Located around two and a half hours from Sydney is Lithgow, a vibrant town with a rich heritage and a spectacular setting in the western Blue Mountains. It's a town whose dynamic industrial past is impossible to ignore, whether that's through the showrooms that showcase its contributions to the Trans-Australian Railway, the ruins of former steel mines, or the museum dedicated to Australia's first mass production gun factory. On top of that, there's beautiful scenery to explore, Aboriginal heritage sites to discover, and a wealth of cultural attractions to check out. If you're planning to visit, these are the 20 best things to do in Lithgow, Australia.
20. Hassans Walls Lookout
If you intend to visit Hassans Walls Lookout, be sure to bring a camera. Located around 1,136 meters above sea level, the lookout represents the highest viewing point in the Blue Mountains, offering spellbinding views over the Blue Mountains' peaks and the verdant valleys of Hartley, Megaron, and Cannebra below. Follow the raised boardwalk along the spurs to enjoy the views from their best vantage point. If you want to stop and admire the scenery for a while, you'll find a picnic table and a viewing platform at the top of the lookout.
19. Craft Works Distillery
Recommended as one of the best things to do in Lithgow by visitnsw.com, Craft Works Distillery is the ideal destination for those who can never resist a glass or two of single malt whisky. Set around 40 minutes from Lithgow in a tiny tin shed at the back of Royal Hotel Capertee, the distillery might look a little ramshackle, but despite its size and relative newness to the scene, it's already earned international acclaim (including a Silver in the international Independent Bottlers Challenge) for its quality. The whiskey is made in a 970-liter copper pan made from copper sourced in New South Wales. The spring water and malted barley that go into the whisky are also locally sourced. Owner Craig (or Crafty, as he prefers to be called) knows exactly how to treat his barrels and his barley, resulting in a full-bodied, stunningly complex tipple that no whisky lover will want to miss.
18. The Foundations
Over the past few years, what used to be Portland Cement Works has undergone a dramatic transformation. Thanks to a lot of good intentions and an equal amount of money, The Foundations (as it's now known) has been turned into the cultural and tourism hub of Lithgow, boasting pop-up galleries and museums, monthly markets, artworks, festivals, and more. It's a great place for people-watching, so grab a coffee, take a seat on one of the outdoor terraces and watch the world go by. Before you leave, check out Guido Van Heltes' huge murals of some of the former employees of the Portland Cement Works.
17. St Bernards Church
Before St Bernards Church was built, church services for the residents of Lithgow and the surrounding areas had to be held at the Hartley Courthouse. The pretty, pale sandstone building was designed and built by a local stonemason named Alexander Binning in the 1840s. It was used continuously right up until the early 1960s and is still occasionally used for funerals and weddings today. Providing it's not being used for a service, you can take a tour of both the interior and the grounds, both of which make a lovely setting for some photographs.
16. Queen Elizabeth Park
If you want to enjoy some nature without having to leave town to find it, Queen Elizabeth Park could be exactly what you need. As you'd expect of a town with such a strong industrial heritage, finding green spaces in the center of Lithgow can be challenging, but thanks to this little oasis, you're never too far away from a tree-lined walkway and a flower display. With a rose avenue, multiple floral displays, a playground, picnic facilities, and plenty of grassy areas to sit back and soak up the rays, it's the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon.
15. Berghofer’s Pass
If you want to shake off the cobwebs and give your legs a good stretch, don't miss Berghofer’s Pass. The pass was constructed in the first decade of the 1900s to serve as a passage to Mitchell’s Victoria Pass. After it proved too steep and trepidatious for early motorists to risk, it was closed in 1934 and replaced with the much less nail-biting Victoria Pass. Today, the pedestrianized pass serves as a gloriously scenic 4.5km hike with gorgeous views over the Hartley Valley.
14. Station Expresso
If you want to enjoy an authentic NSW dining experience, head on over to the Station Expresso at the old train station in nearby Wallerawang. As tourism.lithgow.com notes, the cafe has become a popular meeting place for both locals and visitors, dishing up friendly service, affordable prices, and a tasty selection of breakfast and luncheon items, all of which are made fresh on the premises each day. Be sure to try a cup of their fresh roasted coffee, which is sourced directly from local producers, Fish River Roasters.
13. Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum
Named one of the best things to do in Lithgow by rovertip.com, the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum should be considered mandatory for anyone with even the slightest interest in military history. The factory was established in 1912 after the Australian government decided to decrease its dependence on the UK for defense materials and start manufacturing its own. It played a particularly vital role during both world wars, producing the SMLE III rifle during World War I and the Bren and Vickers machine guns during World War II. Although the factory is still active, the site is now also home to a fascinating museum that boats one of the largest collections of civilian and military firearms in Australia.
12. Lake Wallace
Located just 10 minutes from the center of Lithgow, Lake Wallace is the perfect spot to enjoy some relaxing time in nature. As a camping and RV-friendly site, it offers visitors a host of facilities to make use of, including 24-hour toilets and showers, barbeque facilities, a playground, and an off-leash dog area. Even if you don't intend to stay overnight, it's still a great place to visit for the day, with gorgeous scenery, abundant wildlife, and a huge range of outdoor activities to enjoy. As a little piece of trivia, it was here that Charles Darwin discovered his first platypus.
Lithgow is rightly proud of its iron and steel-making heritage, making the annual Ironfest competition one of the biggest and most popular events on the town's calendar. Launched in 2000 by local artist Macgregor Ross to mark the centenary of Australian steel, the festival brings the entire town together to celebrate its rich history in metal and manufacturing. Expect historical re-enactments, activities, music, arts and crafts, food, drink, and much more besides. If you're in town over the third weekend of April, don't miss it.
