Lithgow Visitor Centre

Move over Blue Mountains. Lithgow is Coming of Age

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.

Laneway in Lithgow Whisper Wall
Whispering Lane
Books decorate Burns Lane in Lithgow by Tim Johnman
Burns Lane

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.

Birdhouses decorate a wall near Pioneer Park in Lithgow
Colourful Wall

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.

Gallery in Lithgow
Gang Gang Gallery

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.  

History Avenue

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.

History Avenue, Inch Street Lithgow
Platypus on a tall pole
History Avenue or History Walk describes the Industrial heritage of Lithgow
And a Tea Pot

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.

Lithgow's Industrial Heritage. A haven for photographers.
The Blast Furnace
Lake Pillans is perfect for a stroll or for bird watching in Lithgow.
Lake Pillans

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.

State Mine Heritage Park
The Mine Head

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.

A collection of over 1000 handguns in the Small Arms Museum LIthgow
Over 1000 handguns on display
Equipment to manufacture arms displayed in the small arms museum in Lithgow
Manufacturing Equipment

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.

The Gun Emplacements Lithgow
Protecting the Small Arms Factory

Scenic Lookouts

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. 

The highest scenic lookout in the Blue Mountains
Hassans Walls Lookout
Looking across the Hartley Valley to Blackheath
A view to Blackheath

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.

Doctors Gap installations
Slow Down

Portland

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 Silo Trail Portland
The Foundations by Guido van Helton
Portland Wall Murals by the Wallnuts. An alternative to the Silo Trail
Art work by the “Wallnuts”

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.

Inside the Tin Shed
The Tin Shed

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.

Enjoyed discovering Lithgow? Then you’ll enjoy discovering some of the towns nearby like Mudgee, Sofala and Hill End.

Useful Information

  • 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.

Comments

  1. I would just like to add: Club Lithgow in the center of town is open on a Sunday night with both Chinese and Bistro food available under the one roof. With that said the Bistro is open every night with plenty on offer.

        1. Author

          Thanks, Kat. It seems that since I visited things have opened up more. I’ll update the post to reflect your comments

  2. Thank you Joanne. Never would have thought there was so much to see in Lithgow!!! Your articles are always SOoooo informative——- I love reading them.

        1. Author

          Thanks for that information, Rachel. An Art School sounds like a perfect addition.

  3. Lived and worked in Lithgow in early 1980’s – then it was a very transient smoke filled towns with coal mines in full swing. Time to revisit!

    1. Author

      How interesting, Loraine. Sounds as if it wasn’t very pleasant then. Now the air feels fresh. I enjoyed my little sojourn there.

    2. Great counter lunch meals at the Railway hotel…many good value $12 meals including steaks and salt and pepper squid…look for the heritage items and fabulous stained glass window…a real Australian pub with true Aussie characters …opposite the train station of course

  4. Fancy – a pair of duelling pistols to prepare a chap for Australia – and they were a gift from a church! Such a gem in a town I visited once for work in the 1970s and never thought to return. Thanks Jo.
    June

    1. Author

      Yes, June. That’s what got me – a gift from a church. I think it’s worth a return visit now.

  5. Arts and crafts and industry make for a very interesting post Jo.
    Now days Pratt & Whitney are in the business of manufacturing aerospace engines in military and civil aviation.

    1. Author

      Lithgow is a really interesting place, Bernadette. Thanks for the update re Pratt and Whitney.

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