It’s the kind of place you’ve probably driven past many times before.
Lithgow is tucked away on the Great Western Highway, on the back of the Blue Mountains, between Sydney and the wine hotspots of Orange and Mudgee.
If you’re just passing by, you’ll see the intersection with the McDonald’s, Red Rooster, Hungry Jacks, and KFC, and probably keep going.
But if you turn right and venture into town, you’re in for a few surprises.
It’s absolutely nothing like its cousins in the Blue Mountains, such as the tourist favourites of Leura, Katoomba, or Blackheath. However, we’re saying it here first: this little-known town is about to experience a tourism boom.
Lithgow has a dramatically beautiful setting, with tall hills on every side and rolling green pastures beyond.
However, the town itself is unabashedly industrial, with rows upon rows of uniform houses and yards that vary only slightly as you drive through the different neighbourhoods built during different eras.
To this day, it’s home to the Mount Piper Power Station, still fuelled by locally mined coal.
It made a name for itself as the home of Australia’s first blast furnace.
Iron smelting began in the area in 1875, but fierce competition from cheaper overseas suppliers resulted in the furnace being built in 1906-1907 to produce local iron at a more affordable price.
The history is fascinating.
These days, the impressive ruins of the blast furnace are protected in a park with a self-guided tour that will fill you in on all the good bits.
History buffs will also love visiting the museum on the site of the town’s abandoned small arms factory, which produced weapons used in WWI.
It showcases the best of Australian manufacturing and boasts a comprehensive collection of modern firearms.
But I promise that’s not all this town has to offer.
The exciting LithGlow festival is set to return in May 2022 and promises to transform the park with a spectacular light show, entertainment, and enough gourmet food trucks to send you into a happy food coma.
Or if you’re looking for something quirkier, don’t miss the steampunk-themed Ironfest in April.
It describes itself as a “cool arts festival with a metal edge”, featuring art exhibitions, live performances, medieval jousting, circus shows, blacksmith demonstrations, and much, much more.
Everywhere you turn, however, the landscapes have to be seen to be believed.
Lithgow is situated in a stunning region sometimes referred to as the “Seven Valleys”.
It’s close to the stunning Jenolan Caves, which everyone should visit at least once, with incredible views around every corner.
Hassans Walls is a must, with a vista about 1100 metres above sea level that looks out to over the stunning Hartley Valley.
Opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and canyoning are endless.
It’s also on the doorstep of the luxe Emirates One Only Wolgan Valley, which is one of the most bougie experiences in NSW.
It provides a unique way to immerse yourself in the natural splendour.
It’s an interesting place to drive around.
The main street is quite spectacular – long and thin, with hundreds of historic facades lined up side-by-side the entire way. The effect is quite charming.
Just behind it is the train station, where trains run back and forth to Sydney’s Central station hourly (the journey takes just under three hours each way).
There is peeling paint and a few dilapidated structures that create the impression of a boom/bust town.
However, there are plenty of equally vibrant sparks.
The Lithgow Tin Shed is one of them, with a beautiful space and delicious meals made with ingredients sourced from local growers in Central West NSW.
If the aroma of freshly ground coffee doesn’t ensnare you, then the friendly visitors may – its Instagram account is dedicated to the dogs that visit daily.
The Blue Fox is another – a neighbourhood bar with fun cocktails, incredible pub fare, and live music.
So next time you’re driving past, pull in for a visit. You never know what you might find.
This article originally appeared on Escape and has been republished here with permission.