10. Lithgow Blast Furnace Park
The Lithgow Blast Furnace Park was once home to Australia's first commercially viable steel mill and a major supplier of pig iron for the railway industry. In the 1920s, operations were transferred to Port Kembla; after lying abandoned for several decades, the site was eventually acquired by Lithgow City Council in 1988. Today, it's one of the region's top tourist spots, offering visitors a unique insight into Lithgow's rich industrial heritage and its contributions to the Trans-Australian Railway. While you're there, be sure to check out the blast furnace and its associated pump house, both of which are still in remarkably good shape.
9. Eskbank House Museum
Located just next to Blast Furnace Park is the Eskbank House Museum. The property has been used for various purposes over the years, initially serving as a residence for mine owners and steel mill managers before being converted into a school and later into a boarding house. Since opening as a museum in the 1960s, it's served as a showcase for Lithgow's industrial heritage, boasting an impressive collection of exhibits that includes an assortment of Lithgow pottery, the Bracey furniture collection, and several significant pieces from the Lithgow Iron Works, including Possum the Locomotive. Along with the main property, there are several outbuildings to discover, including workers’ cottages, stables and coach houses, and a blacksmith’s courtyard.
8. Bowenfels Gun Emplacements
Lithgow's status as a major hub for transport, mining, and manufacturing made it a potential target in World War II, particular after Japan entered the war in 1940. To counter the threat posed by aircraft to inland areas, a series of gun emplacements was positioned around the city. Fortunately, they were never called into action, and today, they're the last remaining inland WWII gun emplacements in New South Wales. If you're a movie buff, you might even recognize one of the guns from its appearance in Baz Luhrmann’s "Australia."
7. Lithgow State Mine Heritage Park and Railway
Located just a short drive north of Lithgow town center is the site of the former Lithgow State Coal Mine, which today serves as a hugely compelling museum and a must-visit destination for visitors to the area. Learn more about the history of the Western Coalfields through an impressive collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and displays, inducing a comprehensive array of mining tools, equipment, and underground vehicles.
6. Lake Lyell
Located just 10 minutes from the center of Lithgow is the gorgeous Lake Lyell Recreation Park, a beautiful destination that's ideal for rest and recreation. Vistors have a plethora of lakeside pastimes to choose between, from water skiing and boating to kayaking and fishing. There's also a kid's playground, picnic tables, and miles of stunning scenery to explore. If you want to extend the experience over a few days, the park offers both powered and unpowered camping sites, along with hot showers and free barbeque sites. While you're there, be sure to check out the amazing engineering work at the Lyell Dam.
5. Glow Worm Tunnel
One of Lithgow's most popular tourists attractions is the Glow Worm Tunnel. Located in the Wollemie National Park on the Newnes Plateau just a little north of Lithgow, the 400-meter long railway tunnel was constructed in the early 1900s to transport goods to and from the Newnes Kerosene Shale Plant. The tunnel was abandoned decades ago - at least by humans. In the years between then and now, it's taken on a new life - namely, as a home to the glowing larvae of the Arachnocampa, a fungal gnat unique to New South Wales that's best known for its luminescent blue hue. To see the glow worms at their best, walk as far into the tunnel as your nerves will allow, turn off any light sources, and then stand as still as possible. Within a minute or so, you should start to notice the ceiling light up.
4. The Great Zig Zag Railway
If you want to check out the glorious scenery of the Blue Mountains, book a trip on The Great Zig Zag Railway. Built in the 1860s to ferry people and goods back and forth between New South Wales and Sydney, the railway is now a hugely popular tourist attraction that offers visitors the chance to take a ride through 7 km of spellbinding scenery on a vintage steam locomotive. During the journey, keep your eyes peeled for the gorgeous old sandstone viaducts scattered along the way.
3. Hartley Historic Site
Visiting the historic village of Hartley is like taking a big step back in time. Set on the western edge of the Blue Mountains about 15 miles from Lithgow town center, the village's 17 sandstone cottages offer an intriguing insight into what life would have been like in Australia during the early 19th century. There's the chance to take a tour of the buildings, check out the art exhibits at the gallery or take a walk around the hiking trails that encircle the site. If you get peckish, stop by the cafe to grab a snack.
2. The Blackfellows Hand Aboriginal Place
Located just a short distance from the famous Glow Worm Tunnel, Maiyingu Marragu (Blackfellow's Hands) has long been a place of high importance to the Wiradjuri people, along with other members of the Aboriginal community such as the Gandangara, Dharug and Dharkinjung people. With its tumbling waterfalls, twisting rock formations, and lush vegetation, its natural beauty is hard to overestimate. But while the scenery might be breathtaking, the real reason to visit is the culturally significant rock shelters and stencil art of hands and weapons. Even today, the site is still used as a ‘bush school room’ where Elders teach younger members of the community about their heritage.
1. Jenolan Caves
If you want to check out some of the largest, oldest, and most spectacular caves in Australia, be sure to include a visit to Jenolan Caves on your schedule. According to wikipedia.org, they're the most ancient discovered open caves in the world, renowned for the beauty of their Silurian marine fossils and calcite formations. There are eleven gorgeously illuminated show caves to explore, along with a number of different tour types to pick between. Whichever you choose, prepare for your jaw to hit the floor at least once at the ethereal beauty of the place. Once you've finished exploring the caves, stop by the historical Chisolm’s Grand Dining Room for some of the best food in NSW.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn