When you see little blue specks of light twinkling above your head, you probably think of stars or the Milky Way. However, it can’t possibly be the night sky if you’re in a pitch-black underground tunnel.
No, instead, these blue pinpoints of light pulsating all around you are bioluminescent larvae, more commonly known as glow worms. A chemical reaction between the larvae and oxygen creates this light at the end of their tails. Over thousands of years of natural selection, those with the strongest lights survived by being able to attract their prey.
History Of The Glow Worm Tunnel
A three-hour drive from Sydney, Glow Worm Tunnel is an undeniably unique Australian attraction. Nestled in leafy Wollemi National Park, the 1,300-foot-long tunnel was part of an old railway that dates back to the early 1900s, when shale mining was a large part of the local economy. The railway ended at the nearby -- now-abandoned -- town of Newnes. When the town and railway were abandoned in the 1940s, darkness took over the tunnel, and so did the glow worms.
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
Although the glow worms live in the tunnel year-round, the best viewing season is either spring or fall, when it’s the perfect mixture of warm and wet. Remember that in Australia the seasons are reversed, so the best months to visit are either September to November (spring) or March to May (fall).
Additionally, the park and tunnel can get quite busy during the summer, school holidays, and weekends. It’s best to visit during the weekdays when there is less foot traffic and more parking spaces are available.
How To Visit The Glow Worm Tunnel
Due to the remote nature of this area, most of the roads in the national park are unpaved. The best way to access the area is to drive through Lithgow and Newnes Plateau, especially if you’ve rented a vehicle with 2WD. Once you turn onto Glow Worm Tunnel Road, follow the road until it comes to a dead-end at the parking lot. If heavy rain recently occurred, it’s recommended that you arrive in a 4WD vehicle instead.
Once you’ve parked, the tunnel is a little over half a mile down Glow Worm Tunnel walking track. Make sure to bring a flashlight, as there is no artificial lighting within the Glow Worm Tunnel. Be careful not to shine the flashlight directly at the glow worms as the light can harm their natural bioluminescent response and dim the glow.
Other Places To See Glow Worms
Glow worms are found throughout Australia and New Zealand. One of the most popular glow worm caves is in Waitomo, New Zealand. Although the glow worms in New Zealand shine the same as Australian glow worms, they are actually not the same insect species.
Other Australian locations where you can visit these incredible insects include Glow Worm Glen at Morton National Park in New South Wales, Tambourine Mountain and Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park in Queensland, and Melba Gully along Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
Fascinated by bioluminescent phenomena? This beach in the Maldives actually glows in the dark thanks to mesmerizing microorganisms in the water. For a bioluminescent experience closer to home, explore Florida’s glowing waters in a see-through kayak.