Since I bought into the whole camping thing, my best mate and I decided to take full advantage of it and went camping for the weekend. At the time, she was looking for free campsite and found one at Newnes, which is a good 3 hour drive West of Sydney in the Wolgan Valley at Wollemi National Park. I hadn’t heard of it before and I hadn’t ventured into the free campgrounds before either so it was going to be a bit of a new experience for me. Would there be any showers? Toilets? Wild animals trying to get into the tent? I had a lot of questions going through my mind.
As soon as I started to research Newnes, I realised there was a lot to do there which looked very exciting.
We started the day by heading over to the River Caves Canyon, a canyon that kept popping up on my Instagram from time to time. It looked amazing but very difficult to find.
Instagrammer @hikeandseek often takes tours to this canyon.
We spent about 4 hours trying to find this canyon before having to give up in the end as the directions I found on other blogs just weren’t clear. We met a few Mormons along the way who were and were scouting out a route for their youth camping weekend activity (random I know). Although they were very familiar with the area and said the roads kept changing which makes it difficult to find anywhere. The roads keep changing? WTF? They hadn’t heard of the canyon and neither had any other local we met that weekend.
Trying to find our way to the canyon with no such luck!
So we gave up with trying to find the River Caves Canyon and just headed to Lithgow. The funny thing was, although this canyon was in Newnes, we had to drive back to Lithgow and back up through the Wolgan Valley which took 2 hours to get to the campsite because the road wasn’t direct.
Originally we had booked ourselves into a campsite in Lithgow as a backup and when we saw it which looked very unspectacular, so we decided to risk it and head another hour to the Newnes campground. As soon as we hit the unsealed road, it was like we had been transported to a secret road. It got very beautiful, very quickly and we couldn’t believe the vast difference. And once we drove over into the valley, it was honestly one of the most beautiful sights I had seen in NSW. The cliffs were vast and it felt like we were on a proper adventure. We took my friend’s ute and I’d recommend a 4×4 although you could get away with a car because we did see a few at the campsite, just allow a lot of extra time to get there as the road is bumpy.
When we arrived in Newnes, we passed a swanky looking Emirates resort and onto the old mining town of Newnes which definitely had a very spooky vibe to it. There used to be a couple of thousand people living in Newnes but everyone had to leave when the mining stopped. What’s left now is some old ruins and the pub which is still lived in by a man who now runs a few holiday cottages. As we passed through the spooky old town, a few minutes later we arrived at the campsite, a huge open field protected by massive cliffs. It sure was an incredible sight. There were other campers around but because the space was so huge, we really got a good spot to ourselves. There were clean toilets, even with loo paper which I wasn’t expecting for a free campsite, but obviously bring some with you just incase. Newnes Campground
It was a very hot day when we arrived so we just got our swimmers on and headed down to the river for a paddle. I say paddle but I mean a sit down in the water. Because we arrived quite late in the day, we just sat in the water and then chilled out for the rest of the day watching the kangaroo’s trying to work out who we were. There were a lot of hikers coming back from their hikes, looking exhausted and we quickly realised there was a lot to do in the area such as the Industrial Ruins Walk which we would have done if we had time.Our camping spot at Newnes Campground
When we woke up in the morning, it was a bit like a scene from a Disney movie. There were loads of birds and wildlife all congregated on the campsite, looking like they were having a catch up! We packed up our stuff and decided to do the Glow worm tunnel hike. Whilst we were passing through the old town of Newnes, we stopped into the pub and met the owner. The pub still had its original bar which was amazing. Although it’s not a functioning bar anymore, the owner was really friendly and he was the type of guy you would want to sit with and listen to all the stories about this magical place. He gave us a map of the hike and so we went off in the ute and headed for the Wolgan Valley car park, a very small car park on the wolgan valley road.As we set off around 8am for our hike, we went from walking underneath cliffs, to looking out to incredible views and then into lush tropical rain forest terrain. We arrived at the glow worm tunnel after a 1 hour hike following along the old railway tracks. The tunnel was huge and absolutely terrifying for me who has a fear of the dark. But we HAD to cross through it to do the round trip.Contemplating my fears with this huge black tunnel!
I grabbed hold of my friend and as we walked through completely unprepared with just phones as our only source of light, it got very dark, very quickly. The quieter we were in total darkness, the glow worms then started to appear. It was pretty special but to be honest, the experience was just terrifying for me.The last photo I took inside the tunnel
After 20 minutes, we got to the end and a huge sigh of relief was felt. We continued the walk through the rain forest terrain and then…
…we made a huge mistake.
We followed the track to the wrong car park and kept walking, so much so that instead of a 3 hour walk had turned into over 5 hours. Where were we heading to? We stopped a car and asked them where we were. Turned out we had walked over 10 KM the wrong way back towards the other direction of the River Caves Canyon!! This is the thing about the Glow Worm Tunnel, there are two ways to get to it. Well there were three but the main entrance was blocked off when we went. You can either go from the one side of Newnes from the Wolgan Valley Car park like we did which takes 1 hour or there’s a loop which takes 3-4 hours which is what we tried to originally do, or from the Old Coach Road car park. If you go to the Old Coach Road car park, it’s just a 20-30 minute walk to the tunnel. We ended up heading back to the wrong car park and ended up walking towards Newnes Plateau. See map below.
Luckily, the cars we stopped gave us a lift back to the wrong car park where we then had to walk back to the glow worm tunnel and walk through it again. This time, it took us 5 minutes to walk through it. There were quite a few people there this time and not nearly half as many glow worms I think because they were being quite loud.
We then walked back the way we originally came and got back to the car 7 hours after we had set foot on the hike. If we actually just walked to the glow worm tunnel and back, it would have taken us an hour each way.
When we returned to the car, a guy was trying to get back to the campsite as his friend had twisted their ankle so he was on a mission to get his car. We gave him a lift and it turned out his whole family go to Newnes every year as their grandfather used to run the cinema there. It was completely fascinating to hear.
All in all, it was a bit of an adventure and my mate and I finished the hike smiling. The hike itself was amazing and I’d definitely recommend doing it.
To be clear, these are the options you have with this hike:
- Go To Wolgan Valley Car Park near Newnes like we did and do the return hike to the tunnel – takes 1 hour each way.
- Go to Wolgan Valley Car Park near Newnes, hike to Glow Worm Tunnel then do the loop return so you’ll have different scenery on the way back (this is the track we missed and went the wrong way) which takes 3-4 hours.
- Go to the car park on Old Coach Road and it’s 20-30 minutes walk down to the Glow Worm Tunnel.
- Go to the Glow Worm Tunnel car park on the glow worm tunnel road (if it’s open) which is the quickest way to get there.
We had an awesome time in Newnes and it’s a very beautiful spot for the weekend let alone the campsite is free. My friend has been to a lot of free campsites in NSW and said this was the best she had been to! If you’re heading there, it’s the sort of place that’s cold in the morning and night and hot in the day. We went during Summer and needed clothing for all seasons.
If you’re interested in something a bit different and completely off the beaten track, then I strongly recommend you checking out the incredible Bubble Tents near Newnes. Note, they get booked up quite far in advance but it would be a completely memorable experience.
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Thanks for reading!