We packed the van and headed back out west, so many beautiful places on our list to explore. Up early Saturday morning our travel plan for the extended 5 day long weekend :- Our itinerary is the Blue Mountains, Jenolan Caves, Wollemi National Park, Cowra, Grenfel and Junee.
Our first stop was Lennox Bridge it is the oldest stone arch bridge on Australians mainland opening in 1833, it was designed by David Lennox. The bridge is easy to access and has a car park just off road with walking tracks also sign boarded, unfortunately graffiti has covered most of bridge but the walk down and structure of bridge is worth a look.
From there we ventured over to Glenbrook National Park a quick stop at the Jelly Bean Pool. As we arrived here early there were not many people around and although the day was heating up I felt it was still to cool for a swim but the water looked beautiful. We headed down the easy stepped track to the water. The water was clear with a small sandy beach, and walking tracks along the waters edge. We could of easily spent a few hours here relaxing but we had other plans for the day for Jelly Bean Pool and Red Hands Cave
Back into car we headed further into National Park to Red Hand Cave, the drive in is approx 13km, arriving at the end of the road is a small car park. The walk is an easy 2km return walk to cave from here, the alternate route is a 6km loop track that starts at camp ground car park. Red Hand Cave showcases the areas best aboriginal art and has been caged in with provisions to take pictures. The cave is a little disappointing due to the cage but understandable due to the amount of graffiti that is now spoiling our beautiful culture and natural surroundings. Imagining the history of the aboriginal community living in this area. Although unknown the art work is suspected to date back 500-1100 years.
The Park also has many picnic areas throughout. We stopped for early lunch before we drove over to Jenolan Caves for the afternoon to explore a few caves. We paid for one tour which was the Temple of Baal, what an amazing experience.The entrance to the Temple of Baal is a man made tunnel, which reminded us of the start of Maxwell Smart TV show. The cave is spectacular and also can be used for a wedding venue. The tour takes about an hour and a half with a length of 365 meters and 288 steps, which makes it and easy walk for all ages.
The grounds of Jenolan Caves can keep you there for hours, wondering the grounds, walking the Blue Lake Loop via the Grand Arch, Jenolan River walk, Devils coach lookout and a self guided tour of Nettle Cave which is free. A great place we could of stayed a few more hours exploring but the day was getting on and we needed to get to our campsite before dark.
We spent the night at Lake Wallace approx 10km out of Lithgow, a free camp with hot showers and flushing toilets, play ground, boat ramp, lake view and very quiet. More Information HERE
We were excited about the days adventures we headed through town were we stopped to take pictures of the twin railway bridges, just follow the road from Lithgow Tourist Information Center, turn left and follow the road around past the caravan park and the bridges are to your left, before the highway.
We then headed out of Lithgow along Old Coach Road to the Glowworm Tunnel it is a disused railway tunnel between Lithgow and Newnes, and it is well known for its resident glow-worms, the 30km road in to the tunnel is rough, but easy enough for 2wd car in dry weather. Driving past a pine plantation the scenery changes into bushland, also glimpses of huge rock formations part of the Stone Gardens National Park. We were suprized to arrive at a huge drive through tunnel about 200 meters in length, it all connects the old train line along the way. It was exciting traveling through the tunnel but it’s only wide enough for one car so sound your horn as you drive through slowly. Parking we walked along the track to the tunnel it was very wet but a nice 2 km walk return with lots of plants and what seemed like underwater caves, hidden underneath huge rock structures, also a small bridge with cobble stone stairs. Unfortunately silly me forgot the torch so mobile phones came in handy to guide us into the tunnel. We didn’t need to go far in before we saw hundreds of glow worms, pretty amazing as we stood in silence in pitch dark and marveled at the spectacular show. There is a longer walk from other side of the tunnel a 12 km trek which leaves from the old oil shale, (Wolgan Rd) unfortunately you cant drive straight to the other side of the tunnel, so you needed to drive back onto highway and turn on to Wolgan Rd and travel in again 30km. This drive was amazing the huge mountains and the view of the national park and the garden of stones is breathtaking, the roads are narrow and windy but sealed.
