If you have a day to spare and want to branch out of the typical Sydney experience, you may want to consider adding Lithgow to your list of places to visit.
Situated on the foothills of Blue Mountains (Mts) and central west of Sydney, Lithgow is often a stopover location for many road trippers, before continuing on to country New South Wales (NSW). And I’m here to give you at least 9 reasons why you shouldn’t overlook this diverse region as part of your Sydney road trip itinerary.
When Sydneysiders hear Lithgow being uttered, you tend to get mixed reactions – majority being whingey city folk. True, it is a quiet area but all you need is a day…or two..or three! Thinking outside the norm and actually paying attention to the surroundings, I’m actually quite surpised on how much there is to do and see along the way, and I wanted to share this with you.
1. A stone fruit away
There are two main roads/highways to get to Lithgow – I highly recommend the Old Bells Line Of Road way. Not only will you get a glimpse of Australian country life, but you will also be spoilt for choice of fresh, seasonal stone fruits. If you have time, stop over at one of the many orchards to do some fruit picking (Tip: bring a hat, sunscreen and insect repellant). Apples, peaches, cherries, pears, oranges are just some of the fruity treats you can pick to your hearts content. And it’s fairly cheap too, in comparison to your green grocer/supermarket counterparts. If that’s not your cup of tea, then why not try freshly made apple ciders, homemade baked fruit pies or jams?
Bilpin Orchards is usually where many get their fruit picking fix, however, I’ve been advised recently that it’s closed until 2015 to get ready for their new season. Bilpin Fruit Bowl and Pine Crest Orchards are popular alternatives. But make sure to stop by at least one or two roadside fruit stalls you will encounter along the way.
2. Highway to heavenly views
Some parts of the Blue Mts and the Great Dividing Range will be on your left if you’re coming from the Sydney direction. There are a couple of lookouts – such as the Bellbird Hill lookout at Kurrajong Heights (see map) – where you can rest, enjoy your freshly picked fruits and whip out your selfie stick. Otherwise, you can stop on the side of the road – find a safe spot, of course – when you feel the need to take in the views, sans tourists.
3. Stop and smell the roses
Mt. Tomah Botanical Gardens (see map) is free entry. Like any botanical gardens, what is being showcased will depend on the climate. Get your cameras and nose buds ready! I haven’t been in years and will be revisiting early next year.
4. Picnic in the park
Pack a picnic lunch and head down to Lake Lyell Recreation Park. If you like to fish, I hope you’ve packed your fishing gear! If you fancy a bit of water skiing, kayaking or rowing, you can do that too. Or if you just want to take a nap under a shady tree, by all means!
5. Get some much needed R&R
Down the road from Lake Lyell is Sparadise Japanese Bathhouse. I stayed here a few years back and it has since been revamped. As I recall, they frowned upon the use of technology during our stay. They wanted their guests to have as much authentic bathhouse experience as possible, away from the world of everyday chaos! I suspect that this is still the case today.
Sparadise is known for their unique herbal steam, designed to gently exfoliate dead skin cells from all parts of your body, rejuvenate your skin, all the while relaxing and clearing your lungs. And what’s a Japanese-inspired bathhouse without a Japanese Zen garden! Here you can admire the breathtaking mountain views, or perhaps take a stroll on their reflexology path. If that isn’t enough, they also have an outdoor hot springs AND indoor spa, containing the purest water derived from their own natural underground springs.
6. Highest lookout point of Blue Mts
Hassans Walls Lookout is the highest lookout point in the Blue Mts, sitting at around 1,100m above sea level. From here, you can admire more breathtaking views, this time of Mount Wilson, Mount York, Mount Tarana, Mount Blaxland and the entire Hartley Valley. Even the drive up to the lookout is a bit of an adventure (Tip: drive slowly as it is a steep, two-lane dirt road).
7. Glowing with…
Yes, we have a Glow Worm Tunnel ladies and gents. It is located within Wollemi National Park, a World Heritage listed site. Here you will be treated to magnificent views of pagoda rock formations, extensive Australian flora and fauna (that’s wildlife!), including thousands glow worms (Tip: do not shine your torches on the glow worms as they are sensitive to light). There is also an old railway line which was once used to transport oil shale.
8. Railway historical artefacts
If you consider yourself a bit of a history buff on railways, I’ve been told that Simmo’s Museum is worth a visit. Simmo’s pride themselves with their treasure chest of memorabilia, a large collection of railway historical artefacts and other historical collection ranging from old phonebooks, newspapers, gramophones etc.
9. Visit the largest, most spectacular cave system in Australia
Ok so maybe this one is 45 minutes from central Lithgow, but by Australian standards, Jenolan Caves is literally down the road! Again, I haven’t been here in over 15 years but I remember loving the underground rivers and awe-inspiring limestone crystal formations.
Jenolan Caves is regarded as one of the finest and oldest cave systems in the world. You can take one of the many tours available or if you’re feeling quite fancy, you can stay at the iconic Cave House hotel. There’s also The Mountain Lodge motel, Gate House hostel for the budget conscious, or stay in one of the 8 self contained Cottages in the bushland.
I frequent the Lithgow area as I have family there. I find that the trip up is always relaxing and there’s always things to do or see along the way. Old Bells Line Of Road is a mecca for country style cafes, lodging, antique stores, fruit stalls, orchards and arts and crafts.
If you’ve already ticked this off your list or planning a road trip to this region, let me know your thoughts.