Newnes Campground and Blackfellow Trail Rock Art
Newnes Campground at sunset is just beautiful
Hubby and I have been camping for about ten years now, with our debut to camping on our honeymoon. Since then we have slowly ramped up our camping, progressing from tent to camper trailer, and from paid to free camping.
We stumbled by Newnes on a camping trip to Lake Lyall a few years ago but didn’t actually get to stay here. So it has been on the to do list for a while. Just recently we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay here for a weekend and I have to say I just absolutely loved this campsite.
The campground is basic – no flush toilets, water or showers – but the stunning landscape makes up for that. And to be honest when you are out in nature enjoying how amazing it is, you really don’t notice the lack of amenities.
If you aren’t a camper, don’t be put off visiting the area. It is possible to come for a day trip, or you could look into staying at the Newnes Hotel Cabins. The valley is also home to the very flash, and very expensive, Emirates Wolgan Valley. I hope this gives you an idea of how special this spot is.
A bit about the Wolgan Valley
To get a real sense of how amazing this campground is, it is helpful to know a bit of background info.
The Newnes Campground is located in the Wolgan Valley which is north west of Lithgow and about 3 hours from Sydney.
The Wolgan Valley was thought to have formed around 170 million years ago from volcanic movement. It is around 26 kilometres long and 7 kilometres wide. The Wolgan river runs through the middle of the gorge.
Newnes Campground and picnic area – free camping!
The soaring sandstone cliff faces are the key draw card of the campground
The main Newnes Campground is truly beautiful. Tucked in between soaring sandstone cliffs it really is a place that makes you feel peaceful and blessed.
Along with the cliffs, one of the amazing things about this area is the abundance of wildlife. All around the campground and the whole area will see plenty of wallabies, kangaroos, goannas and even a wombat or two.
It’s a great spot for kids with lots of wide, open spaces for them to roam. Kids will enjoy the rope swing – I would advise not camping near it as the kids can start on it pretty early!
You cannot book campsites at the ground. We were there in September and the campground had just the right amount of folk about. However it is important to note that in holidays and peak long weekends it can get very busy and it is first in, first served. If there is absolutely no room you can camp at the Newnes Hotel (next door) for a small charge ($40.00 per car, per weekend).
Open fires are permitted in designated spots, however you will need to check the NSW National Parks website for any fire bans.
A key concern for a lot of people is the toilet situation. The toilets at the campground are called ‘Windy Loos’. And surprisingly they were totally fine. A slight smell, but they were clean and did the job! There are no showers at the campground, nor is there any drinking water. Showers are available at Newnes Hotel for $5.00 per person.
The campsite is also a great spot for a picnic. While we were here we saw several groups come here just for the day. There are picnic tables, but I would advise you to bring some shade as the area is quite exposed during the day. BBQS are wood fired only.
Newnes Campground offers the best of free camping
4WD only Campsite
You will need to pass over a ford to get to the 4WD only campsite
There are no signs indicating this, but it is helpful to know that you can also camp on the other side of the river. However, you can only access this camping area by foot or 4WD. It is accessed by crossing the ford near the Newnes Hotel. The campground is similar to the main campground, it is smaller but offers more shade. When we were there the 4WD campsite was actually busier than the main campground.
Along the river there are also other single campsites, great for groups or those who want to get away from it all.
Newnes Ruins beehive kilns are the largest of their type in Australia
The Newnes Ruins are actually the remains of a shale mine. Mining was carried out here for around 25 years from 1906 to 1931.
This fascinating walk takes around 1.5 to 2 hours and it is important to note that it is on a steep site and is definitely not wheelchair or pram friendly. We had 6 kids with us who all managed the walk, although we were a little hot and tired at the end. You will see some impressive ruins including old coke ovens, brick kilns, paraffin sheds and crumbling walls, including the famous ‘Big Wall’.
If you are in a 4WD, you can access the Ruins by crossing the ford. If you are in a 2WD you will need to park at the ford and walk to the start of the ruins – approximately 1km each way.
Make sure to take some water with you.
