It’s been over three years since my last visit to the Glow Worm Tunnel, which I accessed via the much longer track from Newnes after camping nearby. This time it’s a day-trip I’m leading with our local Cub pack, reaching the Glow Worm Tunnel via the shorter Old Coach Road and Pagoda Track.
At the car park on Old Coach Road, there’s a log book. It’s a good time to explain to the Cubs that map-reading skills are important to make sure you’re at the right starting point! As one of the entries shows, there is an alternate carpark at the end of Glow Worm Tunnel Road, which is even closer to the tunnel than our start point.
The walking track is the continuation of Old Coach Road, which is closed to traffic as is descends into the valley. There aren’t many flowers along the track even though it’s Spring – but the wattles are out in force!
After less than 500m there’s views from the track of the surrounding pagodas, and a view of Donkey Mountain in the distance.
A bit further on, and the pagodas are on both sides of the track, proving too much of a temptation for the Cubs!
The pagodas are the result of vertical cracks forming in a very thick layer of sandstone, which break along these joints into roughly rectangular blocks. Water erodes the rock more quickly than in the centre of the sandstone blocks, so the top of each block becomes a dome shape. Differences in the texture of the sandstone causes some layers to wear more quickly than others, generating the terraced appearance of the domes.
It’s a pretty spectacular landscape!
It’s pretty impressive from above too…
We finally drag the Cubs away from their Pagoda rock-climbing and continue down Old Coach Road. The road continues descending, passing a gate as it nears the bottom of the valley.
Just after the gate, Old Coach Road joins the Pagoda Track, a narrower bush track. There’s a few huge caves and overhangs, and a hollowed-out tree that provides some more distractions for the Cubs as we descend the last section of track to the bottom of the valley. After about one kilometre the Pagoda Track meets the shorter track that leads from the carpark at the end of Glow Worm Tunnel Road, which is the shortest route to the tunnel.
The landscape changes along the valley floor, with towering eucalypts, ferns and patches or rainforest as we neat the tunnel entrance.
Finally we arrive at the Glow Worm Tunnel entrance, half-hidden by ferns, and put on our head-torches for the last part of our walk through the tunnel.
We all see the glow worms once our torches are off, and our eyes adjust to the dark. The tunnel is quite busy today – and the Cubs were much more impressed with climbing the rock pagodas on the way down than the tunnel itself!
We make our way back the same way, for a late BBQ lunch at the car park. The tunnel itself was much busier than my last visit, with most people accessing it via the Glow Worm Tunnel car park (1km), rather then the 3km route from the carpark at Old Coach Route. It was also disappointing to see quite a few people being dickheads – bringing their dog (which is prohibited in national parks, and clearly stated on the signs) and one person even smoking a cigarette as they walked through the tunnel. If you can, visit during the week or get here early.
Two routes to the Glow Worm Tunnel
Access from the top – as described above
Leave the Bells Line of Road at Clarence (Zig Zag Railway), and follow the gravel road through Newnes State Forest for 34kms.
- Park at the Glow Worm Tunnel parking area (1km each way) located 3km past the junction of the Glow Worm Tunnel Road and the Old Coach Road
- Continue down Old Coach Road to the carpark (3km each way). This is what we did. Note: if using Google Maps, the carpark is not marked, but is at the intersection of Old Coach Road and the Tigersnake Canyon Track (-33.246764, 150.236225)
Access from the bottom (long walk) – refer Glow Worm Tunnel from Newnes
Newnes is situated at the end of Wolgan Road, accessed via a turnoff from the Castlereagh Highway. (Head west from Lithgow for about 11km to a junction leading to Mudgee, then right onto the Castlereagh Highway; from here it’s another 5min until you reach Wolgan Road on your right).
Staying near the Glow Tunnel
The nearest major town is Lithgow, which has a number of motels and budget accommodation. There are also many cottages and cabins around the area – Visit NSW’s Lithgow Accommodation page has a range of options.
Taking photos in the Glow Worm Tunnel
To take photos, you’ll obviously need a tripod – make sure you switch off the flash function, as glow-worms are sensitive to bright lighs and and will switch off their bioluminescence for up to 15 minutes if disturbed.
- Use a self-timer or remote camera release
- Use manual focus
- Try an exposure around 30sec and F4 at ISO1250.
More information on the Glow Worm Tunnel
- NPWS – Glow Worm Tunnel Walking Track
- Zig Zag Public School – Glow Worm Tunnel Walks [PDF] – guide to walks created by students