BACKGROUND TO NEWNES
Newnes was established in 1906 as part of an industrial development for the mining and processing of oil shale. (Oil Shale is a rock which when heated under certain conditions breaks down to yield oil and was for many years Australia’s only indigenous source of petroleum). This industry continued here until the 1930’s when the works were transferred to Glen Davis, over the mountain to the north of Newnes (The Glen Davis operation was in turn closed in 1952). The town of Newnes has been in decline ever since and the hotel is the last surviving building of that era. Exploring the ruins of the oil shale works is the main attraction at Newnes for present day visitors.
The scenic cliffs surrounding Newnes suggest that nature dominates man in this area. Glow worms now occupy an old railway tunnel and a small forest of tree ferns now grow on part of this same railway; two examples of nature reasserting itself to be experienced by today’s visitors. Most of the area surrounding Newnes (including the old oil shale works) is incorporated into the Wollemi National Park.
THE NEWNES KIOSK
Open: 8am – 8pm daily
except for half days on some weekdays
WHAT TO SEE
THE OIL SHALE REFINERY RUINS
Extensive brick ruins remain on several levels of the hillside about 2km’s beyond the hotel and the opposite side of the river. Old mines and other ruins can be found in the area surrounding the main works site.
THE OLD HOTEL
This was the last surviving business at Newnes, although it has now been de-licensed. (A kiosk operates from the old bar selling sweets, soft drinks, maps, books, souvenirs and a limited range of campers’ items. It does sell ice, ice creams or hot food.
Very little remains of the town, which once existed in the general area northwards from the hotel, to the National Park camping area in Wollemi National Park.
THE GLOW WORM TUNNEL & RAILWAY
A railway once ran between the works and the main western railway at Newnes Junction. The Glow Worm Tunnel is 11km south from the stone faced platform at Newnes: however it is more usual to start from the causeway adjacent to the Wolgan Road some 7km south of Newnes and follow a 9km round trip walk. Remember to take a torch as the tunnel curves and is very dark. To see the Glow worms, turn off torches, KEEP STILL AND QUIET for a short period then they will appear.
The tunnel can also be reached along a 37km road from Lithgow or Clarence (1km walk to the tunnel and a further 0.5km to the cliffs beyond). Although this area is called ‘Newnes Plateau’ this southern road does NOT link with the Wolgan Valley and Newnes itself.
WHAT TO DO
A number of natural sites are available both in Wollemi National Park and the Newnes Hotel campground which has a shower and toilet block but not powered sites, near the hotel. There are limited facilities. Camping is popular at weekends (particularly long weekend), but it is usually very quiet during the week. Please take water and firewood, these are also available at the Hotel Kiosk.
-Visit the ruins of the shale works.
-Follow the railway to the Glow Worm Tunnel and return via the ‘Coach Road’
-Follow the trail down the Wolgan River into the wilderness of the Wollemi National Park.
-Climb to the top of ‘Mystery Mountain’ opposite the hotel.
– Climb ‘Donkey Mountain’.
The various habitats around Newnes and the remoteness of the area assist natural history studies. Day activities include flora, bird, reptile and mammal watching. At night try looking for the nocturnal animals or star gazing.
Other activities, such as bushwalking, canyoning and rock climbing are also popular in the Newnes area. As such activities require adequate preparation and safety skills, we suggest that you contact your local specialist group for further details.
REMEMBER – COURTESY PLEASE
Newnes is still in an “unspoilt” state. Please make your visit as unobtrusive as possible, be very careful with fire and take your rubbish with you when you leave.