Every week visitors tell Sharon Howard, curator of Lithgow’s Gang Gang Gallery that they came to Lithgow “because the mountains are just too busy”.
Plenty on offer in Lithgow
Nestled in a valley on the western edge of the Blue Mountains Lithgow is little over two hours from Sydney. With its strong industrial heritage, fascinating laneways, hiking tracks and birdwatching trails nearby, there’s something for everyone.
Walk down Main Street
The decorative facades of Main Street were built around the early 1900s. A mix of small-town shops including cafés, boutiques, a delightful antique store and a shop featuring pressed tin panels lines the street.
Artworks brighten laneways. Blue pipes twist and twirl along Whispering Lane. In Gallery Lane works by Anne Christie reflect the natural beauty of nearby Hassans Walls. Burns Lane, adjacent to the library, depicts books and insects sculpted by Tim Johnman while brick sized tiles decorate Secret Lane.
Colourful birdhouses adorn a wall near Pioneer Park. Crocheted works created by a group of women calling themselves “Out on a Limb” brighten fences and trees throughout the town.
Gang Gang Gallery
A larger than life Gang Gang Cockatoo adorns the side wall of a Gallery named after the cockatoo. Located in the heritage Old Refreshments Building of the adjacent Theatre Royal, the gallery focusses on contemporary Australian art and hosts popular monthly music recitals.
Across the road, garden enthusiasts will enjoy strolling through Queen Elizabeth Park’s avenue of roses and garden displays. At the opposite end of town relax in the manicured gardens of the Uniting Church in Bridge Street.
Industrial heritage forms the backbone of Lithgow. Walk along Inch Street to discover the 30 sculptures which constitute History Avenue. The sculptures depict local historic events from when Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813 to the demolition of the Blast Furnace began in 1929.
The Blast Furnace
The remains of Australia’s first modern blast furnace provide interesting lines and angles for photographers and visitors alike. Lake Pillans, a short walk from the furnace forms part of the wetlands which stored cooling water for the furnaces. A haven for birdwatchers.
State Mine Heritage Park
Working life in the early coal mines was tough. Just how tough can be seen at the volunteer run State Mine Heritage Park. Read the stories and explore the displays of miner’s equipment and machinery.
Small Arms Factory
Lithgow’s rail siding, coal supply and steelworks made it ideally positioned for a small arms factory. An American company, Pratt and Whitney, won the tender to supply the complete plant for precision arms manufacture.
Discover more at the Small Arms Factory Museum where rows of original machinery stand on wooden slats which cover the concrete factory floor to absorb sound and machine vibrations.
Surprisingly, the museum displays more than guns and the machinery that made them. Slazenger golf irons, Sunbeam Mixmasters and sewing machines were also manufactured here.
A private collection of over 1000 handguns includes an open wooden case holding two duelling pistols with their long barrels. An inscription on one handgun reads “Presented to A H Gilbertson by Members of All Saints Church Choir on the Occasion of his leaving for Australia February 1896”. Another decorated with armoured vehicles and map of Iraq is part of a “Gulf Victory Series”.
The Gun Emplacements
The Gun Emplacements, constructed during WWll, protected the Small Arms Factory and Lithgow’s mining, manufacturing and transport industries. Located in a small paddock, anti-aircraft guns point to the sky surrounded by thick brick and concrete walls.
Hassans Walls Lookout is the highest scenic lookout in the Blue Mountains. Minutes from Lithgow along an unsealed road, a wide boardwalk extends out to the edge of the ridgeline. Beyond the dramatic cliffs and pagoda rock formations, the view across the Hartley Valley reaches Blackheath and Mount Wilson.
Snakes frequent a second bush track running almost parallel to the boardwalk. A beautiful copperhead slithered off the track on our cautious approach. The sweeping view after stepping through a hole in a large rock makes the risk worthwhile.
Bracey Lookout offers views across the town of Lithgow to the Blast Furnace surrounding hills. Returning to Lithgow via Hartley Valley Road, colourful metal installations line the road as it passes through Doctors Gap. Representing various professions including miners, a policeman and a soldier, the sculptures warn drivers to slow down.
The silo trail is on many a bucket list. Portland’s Silos, known as The Foundations, are a short drive from Lithgow. Created by Guido van Helton the works depict six former Cement Workers. However, there’s more to Portland than silos. Murals decorate walls throughout the small town. Take a walk to discover colourful depictions of old advertisements including Arnott’s, Bushells, Sunlight Soap and Weetbix.
The Food Scene
Lithgow’s café scene is up there with the best. I can vouch for brunch at The Tin Shed (which also sells local cheese and sourdough bread) and at Hometown. Dinner options are a bit more limited.
The Bushman’s Motor Inn and the Zig Zag Motel have restaurants on site and Ambermere Inn (15-minute drive from Lithgow) serves dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. Apart from the Workies Club there’s little open on a Sunday night.
Sharon Howard says new eateries are being added all the time. And as the comments below indicate, more are now open on a Sunday than when I visited.
Lithgow provides a perfect and quieter alternative to the Blue Mountains. I hope you enjoy your stay.
- The Lithgow Visitor Centre at 1137 Great Western Highway, provides a map showing all places of interest
- Check museum opening times as these may be restricted to weekends.