An eerie, abandoned train station nestled in a riot of lush vegetation. With a waterfall and colony of glow worms, this location is heaven for explorers, photographers and nature-lovers alike. And only an hour south of Sydney!
Want to know a secret?
There’s an old, abandoned railway tunnel hidden amongst the suburbs of the South Coast. The eerie beauty of this lost structure is sure to amaze.
The Old Helensburgh Station was deserted over 100 years ago, left to become engulfed by nature. Its spectacular arch has become largely overgrown by vegetation and a colony of glow worms have taken residence in its dark tunnel.
Very few people are lucky enough to know the location of the abandoned Helensburgh Tunnels – we’ll bet you didn’t even know they existed. In fact, you could walk right past without even noticing.
We’ll tell you how to get there, but first let’s talk about the location!
The ‘Helensburgh Tunnels’ refers to a group of seven disused train tunnels littered among the rugged landscape between Waterfall and Otford. They were built in the 1880s as part of the original Illawarra Line, only to be abandoned less than 30 years later.
Today, Helensburgh has the sweet, small-town vibe that draws wanderlust junkies like a magnet. The Old Helensburgh Tunnels are a blessed addition to this urban cluster on the outskirts of Sydney, appealing to explorers, photographers and nature-lovers looking for a brief escape.
So if you’re in need a nature-fix, this is the spot for you. The most spectacular (and photogenic) tunnel of them all is the Metropolitan Tunnel, which emerges right at the heels of the Old Helensburgh Railway Station.
There are few remains of the old station, but the platform is relatively preserved and the Helensburgh Station sign has been restored.
Water dripping from the leafy vines. Plant life peering out of every crack in the rock walls. An elliptical shaped archway composed of handcrafted brickwork, overgrown by lush rainforest yearning to consume the tunnel’s entrance. A single train track disappearing into the darkness.
Journeying through the Old Helensburgh Tunnels feels like stepping into a long-forgotten world. Words cannot describe the sense of peace you’ll feel surrounded by walls of wild vegetation. And when it rains, the water that runs off the rocks from above the tunnel creates a breathtaking waterfall.
And guess what?
The Metropolitan Tunnel follows a length of 625 meters, descending as it goes. The other end of the tunnel has been blocked off by a concrete wall, so you won’t be able to see light on the other side.
Due to the falling grade, water has accumulated within the tunnel and eventually reaches the roof at the farthest end. It has created a ‘lake’ of sorts – but you won’t even notice if you don’t walk far into the tunnel.
It’s definitely worth venturing into the darkness. Inside the tunnel lives a large colony of glow worms. They’re very sensitive to noise and light, so if you’re willing to quietly walk through the tunnel with your torch dimmed and pointed at the ground, you’ll be surrounded by thousands of tiny, sparkling lights clinging to the tunnel.
The site is now part of the Royal National Park and Garrawarra State Conservation Area.
If it has been raining recently, you can expect wet and slippery surfaces along the whole track. Try to wear old shoes or gumboots, as you’ll be wandering between puddles and mud. Even without rain, a good portion of track is submerged in water, so you may have to do some balancing on nearby rocks.
1 - 2 minutes
slippery and muddy surfaces
It must be hard to get to, right?
This is a ridiculously easy location to get to. The Metropolitan Tunnel lies among the suburban households of Helensburgh, just outside of the Royal National Park. If you’re driving from Sydney on the Princes Highway, continue south past Heathcote and then follow onto Parkes Street.
The Old Helensburgh Railway Station doesn’t have an exact street address, but you’ll be sure to see the parking spaces on the side of the road near 5 Vera Street, Helensburgh.
Park in the clearing by the edge of the road and proceed along the dirt trail. Less than minutes’ walk along the footpath will reveal the original platform and train tracks leading to the tunnel.
And boom! You’re there.
What you’ll need: