This historic manufacturing city is located in a spectacular valley west of the Blue Mountains.
Lithgow is Australia’s first place, the cradle of the country’s steel industry and home to the country’s first mass-produced gun factory.
You can learn about Australian craftsmanship in the many museums and discover some exciting industrial heritage, ruined century-old works and old railway tunnels now inhabited by fireflies in the ghost town.
The Blue Mountains inject drama into Lithgow’s skyline, and in minutes you can reach majestic lookouts, Aboriginal ruins and endless hiking and scenic drive options.
1. Lisgow Small Arms Factory Museum
The country’s first high-precision mass production facility opened in 1912 to meet Australia’s independent needs in defence.
Starting with the SMLE III rifle before World War I, the factory produced Bren and Vickers machine guns during World War II, and then the F1 submachine gun (among many others) after the war.
In the 21st century, the Lithgow Small Arms Factory continues to produce the F88 Austeyr and F89 Minimi for the Australian Army.
The factory’s museum is located on the grounds and houses one of Australia’s largest collections of civilian and military firearms, including machine guns, rifles, pistols and more from around the world.
Also on display are displays of other precision tools and equipment made here over the past 110+ years.
2. Firefly Tunnel
The ceiling of a long abandoned railway tunnel on the old Newnes railway line has become a habitat for the glowing larvae of arachnocampa richardsae, a fungal gnat found only in New South Wales.
They grow an attractive blue color to attract prey, which includes flying insects like mosquitoes.
This unforgettable scene is one of the highlights of Wollemie National Park, north of Lisgow.
The 400-meter-long tunnel was carved out of sandstone in the early 1900s to service the Newnes Kerosene Shale Plant.
You can get there from Lithgow on a well-maintained unclosed road that will take you one kilometre before the tunnel.
3. Hassans Wall Lookout
The highest lookout in the Blue Mountains is a 10-minute drive from the cliff edge south of Lithgow CBD.
Hassans Walls Lookout is located at 1100 meters above sea level and has a raised boardwalk that takes you along the spurs for stunning 180° views.
Far below is the entire Hartley Valley, while you can look south to the Megaron and Cannebra Valleys.
Some of the peaks to identify are York, Tarana, Braxland, Bindo and Wilson, and there is a picnic table at the top of the lookout so you can take your time.
4. Blast Park
Blast Furnace Park has true Australian industrial history and is home to the country’s first commercially viable steel mill.
The archaeology of this location dates back to the 1870s.
The most complete building in existence is the blast furnace and its associated pump house, built in 1913.
Elevated walkways allow you to navigate these ruins, while the park’s information boards provide insight into the story of the site, the steelmaking process and the factory’s role in the Trans-Australian Railway.
5. Lithgow State Mine Heritage Park
Lithgow State Mine Heritage Park and Railroad.
Posted by CE Photography on Fri 15 Feb 2019
The story of the western NSW coalfields takes place at the well-preserved Lisgow State Coal Mine, which has become a compelling museum.
What is touted as Australia’s most comprehensive collection of mining artifacts is on display, including coal loaders, coal cutters, underground vehicles and continuous miners.
There is a plethora of tools, equipment, and other artefacts that paint a picture of the life of a miner and the dangers of the job.
A multimedia exhibit, “Fire in the Mine,” recalls the tragic aftermath of the 1953 underground fire at the National Coal Mine.
6. Wallace Lake
Just outside Lithgow, this lake is fed by the Cox’s River and is renowned as a destination for motorhomes and caravans.
These vehicles have a designated space and can stay for up to 24 hours.
Wallace Lake’s rainbow trout are also popular in the fishing community and can grow up to half a metre.
Needless to say, the scenery here is delightful, with more than 180 species of birds flocking to these shores, with the base of the Blue Mountains as a backdrop.
But perhaps Wallace Lake’s greatest claim to fame is that Charles Darwin discovered his first platypus here.
Darwin passed by in 1836, observed the species playing in a series of pools on the Cox River, and recorded the moment in his diary.
7. Maiyingu Marragu (Blackfellows Hand Reserve)
Not far from the Glowworm Tunnel is a place that has been passed down from generation to generation as a meeting place for local tribes.
Still valued by the Dharug, Dharkinjung and Gandangara people, Maiyingu Marragu is a place of twisting rock formations, waterfalls and lush vegetation.
Capturing the imagination of all visitors is a series of rock shelters adorned with fascinating Aboriginal stencil art depicting hands and weapons – all windows into a now-lost way of life.
You can reach the car park in a 2WD vehicle, but you need to be careful! From there it’s a short walk to the cave shelter.
8. Eskbank House Museum
Next to the Blast Furnace Park stands a historic building dating from the 1840s, built by convict labourers on Wiradjuri land.
