For our Christmas break we decided to escape from the south coast population explosion and head inland to explore the Central West of N.S.W. Our travel route started in the Illawarra to the Capertee Valley to a small town called Glen Davies , on to Wellington, Dubbo, Parkes, Peak Hill, Orange, Hill End, Lithgow and took the long way home via Wombeyan Caves.
Travel route - here. After Wombeyan Caves we took a crazy narrow dirt road to Moss Vale to Maquarie Pass home.
Glen Davies - Capertee Valley
We took the tourist route to Glen Davies which is an old oil shale town. Which started in 1938 and soon a small town grew until 1952 when it was not viable anymore, it left a very small community of properties. The area was turned into Wollemi National Park were a good tourist industry has started.
There is a tour conducted on Saturdays of the old factory ruins, but we missed out on the tour. The area is scattered with historical ruins and the landscape is magnificent. Glen Davies has two free camp grounds, one in the town centre and the other by the river (4wd road in the wet).
Arriving later in the afternoon to Wellington, we set up camp at a free rest area approx 7 km out of town, opposite from Caves Rd, (Wellington Caves entrance) no facilities at rest stop but quiet and safe.
Wellington caves are open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we purchased a multi-pass for the Cathedral and Gaden Caves, all tours are guided. The Cathedral Cave is the largest and most popular of the caves, the highlights of this tour include the Altar (a 15m tall stalagmite), Thunder Cave, Headache Rock and the Well.
We then headed over to The Gaden Cave it is the smaller of the two caves but very impressive it contains large amounts of stalactites, cave coral, flow stone and helictites.
The Wellington Caves complex offers accommodation for all budgets, with beautiful picnic areas scattered throughout property. There is also a Japanese garden across from cave entrance, a lovely Zen feel small but nice for a quick wander through before we hit the road again
We arrived at Dubbo late afternoon and decided stay at the Dubbo City Holiday Park. The park is well set out very clean and secure , we settled in and enjoyed a few beers and a nice hot shower.
Next morning we started early and went to Dubbo Zoo the entrance price gives you a two day pass to explore the zoo, which gives you plenty of time to see all the animals and keeper shows. We spent hours wandering through the park, being self drive there are lots of parking along the road to stop and watch the animals, bike and buggy hire also available, picnic areas and café. A great day out, plenty of opportunities for some amazing pictures. The variety of monkeys and chimpanzees would have to be the most entertaining animals to watch along with the hippos and turtles. Great day out for any age group.
Peak Hill - Old Gold Mine
Peak Hill gold mine was established in 1889 and shut down in 2002 and later turned into a tourist attraction. There are a few walks around the mine from easy to hard with many old mining artifacts on display and the colours of the earth are amazing. An good stop off along the way from Dubbo to Parkes.
A quick stop at Parkes, we found a great over night rest area where we could stop for the night, located on the Newell Highway, 3 kilometers north of Parkes, beside the highway on the northbound side it has some shady trees, picnic tables, toilets, no water, also a popular truck stop so it became a little noisy throughout the night.
On the way into Parkes from Dubbo is "The Dish" it is the CSIRO's radio astronomy observatories, collectively known as the Australia Telescope National Facility, (ATNF). It supports Australia’s research in radio astronomy and can be used by researchers from institutions all over the world. You can see the dish from the highway as you approach it, with signage well displayed.
The drive towards the dish was great, with fields of beautiful sunflowers for miles, quiet amazing. The facility had all the usual attractions inside, displays, information, 3D theater with short displays, Café with a great view of the dish. Its a place you could spend hours exploring or a quick look to satisfy your curiosity. Parkes is a cute country town we spent a few hours looking around, a beautiful park, main street with the usual stores. A nice stop over place.
An hours drive on from Parkes we arrived in Orange, a beautiful little town of old houses and tree lined streets, we headed to Mount Canobolas state conservation area. Mount Canobolas is an extinct volcano that erupted 13 million years ago, at 139 meters above sea level it is the highest peak between Sydney and Perth. The drive up we stopped at the pinnacle reserve/lookout for some lunch the area was so quiet and relaxing. We then decided to walk up to the lookout. Its a short walk up but intense, maybe the fact it was very hot and midday didn't help but getting to the top was worth it the view was amazing, pretty much a 360 degree of Orange and its surroundings, from here we also had a good view of Mount Canobolas.
The following day we headed down to Borenore Karst Conservation Reserve, we explored the Arch Cave an easy walking track, a short walk from the picnic area. The caves were inviting lots of stalactites, stalagmites, a small river running through, the walk stated 30 minute walk, I'm sure we were there over an hour the place was amazing. the reserve had longer walks with more caves to explore, Orange is defiantly on our list to return and explore this beautiful place and its amazing surroundings.
Hill End and Sofala
In 1851 gold was discovered in Hill End and by 1872 the towns population exploded with gold rush fever. Hill End is surrounded by mountains and gorges, the country side is magnificent and the town is a strong reminder of yesteryear.
Hill End has two campsites one in town and the other a couple of kilometers from town, we opted for Glendora campground which is run by the National Park and has a honesty box at the gate, there is hot shower for $1. There are plenty of walks around town and around the old mine ruins and well worth a look, the visitors center is a great place to start with heaps to see.
We traveled a little out of Hill End to Golden Gully walking track, the walk is short and relativity easy. The gully is a huge erosion of old mines with a huge arch, the colour was amazing and the feel of walking in the footsteps of miners from years ago was amazing.
We took a quick stop in at Sofala which isn't to far from Hill End, Sofala is like Hill End an old gold mining town full of history and well worth a stop to explore.
Heading toward Lithgow later in the afternoon we came across an amazing find a free camping area on lake Wallace about 9 km west of Lithgow. it has free hot showers, toilets, picnic areas and kids playground. Arriving new years eve, we set up van with lake view in a quieter end of the park. We enjoyed a quiet night with a couple of beers to relax.
The following morning we headed up to Hassans Walls Lookout it is the highest lookout in the Blue Mountains 1,100 metres above sea level. The view is amazing over blue mountains and beyond. The rest of the day we explored the local surrounding area and the history of Lithgow. Another place with so much to explore and put back on our list of places to return.
The drive home
Driving a long detoured trip home through Wombeyan caves, we were planning to spend the night at the camp ground there, but when arriving to the camp ground it was very crowded and when inquiring about cost found it a little over priced, so we decided to keep driving and find another spot. The drive from caves to Moss Vale was scary, nail biting, windy cliff hanging journey extremely dangerous but darn scenic. We decided to continue home instead of camping for the night.An amazing week out west we cant wait to head back and explore some more.