Blackfellow Hand Rock Art and Blackfellow Hand Trail
The Rock Art along the Blackfellow Hand Trail is amazingly well preserved
A sight not to miss on a trip to Newnes is the Aboriginal Rock Art along the Blackfellow Hand Trail. This Rock Art is called the Maiyingu Marragu (Blackfellows Hands) and it is thought to be many thousands of years old. I was amazed at how easy it was to see the art and how clear it still is. The surrounding area is also very beautiful. There are no facilities here, but if you have a picnic rug and some food in the car, this would be a nice spot to have a picnic.
To find the Rock Art, take the turn onto Blackfellow Hand Trail from Wolgan Road. Pass the information sign on your right. Shortly after this you will come to a carpark (and there is also another carpark just a bit further up). These are the carparks for the Rock Art. Directions to the Rock Art are poor. There is just one small sign in the carpark saying ‘Maiyingu Marragu’, which is easy to miss.
You can also find the Rock Art coming from Zig Zag. It is about 1km from the Wolgan Road end of the Blackfellow Hand Trail.
The Rock Art is made by ‘spraying’ ochre onto a tool or hand
With scenery such as this, it’s no wonder that walking is such a popular activity here. There are three main trails in the Newnes Campground area:
- Newnes Ruins Trail: Medium Grade, approximately 2 hours
- The Pipeline Track: Hard Grade, 18km return
- Glow Worm Tunnel Walk: Medium Grade, 11km return
Make sure to stop by the historic Newnes Hotel to learn about the history of the area
The Newnes Hotel is a must do on your trip to Newnes! Built in 1907, today the Hotel is the only remaining building of the former mining township of Newnes.
This historic building now operates as a quirky museum, corner store and a spot to book tours and tickets. Drinks and snacks here are very reasonably priced – $2.00 for a cold can of drink and $1.00 for a Zooper Dooper. Happy kids.
If you are after a few more creature comforts the Newnes Hotel offers unpowered camping, with access to their BBQ facilities and shower block, as well as lovely cabins with great views.
The Hotel is generally only open on weekends – if the owner is around he will help you out during the week, but please respect that this is private property on weekdays.
Other things to do in the area
Glow Worm Tunnels
Lithgow Glow Worm Tunnels are beautiful but tricky to get to, image credit: Sardaka
Taking a side trip to see the Glow Worm Tunnels is a great way to spend a day when out at Newnes. The Glow Worm Tunnel is actually a disused railway line which provides perfect conditions for the the bioluminescent larvae of Arachnocampa richardsae, a type of fungus gnat aka Glow Worms!
You can access the tunnels via foot from Newnes (although note it is an 11km walk!!) or you can take a 35km drive on a dirt road from Lithgow. It is then an approximate 1 km walk.
It is important to note that the drive in is long and depending on recent weather conditions the road can be quite pot holed. It may not be suitable for a 2WD car. Come prepared with food and water and remembering that it may be a slow old drive out there. Current research online shows that the road is in disrepair, so please check before heading out here on the current road conditions.
You will find the Glow Worms at the end of Glow Worm Tunnel Road, Lithgow.
There is a culvert along Wolgan Road, close to the turn off to Black Fellow Hand Trail. This is a nice spot to stop to get a view down onto the gorge.
Important things to note
- Newnes Campground Weather: the weather in Newnes can get very cold overnight. In September when we were there it was -3.7. Make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes, jackets and appropriate sleeping gear if you’re heading here in the cooler months
- Water: there is no water available at the campground. You can purchase drinks from Newnes Hotel
- Food: there is no food available within the campground. You can buy basic snacks from the Newnes Hotel
- Toilets: toilets within the campground are composting, ‘Windy Loos’, but are clean and adequate
- Shower: there are no showers at the campground. You can however pay for a shower at the Newnes Hotel ($5.00 per person). See the Newnes Hotel for more information
- Access – the main campground is easily accessed via a 2WD. To cross the river you will need a 4WD. The road to Newnes is a combination of tarmac and dirt, but is easily navigated in a 2WD
- Entry: Free
- Toilets: Yes (composting toilets only)
- Wheelchair friendly: No
- Free carparking: Yes
- Free BBQ facilities: Wood Fired BBQs only
- Time to spend here: All day
- Food available: Limited food and drinks available at Newnes Hotel, no water at the campground
- Address: Wolgan Road, Newnes NSW 2790
- Further details: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/newnes-campground