Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area

The new 28,322-hectare Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area is located in the Upper Blue Mountains near Lithgow, linking Wollemi, Blue Mountains and Gardens of Stone national parks, and is set to become a must-see eco-adventure tourism destination for the central west.

Panoramic view of the Gardens of Stone reserves

The park is comprised of three former state forests including Newnes State Forest, part of Ben Bullen State Forest and Wolgan State Forest, and provides an important link with Blue Mountains National Park, Gardens of Stone National Park and Wollemi National Park.

The establishment of the 28,322 hectare Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area was announced in November 2021, along with new additions to Gardens of Stone National Park (308 hectares) and Wollemi National Park (2,257 hectares).

These additions to the national parks estate have been a longstanding priority, protecting over 30,000 hectares of rich eucalypt forests, important cultural heritage and an array of threatened species and ecological communities.

As well as important conservation outcomes, the NSW Government is investing an unprecedented $49.5 million in visitor infrastructure to deliver an exciting new eco-adventure tourism destination for the park, representing one of the largest visitor infrastructure packages delivered for a new national park.

This is conservation in action – great experiences that go hand-in-hand with protecting the park’s natural and cultural values.

Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area is located on the junction of the Great Dividing Range and the Blue Mountains Range, a few kilometres north of Lithgow in the Central Tablelands region. The park forms an important link with Wollemi, Blue Mountains and Gardens of Stone national parks.

State conservation areas are lands reserved to protect and conserve significant or representative ecosystems, landforms, natural phenomena or places of cultural significance. They provide opportunities for sustainable visitation, public enjoyment, and research.

The main difference between the management, objectives and principles of national parks and state conservation areas is that mineral and petroleum exploration and mining may be permitted in state conservation areas.

Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area protects exceptional conservation values and has been a longstanding priority for addition to the national park estate. The park is characterised by striking geological features such as the scenically spectacular ‘pagoda country’. The reserves include:

  • the Newnes Plateau – the highest elevation sandstone plateau in the Blue Mountains, containing species such as the Wolgan snow gum (Eucalpytus gregsoniana), which is not found in the existing Blue Mountains reserves
  • internationally significant geoheritage characterised by spectacular sandstone pagodas, cliffs, steep gullies, slot canyons and grassy woodlands
  • at least 16 threatened ecological communities, including elevated swamps listed under both Federal and State legislation as well as box woodland and tableland grassy forest
  • over 80 rare and threatened species, including koalas, spotted-tailed quolls, regent honeyeaters, and Blue Mountains water skinks
  • exceptional cultural heritage with many recorded sites including artefacts, art engravings and pigmentations, carved and scarred trees, stone arrangements and grinding grooves.

The Gardens of Stone landscape presents an awe-inspiring natural setting for people to connect with nature and wonder at the majesty of the natural environment.

All visitor infrastructure improvements are subject to rigorous environmental planning approvals.

We will employ additional staff and invest in land management activities such as feral animal and weed control, threatened species conservation actions, restoration of swamps, hazard reduction and bushfire management to protect the natural and cultural values of the area.

Statement of Management Intent

A statement of management intent for Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area has been prepared to guide management until a plan of management can be prepared and adopted.

The statement of management intent highlights that NPWS will implement a series of actions prior to the development of a plan of management to provide safe and environmentally sustainable public access to the park.

View the statement of management intent.

Draft Plan of Management and Draft Master Plan

NPWS has developed the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area: draft Plan of Management and Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area: draft Master Plan to inform park management and visitor infrastructure improvements.

The draft plan of management is a legal document which outlines strategic, ongoing management objectives for the park.

The draft master plan sits within the framework provided by the draft plan of management and outlines a range of proposals for visitor management and infrastructure improvements.

Consultation on the draft plans is open until 5 July 2022.

View the draft Plan of Management and the draft Master Plan.

The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area Draft Master Plan provides a framework for the delivery of the $50 million eco-adventure tourism destination including the Lost City Adventure Experience, Wollemi Great Walk and associated visitor experience improvements in Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area.

The centrepiece will be a spectacular new Lost City Adventure Experience, which proposes to include one of Australia’s longest ziplines and the first “via ferrata” rock climbing opportunity in NSW and showcase the extraordinary natural and cultural values of the area.

The ‘Wollemi Great Walk’, a linking Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area to Wollemi National Park with eco-style accommodation, is also proposed . This multi-day walk will enable visitors to experience the ancient pagoda landscape in the parks dedicated to protecting our plants, wildlife, and cultural sites.

NPWS is proposing to establish new and upgraded facilities including lookouts, walking trails, camping areas, a significant network of mountain biking tracks, and all-weather 4WD touring circuits.

The final master plan and its delivery will be consistent with the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area Plan of Management (currently on exhibition for comment). Construction will be subject to rigorous environmental and heritage approvals before commencing. This includes consideration under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, the NSW Heritage Act 1977 and the Commonwealth Environmental Planning and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

View and comment on the draft master plan.

NPWS recognises that community input adds value to the work we do. We will continue to engage with stakeholders and interested community members in a meaningful and timely way.

Working with Wiradjuri Traditional Owners

The park is an important part of the Wiradjuri cultural landscape with ongoing cultural connections and many known sites, including rock art, grinding grooves, wells, occupation deposits in rock shelters and surface scatters, and the well-known rock art.

Positive and ongoing consultation with the Wiradjuri Traditional Owners aims to ensure the protection of Aboriginal cultural values, and that the proposals are in keeping with Aboriginal interests and aspirations.

Those interested in the project are invited to register their interest and receive regular updates on the project. -

This exciting new eco-adventure tourism destination is expected to attract up to 200,000 new visitors to the region per year and generate more than $30 million in economic output in the Lithgow region.

The new reserves will help the Lithgow region to recover from economic impacts of the 2019–20 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. In the long-term, the proposal will also help to diversify the Lithgow economy and increase its resilience.

For information on visiting the reserve,  go to the National Park and Wildlife Service Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area webpage.

Is collecting firewood permitted?

Collection of firewood for use outside of state conservation areas or national parks is not permitted. Forestry Corporation of NSW can provide more information on areas of State forest that are available for firewood collection.

Is hunting be permitted?

Hunting will not be permitted in the new reserves, consistent with all other land reserved in the national park estate. Hunting is currently excluded from Ben Bullen and Wolgan State Forests, and part of Newnes State Forest.

Hunting will continue to be permitted in several State forests within a 50 km radius of Lithgow (about 70,000 hectares across 11 forests). Please refer to the Department of Primary Industries' Hunting licences webpage.

Register your interest

To receive general park updates and project information, please register your interest.