The Hume Highway travels through the states of New South Wales and Victoria and got its name in the 1920s during a nationwide highway naming scheme. Before this, the road was known as the "Great Southern Road" in NSW and "Sydney Road" in Victoria. The road is named after Hamilton Hume, a famous explorer in the early 19th century who in conjunction with William Hovell first found an overland route between Sydney and the infant colonial outpost of Port Phillip, the original name of Melbourne.
The Hume Highway is approximately 900km (550 miles) long, of which over 80 per cent is now dual carriageway or motorway standard. The principal towns through which it passes are Liverpool, Camden, Picton, Mittagong, Goulburn, Yass, Gundagai, Holbrook and Albury in New South Wales; and Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla, Euroa and Seymour in Victoria.
Heading north from Melbourne, the road passes through the hills of the lower Great Dividing Range, some of which is covered with box eucalypt forest but of which much is cleared for farmland, before levelling out through flat, mostly cleared farming country through to Wodonga and the Victoria-New South Wales border. Whilst hardly the true Australian Outback, a dry summer can leave the almost featureless ground parched and give travellers from greener foreign lands some idea of the actual outback that lies to the north and west. All of the Victorian section of the road is dual carriageway, and all the towns have been bypassed. There is not much of note to see on the highway itself. Mount Buffalo can be seen in the distance at one point, and a museum commemorating Ned Kelly is located just off the highway near Glenrowan.
After crossing the Murray River, the highway passes through the only place not bypassed on the route - Albury. There are parks on the river which make Albury a convenient and pleasant stop for the traveller, and there is much of interest in the surrounding region for the traveller on an extended tour. Discussions continue on bypassing Albury, but unending political bunfights over the route, unabated for thirty years, have convinced many locals that it will never be built.
From there, the road continues to the north-east through similar country. Near Gundagai, another tourist attraction is located, named the "Dog on the Tuckerbox". This place is named after a story where some travellers' bullock carts got stuck in the mud near Gundagai. Nothing they did managed to get their carriages free. Everything ended up muddy. To add insult to injury, one person found his guard dog sitting (and shitting) on his tuckerbox which was the only thing that lay above the mud. The story was retold in a popular Australian poem by Jack Moses. The town is also well-known by a folk song of the early twentieth century "The Road to Gundagai". Consequently, a statue (with souvenier shop next door) was erected five miles (eight kilometres) from Gundagai depicting the scene. The spot serves as a waystation for many travellers on the route.
From there, the road heads north, gradually becoming more hilly as it passes through the remaining cities and then the mountains that presented an impassable barrier to early explorers from Sydney.
Foreign tourists should also keep in mind that despite the comparatively light traffic, good-quality road, and usually good driving conditions, in Australia speed limits (110 kilometres per hour on dual carriageway, usually 100 km/h for the remaining single carriageway sections) are vigorously policed and unbendingly enforced.
The Hume Highway is part of the National Highway system spanning Australia, and is signed as National Highway 31 in NSW and National Highway M31 in Victoria.