At the end of Wolgan Rd are the ruins of the old oil shale factory. The township and shale oil mining complex was established in 1906. The Newnes Oil Shale Mine produced low grade oil. It was set within a beautiful mountain, with beautiful views. A collection of what remains of the factory is scattered around the area. Buildings, furnace, smoke stacks, machinery now all just a piece of history. The factory closed in 1932, today the hotel is all that remains.
On the right is the river crossing (4wd only) do not let anyone tell you it can be done by car or van! The river sand is very soft, and vans can get stuck!!! (embarrassing) but you can park car and cross river by foot as there are large stepping stones to cross. Follow road along there is also camping on this side of the river. Follow to end car park which takes you to beginning of trail, this is well signed with information and map. It is an easy walk with information and history along the way, we found the building structures amazing the pure size of some of the smoke stacks foundation, buildings and ovens. We wondered through taking out time and enjoying the moment, you could feel the history in this place a definite place to visit again.
Newnes campground is at the end of road in Wolgan Rd, its set on the Wolgan river on a grassy flat area, the view of the sandstone mountains and escarpment is amazing. The camp ground is free and has one toilet (long drop) and no other facilities. More Information HERE
Our afternoon we set of again taking our time traveling over to Weddin Mountains National Park near Grenfield, an old historic town near Cowra. A beautiful easy drive, the drive into the National Park from Grenfield was a 20km straight flat long road, almost deserted, stopping and having some fun with a few local sheep that had escaped their paddocks. Turning into the state forest we drove a short distance to Ben Halls Cave Campground a small area nestled under the mountain. We set up camp and relaxed for the night. The area really reminded me of the Australian bush, hot and dry. The following day we were up early to a paddock full of wild kangaroos and a flock of some kind of baby bird.
There are a couple of walking tracks scattered around the area but our main focus was on the Ben Halls Cave, so up the hill we ventured. Ben Hall was infamous bushranger and the cave believed to be his hideout and shelter. Walking up the track we stop a few times and looked at the view, but on arriving at sheltered cave at top the view is awesome your can see for hundreds of miles across the landscape surroundings.
From here we headed over to Seaton’s Farm, an abandon farmhouse left intact and now preserved. Wow this was a huge step back in time, the farm house has been closed off but can be viewed by pulling a large wooded lever to open door.
The yard still has all the machinery, farm tools and equipment scattered around everywhere. There are information boards around to describe the living conditions and working life back in their time and how hard it was living in the great depression back in 1930. An amazing historic site and well worth taking a look if in the area.
Driving back into Cowra we stopped at the information centre, they were screening a hologram on the story of the prisoner’s of war, and the breakout, as I knew little about this history it was a great way to inform people of the POW story in Cowra. Taking a few more hours to explore Cowra we visited the POW memorial park, the Aboriginal artwork under the bridge, which was awesome.
Our nights accommodation was spent in a cow paddock at Bethungra Dam, I could say it was the funniest accommodation night this far, cows and bulls wandering around making all kinds of noises and funny behavior’s. We had to get the binoculars out as we watched a cow trying to get out of knee high sludge across the water, although it wasn’t in to much danger it was quiet funny watching as it looked as though it was drunk trying to roller skate. The Dam itself is a lovely quiet area used mainly by locals to fish and kayak, it has toilet facilities (long drop), picnic tables and picnic shelters.
The next morning our last day and it was bucketing down with rain, we were up and out on the road really early before the road became to muddy. Quick drive into Junee and we found a cute little café for a coffee and some breakfast sat in to keep out of the rain. We were both needing a hot shower so we approached the local van park and paid $5 each for use of amenities, they even supplied bathmats and the bathrooms were spotless.
By 9am we were at Junee chocolate and licorice factory, Andy was waiting for this visit, he was like a big kid. We paid $5 to make our own giant Freckle, it was fun, and the best hot chocolate! Over to Monte Cristo’s haunted homestead, I was excited to visit this place.. and it was closed! Dam!!! We checked out a few other quick spots in Junee the old railway, museum, then unfortunately we needed to head home via Gundagai to see the dog on the tuckerbox.