Glow Worm Tunnel Newnes
Last time I attempted this outdoors adventure, it was a glorious failure. North Nomad had already moved back to Canada, and I had two weeks left in Australia before I joined him in Toronto.
I wanted just one more adventure with my Subaru in the bush. With my sights set on the Glow Worm Tunnel at Newnes, I followed the directions up the 34 kilometres of unsealed road from Clarence, and managed to drive right on past the trail, missing the Glow Worm Tunnel.
My spatial ability isn’t the best…
Jump forward almost three years.
Just to be extra certain we didn’t get lost, we dropped into Lithgow Tourism where Gai explained the directions to us and gave us some maps. She reassured me that she hadn’t heard of anyone getting lost looking for this trail!
Having sold my poor Subaru to the knackers back in 2012, we had our trusty Hyundai hire car this trip. Now, because the insurance on your hire car is usually voided when you take it on unsealed roads, we had to get to the Glow Worm Tunnel a little differently.
If you have a car you can take on unsealed roads, you can get to the tunnel via a 34 kilometre unsealed road at Clarence.
Without such a car, you need to drive to Lidsdale, 10km north of Lithgow. You take Wolgan Road and drive for about 30km to the start of the track, which is sign posted on the road.
You do still need to do just under a kilometre of unsealed road, just past the Emirates lodge, but it’s a surprisingly good quality unsealed road.
At the gate, we took our shoes off to walk through the river, to get to the 9 kilometre return hike ahead.
The water was icy-cold, but beautiful and clear. If it had been a bit deeper it would have been lovely for a swim!
Onwards, we had a steep incline for about a kilometre. I wasn’t at my fittest after a lot of travel, and found this stage a little grueling.
It’s also sandy with that orange dust I love in the Australian bush (or outback, as North Nomad likes to call it), so you need good, firm shoes so you don’t slip.
The bush in this section is more sparse, so you also need good sunscreen and a hat to protect against suburn.
Beyond the incline, the landscape changes into denser bush and scrub. The roar of the cicadas at this point was deafening. I needed to block my ears at parts because it hurt!
And we wondered whether it was Monarch mating season, as we’d never seen so many of those rust coloured butterflies in one area before.
Closer towards the Glow Worm Tunnel, the landscape changes again. A creek appears and the trail runs parallel with it.
Ferns overtake this part of the hike, the trees are more lush, and it’s cooler and damp.
The smell as we approach the tunnel reminds me of Jenolan Caves, so I can tell when we’re close.
The entrance to the Glow Worm Tunnel is impressive – a huge hollowed out rocky area, previously part of the railway to Newnes Kerosene Shale Works.
It’s pitch black inside the tunnel. Gai had warned us we’d need torches to see our way through. We find the light on our iPhones was more than sufficient to get us through.
It’s also very chilly inside, and worth bringing a jacket. The path where the railway use to lie is uneven, but closer to the sides of the tunnel is much easier to navigate, where it’s smoother and less wet.
When we get closer to the middle of the tunnel, North Nomad stops us and turns off his torch. The glow worms start to flicker into vision.
The longer without the lights, the more glow worms we see appear. They look like tiny stars in a midnight sky. It’s beautiful; serene. And with the damp and the silence, a little spooky!
(Yes, that’s two solitary glow worms we could capture without the flash. I didn’t want to pester them, so didn’t try too hard for a photo. You’ll just have to do the hike to see them!)
Our walk back is not as strenuous as the walk up. And the icy water in the river is lovely and refreshing to walk through on the way back. If we had towels, I would have happily just sat there in the water for an hour to rest up.
Between the scenery, the sound of the cicadas, and the glow worms, this is possibly my favourite hike so far in the mountains and Lithgow area. And we recommend trying it out in Summer, when walking through a river is very appealing!
Getting there: Drive to the weir over the Wolgan River 7km before Newnes, and do the 9km return hike, walk or cycle in from Newnes State forest, or drive from Lithgow or Clarence (both roads eventually join up), about 25km bumpy dirt road, and walk 1km to the tunnel.
Contact Details: www.tourism.lithgow.com
Lithgow Visitor Information Centre: 1137 Great Western Highway, Lithgow NSW 2790
Telephone: 1300 76 02 76 or 612+ 6350 3230 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips: Wear good shoes and sunscreen. Bring a hat and torches. Gai from Lithgow Tourism also let us know that glow worms do no not like light or noise – and you can see them much better without shining your light on them.