Nestled in the Blue Mountains is a lost city that’ll capture your imagination.
The Blue Mountains defeated many brave early-day explorers who ventured into this Jurassic-aged landscape. Fortunately, some of it is now 4WD-friendly and a great family destination within a stone’s throw of Sydney.
ZIGGIN’ AND ZAGGIN’
Ascend into the mountains via the Bells Line of Road (towards Lithgow) for a little over an hour from the outer Sydney suburb of Windsor. The famous Zig Zag Railway is the kick off point, and a ride on the old line is a great way to start your trip.
It leaves at 11am, 1pm and 3pm daily, and some say it’s better than a theme park ride with its zigging and zagging down the breathtakingly steep banks — albeit at a very slow rate.
From here turn east onto the signposted Newnes Forest Road (shown as Old Bells Line of Road on the State Forests’ Central West map) and briefly drive parallel to the railway then cross the tracks.
After 9km turn right at the T-intersection with State Mine Hill Rd / Glowworm Tunnel Rd, which leads to Bungleboori Picnic Area after 1.5km.
This is the main (and free) campsite, although we chose to set up the camper trailer at nearby Newnes campground — a whole other world of exploring. There are no facilities at Bungleboori, so you’ll need to be totally self-sufficient.
THE LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL
Your first potholed and at times corrugated day drive begins at the Bungleboori campground and takes you along Glowworm Tunnel Road to the Glow Worm Tunnel carpark for the start of an easy hour-long return walk along the disused railway line.
As you’re walking along the track, take note of how high you are above the natural surface. In some places it’s up to 10m, an amazing construction effort considering the railway line was built between the years of 1906 and 1907.
Note also the pick marks in the rock walls as you drive through the first tunnel — no electric jackhammers used here, it was all done by hand.
As you walk into the centre of the second tunnel, switch off your torch and wait patiently for the glow worms to emit their tiny blue glow. With a little imagination you’ll be able to pick out the Southern Cross, the Milky Way and maybe even Orion’s Belt — they are remarkable little creatures.
A torch and water-tolerant footwear are essential items in the glow-worm tunnel. Take a packed lunch and make a day of this amazing experience.
LOST CITY FOUND
Back at Bungleboori campground, your second day of 4WDing is to the Lost City via the Beecroft Track, which is right out the front of the campsite. Not far from the intersection of the Beecroft Track and the Glowworm Tunnel Road, hook a left into a smaller unmarked side track.
Once on the main side track there are a number of smaller tracks and deviations which can easily misguide, but if you continue to bear left and follow the most prominent track you will eventually make it to the amazing Lost City.
Your 4WD will need good ground clearance along parts of this track, and there will be some water crossings through holes in the track if you head in after rain.
The rock formations are spectacular, carved by Mother Nature’s erosive hand into malleable sandstone. They are typical of the multitude of similar pagoda-type formations which abound in this part of the world, after which the nearby Gardens of Stone National Park was named.
The Lost City stretches for miles and is well worth the walk from the end of the 4WD track to get amongst them, but be warned that climbing the rock formations is dangerous as the sandstone is prone to crumbling, so best you stick to solid ground.
While peering out at the sandstone columns, take the time to search the valleys below where you’ll spot two dams hidden away. These were the original Lithgow water supply.
When leaving the Lost City, heading left will take you further along the Beecroft Track, which then veers onto Blackfellows Hand Track which will deliver you to an area of high cliffs and caves with some hard-to-find rock art.
These rocks will have you peering skywards and wondering how on earth the road was constructed all those years ago.
ONE LAST TREAT
Before you leave on your last day, take in the spectacular views of the Wolgan Valley and Wolgan River from the end of Sunnyside Road. Photographers will be beside themselves as the late afternoon sun illuminates the sheer red cliffs with the river winding 300m below.
While the Newnes State Forest is still a working forest, the tracks within the area provide ample weekend getaways for Sydneysiders.
Whether you are driving the family 4WD taxi, a big boy’s toy or anything in between, you’ll want to return for more of what this area has to offer.