In its era, Eskbank House has been the residence of mine owners, steel mill managers and a school and boarding house.
This Victorian Georgian building of local stone sandstone has been preserved as a museum since the 1960s.
There is a small outbuilding complex on the site, including stables and coach houses, workers’ houses and a blacksmith’s courtyard.
The museum’s collection perfectly encapsulates Lithgow, its industry and the way of life of the early industrialists.
You can peruse the nationally important collection of Lithgow pottery, the Bracey furniture collection and impressive works from the Lithgow Iron Works, such as Possum the Locomotive (1919).
9. Berghof Pass
Close to the Great Western motorway southeast of Lithgow, you can walk 4.5km to the early motorway.
Berghofer’s Pass is located on the Blue Mountains Historic Crossings walkway and was built between 1907 and 1912. German immigrant JW Berghofer intended to build an alternative passage to Mitchell’s Victoria Pass, which proved too steep for early motor vehicles.
Winding around York Hill, Berghofer’s Pass has a series of sharp turns that were soon deemed unsuitable for more powerful cars, and eventually closed in 1934 in favor of the Victoria Pass. For walkers, it’s a picturesque, light-coloured ramp with plenty to cover overhead and stunning views of the Hartley Valley.
10. Bracey Lookout
You can overlook Lithgow from the heights of Hassan Walls Reserve on the south side of the valley, which is supported by rolling wooded hills.
Completed in 1953, Bracey Lookout is named after John Bracey, who led its design and construction.
He is the son of Eric Bracey, who directed much of the conservation work decades ago.
From this location you can see across and along the Lithgow Valley, as well as Blast Park.
The site has been revamped over the past few years, with new furniture and information panels covering Hassan’s Wall Reserve and the origins of this lookout.
11. Bowenfels Battery
Posted by Sky Eye UAV Solutions on Mon Jul 6, 2015
A hub for mining, manufacturing and transportation, Lisgow was identified as a potential target during World War II, especially after Japan entered the war in September 1940. As a result, a network of defensive positions has been established around the city, ready to respond to growing threats inland from rapidly developing aircraft technology.
These are the only surviving inland WWII battery in NSW, and the location of the Bowen Fells Open Grounds is listed on the National Heritage List.
Here you’ll find four octagonal reinforced concrete turrets, still armed with 3.7″ anti-aircraft guns, never fired in rage.
One of the guns actually appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia” (2008).
12. Glen Davis Ruins
Between 1865 and 1952, a fifth of all shale oil produced in Australia came from this plant in the stunning Capertee Valley.
Glen Davis was one of the largest employers in the area at the time, and at its peak during World War II, the town was home to about 2,500 people.
Mining ceased in the early 1950s, and by 1954 only 154 people lived here.
Now you can take a guided tour of the spectral sites of factories and townships, some areas are covered with vegetation, and the sandstone cliffs of the Kapeti Valley are impressive.
Tours take place on Saturdays at 14:00.
13. Queen Elizabeth Park
Rose Garden in Queen Elizabeth Park, Lisgow.
Posted by a flower a day on Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Take time out in Lithgow’s gorgeous main park at the western end of the CBD.
On undulating grounds, Queen Elizabeth Park features rambling lawns, elaborate flower beds, shrubs, a rotunda, and a variety of mature hardwood and softwood trees that create a beautiful sight in the fall.
There’s also fitness equipment here, as well as an innovative play space for little members of the clan, protected by colorful shades of sin.
Of course, the melancholy Blue Mountains set off the stunning vegetation and landscape of Queen Elizabeth Park.
14. Iron Festival
Lithgow is proud of its steelmaking heritage and in 2000 local artist Macgregor Ross launched Ironfest to mark the centenary of Australian steel.
Ironfest takes place the third weekend of April and celebrates the history of Lithgow making, and the wider relationship between humans and metal! There is an overarching theme every year, with gothic and steampunk being the most recent examples.
Held at the Showground, the event attracts artists, musicians, hobbyists and cosplayers, history repeaters and thousands of others for a quirky fun-filled show.
15. The winding railway
Winding up the Blue Mountains for 7km, this historic railway is the best circuit you could possibly go on.
The route, formerly the Lithgow Zig Zig Line, is part of the Main Western Line and takes its name from its circuitous route along an otherwise impassable slope.
The original line was in operation from 1869 to 1975, while the Heritage Railway opened on the exact route in 1975. When we wrote this list in 2020, the ZigZag Railway had just endured a rough decade, damaged by the 2013 bushfires, and opened again in 2020. The railway, which has a large collection of older locomotives and rolling stock, is scheduled to reopen in 2021.
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