Last weekend marked my annual birthday adventure. Another year older, yet clearly no wiser about splashing out on extravagant glamping experiences.
Where we stayed: Bubbletent, Capertee Canyon
What we did:
After fantastic glamping birthday weekends away the last 2 years at both Paperbark and JR’s Eco Hut I thought why break with tradition and booked a stay at somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit since I first saw it over a year ago… Bubbletent Australia is a collection of 3 transparent orbs set on a farming hillside, overlooking Capertee Canyon, 3 hours from Sydney.
According to the sign at a nearby lookout, Capertee is “purportedly the second largest canyon in the world“. Rivalling the Grand Canyon not in depth but in width.
Bubbletent has a 2 night minimum stay, although they do occasionally make exceptions if they have a spare night available. I booked back in around June for our December stay. The disadvantage of booking in winter, is that I was not in the mindset that it might be hot – or bloody boiling to be more exact – by the time it came to December.
I cannot complain because we were treated to spectacular weather all weekend, with amazing clear skies which were exactly what you’d wish for in order to see the stars in all their glory at night. However….. the nature of the bubble is that it effectively acts like a giant magnifying glass, and we were the little ants in the 8 year old child’s science experiment. Both days we had to evacuate by around 7am due to fear of spontaneously combusting, but with a gorgeous deck, day-bed, hammock and even a bath outside, and plenty to explore in the local area, this really wasn’t an issue.
After brekkie and a bath we set off on the day’s adventures. Ben had told me not to over plan activities for the weekend so that he could organise some things, so I left him to it. True to his word he’d created an online map with pins for all the nearby walks and activities. We had a brief look at map when at the tent and decided on the Glowworm Tunnel Walk up the old train line out of Newnes. We got about 5 minutes drive down the road and he asked me to check the directions to start of the walk but neither of us had any signal. I decided to try to restart my phone as sometimes that triggers it, but alas it had a tantrum (probably too hot!) and began an endless restart cycle. Shortly after I almost followed suit and had a tantrum too (“perhaps we should have checked directions BEFORE leaving“…) but I maintained some semblance of composure and we eventually found the Wolgan Valley Way.
The walk starts by the Wolgan River and the Old Coach Road quickly winds a steep path up the hillside. It then branches into a loop and we took the Glowworm Tunnel Track up the hill. Usually I find that National Parks signs give a time for a walk, not a distance, and usually they benchmark it for the slower end of the walking crowd. Perhaps it was just because I was 3 weeks post a bike crash and at my lowest fitness ebb, or because temperatures were in the low 30-degrees, but I found it genuinely challenging.
Map here for anyone who is interested in giving the worms a go!
After the initial steep climb, we were on the old railway line, which took a more steady gradient up the hill. It took about an hour to reach the start of the tunnel. There is a shorter walk from the Lithgow side of the tunnel, but that would have meant a much longer drive from where we were staying.
It was awesome. The tunnel was longer than I’d expected, perhaps 500m, and it curves through the hillside, meaning there are parts where it’s entirely dark. Lucky one of our phones was still working as you definitely needed a torch in there – the ground is uneven and the stream runs through the tunnel. The dark middle sections were the best for seeing the thousands of beautiful little glow worms. Well, the worms themselves were actually not that fetching when you saw them in full, but their glowing little rear-ends were very captivating!
Rather than doubling back on ourselves we decided to do the full loop and continued along the Pagoda Track and back onto the Old Coach Road. We saw some slightly bigger wildlife on the descent!
The walk took about 2.5 hours in total, plus a much needed picnic break. Once back at the car we drove the 10km into Newnes, a bustling shale mining complex about 100 years ago but now a tiny settlement consisting of a hotel and campground. We actually had the Commonwealth Oil Corporation who ran the mine to thank for our earlier walk since they built the train line that is now the Glowworm tunnel.
At the Newnes Hotel we were told that it was a 1.5km walk to the ruins of the old mining settlement. Neither of us were thrilled by the prospect of more walking at this stage, but since we were in the area we decided to make the stroll. After a long 1.5km, we arrived not at the ruins, but at a sign which said “Welcome to Newnes Ruins walking track, estimated walk time = 2 hours” cue 2nd tantrum of the day….
By this stage, all I wanted was to get back to a cheeseboard and glass of bubbles, but we’d come so far we struggled on another 1km to the first of the ruins, had a quick look around and then power-walked back to the car. I would like to go back and see the full ruins properly another time.
There are more mining ruins in the nearby town of Glen Davis, and there is a 1-2 day 20km walk between the two sites… but we were definitely not in a state to tackle that! You can also drive to Glen Davis and do a tour of the abandoned factory there (only open on Saturdays).
After a big day out it was all the more rewarding to return to our bubble, have a rainwater shower and a BBQ dinner by the fire before sitting back with a drink to watch the sunset and see the night sky coming to life
As soon as the sun went down the temperature dropped. The Bubbles were equipped with electric blankets should you need them. We used them on the first night but I think this led to a little condensation. The second night we were warm enough and were treated to absolutely spectacular stars. The bubble had an iPad in with a stargazing app that you pointed at the sky and it told you all about what you were seeing, it was fantastic.
We were sad to be leaving the Bubble after 2 nights. Our stay flew by (probably because we spent half of it walking!) and I could easily have had another totally chilled day around the site had it been slightly cooler. I think the perfect time to visit would be Spring or Autumn.
We had driven out through Bilpin (Apple Country) so took the other route back to Sydney through the Blue Mountains. Despite visiting multiple times I’d never actually been to the iconic Three Sisters lookout, so we made a quick pit stop there, before getting overwhelmed by the number of tourists. The constant stream of tour buses dropping crowds at the lookout was somewhat overwhelming having spent the weekend with just each other and glowworms for company!
Better start planning for the next glamping adventures, any suggestions let me know!!