Updated: Apr 1, 2022
Remember as a kid memories of seeing glow worms in caves and in old buildings ?. These days they seem to of disappeared as or just remembered as a distant memory, well just a few hours west of Sydney we found an amazing place to explore, stretch the legs and learn a little history along the way.
We were after another adventure and headed 3 hours west of Sydney to Lithgow after we heard of a disused rail tunnel where you could see glow worms like a bright night sky. After grabbing some details from the tourist info centre at Lithgow we headed along north out of town towards the heritage listed and beautiful Wollemi NP.
It wasn’t long before we hit the unsealed road aptly named The Glow Worm Tunnel Road that was a sure sign we were heading in the right direction. From start to finish the whole road is about 35km and passes through massive working pine plantations and during the week you need to be aware of log trucks and other traffic.
We found that the road was pretty rough but considering this is like a tourist attraction and where local 4wders head out for their weekend adventures we took it in our stride. The roads here follow ridge lines where in winter the cold air howls across through the pines but allow great views to the surrounding mountains. All through this state forest you're allowed to free camp and there's a little camping area road side halfway along but it can get a little dusty.
About 20 km we entered the sign posted Wollemi NP where logging operations stopped and gave way to thick bush where tall gums shadowed Banksia and other cool climate trees. Rock formations started to be more frequent and getting taller beside the narrowing road like they were looking down on us the same as gargoyles on a castle road.
Up ahead there were warning signs of a tunnel that was one way, curved and to apply your headlights. The way it works in this 400 meter tunnel is first to drive in has right of way as it’s only big enough to fit a large 4wd through at once. It was pretty cool driving through not knowing if we were the first in the tunnel or would we encounter an oncoming car, lucky for us it there wasn’t any other traffic so early in the morning.
The Glow Worm Tunnel road winds its way another 5 km down into the valley to the car park where you can read some of the amazing history on the area and just why the two tunnels are here. Back at the turn of the century in a nearby valley a huge amount of shale was found and it needed to be sent to Lithgow for processing, but it was deep in the valley below.
A narrow gauge railing was incredibly built from the mine ( Newnes ) across to Lithgow. It went from within the deep valley, hugging shear cliff lines and then basically along the Glow worm Tunnel road into town. 4 rail engines were shipped from the USA for the task of hauling the heavy loads from the mine to the processing plants.
Leaving the carpark along the walking track you follow the old rail line towards the glow worm tunnel. It's recommended that you wear good walking shoes ( as its a 1 km walk ), highly recommend a good torch ( the tunnel is curved and is 400 metres long ) and snacks.
Along the way some of the original track has given way but NPWS have made steps through some shear rock walls which are part of the adventure.
One thing we did notice is that all of the rail line has been pulled up and this was due to the war effort it was sent overseas for the troops to use as defensive measures as steel was in short supply. If your lucky like we were you’ll spot a host of birds ( we spotted 5 male Lyre birds and red tail gang gang cockatoos ) along the way which was very cool.
You’ll know when you’re approaching the tunnel as a nearby creek has found its way to flow into the tunnel allowing tall tree ferns and petite soft leaf ferns to grow at both the entrance and exit to the tunnel.
Seeing the glow worms is a magical experience but care needs to be taken not to disturb these fragile insects. Going by the signs outside the tunnel, we only shone our torches to the ground and when we were mid way in turned them off and let the worms do their stuff.
After our eyes adjusted, the roof and walls lit up - something we hadn’t seen since childhood. The longer we stared the brighter the worms got and stayed alight, and it seemed there were seams or runs of the worms along the walls.
When you can drag yourself away, we walked to the far end of the tunnel and occasionally stopping to enjoy more of the glow worms. Out the end things seemed to get better still with hundreds of tree ferns lining and shadowing the pathway as it meandered through past shallow caves and with the creek at the base following the downward run towards the valley.
We couldn’t help ourselves so we continued along the track where it started to hug massive vertical cliffs on one side and magnificent views deep into the Wolgan Valley below. Further along it was sign posted as a 6 km walking track back down into Newnes camping area or across to Donkey Pass and the beautiful Wolgan Valley below.
Unfortunalty for us we didn’t organise a second car to complete the mountainous hike, so by retracing our steps back to the car park ( and of course enjoying the glow worms again ) it wasn’t long before our adventure and reliving child hood memories came to a gleaming end.
* thanks to google for the black and white pics *