Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area

Creating an eco-adventure tourism destination for the Central West.

Panoramic view of the Gardens of Stone reservesThe new 28,322-hectare Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area is located on the doorstep of Lithgow, linking the Wollemi, Blue Mountains and Gardens of Stone national parks in the Central West.

The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area was formally gazetted in May 2022 as part of a $49.5 million NSW Government investment to establish Lithgow as a world-class ecotourism destination, while conserving the exceptional natural and cultural heritage values of the region.

The investment marks one of the most significant visitor infrastructure packages in New South Wales, which will strengthen the Lithgow visitor economy while delivering important conservation outcomes for the park.

Comprised of 3 former state forests, including Newnes State Forest and parts of Ben Bullen and Wolgan state forests, the establishment of the state conservation area coincides with new additions to the 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. They will protect more than 30,000 hectares of rich eucalypt forests, important cultural heritage, and an array of threatened species and ecological communities.

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

The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area will feature iconic visitor experiences, including the Lost City Adventure Experience and a multi-day walk through unique ancient pagoda landscapes.

Proposed activities at Lost City include a zipline and via ferrata adventure opportunity, which will appeal to visitors of all ages and position the region as a premier adventure tourism destination.

The multi-day walk will showcase the area's extraordinary natural and cultural values and link the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area to Wollemi National Park and beyond with camping and eco-style accommodation.

The project includes diverse recreational opportunities, including new walking tracks and lookouts, world-class mountain biking trails, new camping areas and facilities, and an all-weather 4WD and motorcycle touring circuit.

This $49.5 million project is part of the NSW Government's largest investment in national parks history.

The project will be delivered in stages, with major works commencing in 2023.

The NSW Government is delivering its largest investment in national parks history with more than $450 million for over 200 visitor infrastructure projects across the State.

It builds on the $17.9 billion and 74,000 jobs national parks already contribute annually to the State's economy and is supporting NSW communities to recover in the wake of droughts, bushfires, floods and the pandemic.

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

The project will strengthen the Lithgow visitor economy with increased day trips and overnight stays, support diversification of the local economy and enhance social and community outcomes for the region. It will also support regional dispersal, delivering a range of benefits for the Central West region and beyond.

The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area protects exceptional conservation values and has been a longstanding priority for addition to the national parks estate. The area is characterised by striking geological features, including:

  • 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 geological heritage 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
  • more than 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 landscape presents an awe-inspiring natural setting for people to connect with nature and enjoy the natural environment.

All visitor infrastructure improvements are subject to rigorous environmental and heritage approvals under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, the NSW Heritage Act 1977 and the Commonwealth Environmental Planning and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

National Parks and Wildlife Service will also 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.

Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area plan of management

Following consultation on the draft plan of management in mid-2022, the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area plan of management has been adopted.

The plan provides a framework for conserving the park's natural and cultural values, ongoing collaboration with Aboriginal communities and delivering a range of visitor experiences.

Draft master plan

The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area draft master plan was also exhibited in mid-2022 with the draft plan of management.

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

The master plan is being finalised and is expected to be released in 2023. We will continue to update you as the project progresses.

We recognise 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.

You can register for project updates below.

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.

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 below and receive regular updates on the project.

The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area provides a gateway to Wollemi National Park and the iconic Glow Worm Tunnel, which attracts visitors from across New South Wales each year.

A number of upgrades are currently underway within the Glow Worm Tunnel visitor precinct to protect the glow worm population and enhance the visitor experience, including improvements to existing walking tracks and upgrades to the car park and amenities.

The development of a new car park and amenities is underway at Wolgan Valley to support further tourism development in the region, with construction set to be completed by late 2023.

More information on visiting the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area is available on the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area webpage.

Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area

Is collecting firewood permitted?

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

Is hunting permitted?

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

Hunting is permitted in several state forests within a 50-kilometre radius of Lithgow (about 70,000 hectares across 11 forests). For more information, visit the Department of Primary Industries Hunting licences webpage.

Hunting licences

Project Update - January 2023

Establishing an eco-adventure destination for the Central West.

  • 22 Dec 2022

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