three main roads in the colony.However, its southern reaches were described as only a 'scarcely formed bullock track' as late as 1858.
Sections of the highway through Sydney's suburbs continue to be also known by its former names of Liverpool Road, Sydney Road and Copeland Street (through Liverpool).
It was named after Hamilton Hume, who with William Hovell were the first Europeans to traverse an overland route between Sydney and Port Phillip, in what later became Victoria.