Helensburgh Glowworm Tunnel

Useful Information

Location: 2 Vera St, Helensburgh NSW 2508.

(-34.1796072, 150.9929895)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaTunnel BiologyGlow Worm
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=624 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Helensburgh Glowworm Tunnel, 2 Vera St, Helensburgh NSW 2508. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1880s South Coast Line built.
01-JAN-1889 tunnel opened.
1915 tunnel closed.
1995 drained and partially cleared.


Glowworm Tunnel aka Helensburgh Glowworm Tunnel is one of numerous artificial tunnels in Australia which are inhabited by glowworms. As there are so many Glowworm Tunnels, its necessary to add the location to avoid mixing them up. This one is located in Helensburgh, 300 m south of Helensburgh Railroad Station. There is an incision with several tunnels, which is abandoned since 1915, there even was a railroad station, or probably a sort of train stop. The tunnel is officially called Metropolitan Tunnel, because actually it is located in the middle of the town, but nevertheless hard to find because it is hidden by lush forest. The best way to find it is to go to 2 Vera St, Helensburgh NSW 2508, and then search for a trail into the bush.

As far as we understand, this was actually the old route of the modern South Coast Line, which connects Sydney and Bomaderry. The Metropolitan tunnel connected the Metropolitan Colliery to Helensburgh station as a way to transport coal to the north. Soon other mines were opened to the south, and there was need for a train connection towards the south for coal and people. As this line ended in the middle of the colliery, it was abandoned and the new line was built around the colliery in a bow with a branch into the colliery which exists until today. The section between the train station and the colliery was abandoned in 1915, the tracks were removed. Then the southern entrance to the colliery was sealed, so it could become a reservoir, for the mining operation. After some time of disuse, the other portal was blocked by debris from the cliff above, and the glowworms had ideal conditions, dark, damp, and no disturbing trains or visitors. The entire tunnel was full of stagnant water. As a result, this became the largest colony of glowworms in New South Wales.

This changed after it was drained and partially cleared in April 1995 by Metropolitan Colliery. Helensburgh Landcare, a local non-profit association, was granted permission by the colliery to dig down to the original train track level. With a Centenary of Federation Grant, they transformed the site into a historic attraction in 2001. They even recreate a realistic tunnel, with ballast and original train track taken from the colliery side of the tunnel. As it is only 40 km from Sydney, it soon became a popular weekend destination. The restored original ‘Helensburgh Station’ sign, found in a gully close to the area, was vandalized twice. As a result, a fence and gate were installed in 2018. They closed the tunnel in 2020 due to excessive flooding and to assist the glowworm population to recover from the effects of tourism. However, after some time it was reopened.

The tunnel is also known for paranormal events. On 13 June 1895 Robert Hails, a miner, who died in a train tunnel after he was run over and split in two by a train whilst trying to pass through the tunnel on foot. And while it is unknown in which of the seven tunnels the accident occurred, local lore has it that one can hear the footsteps of Robert Hailes trying to outrun the trains in Metropolitan Tunnel.