Camp near Captain Thunderbolt’s Hideouts in NSW

Thunderbolt's Hideout North of Tenterfield NSW
Thunderbolt's Hideout North of Tenterfield NSW

How many bushrangers have had a road named after them? Fred Ward – actually Frederick Wordsworth Ward – aka Captain Thunderbolt.

The son of convicts, he grew up at Maitland. the horse thief actually escaped Cockatoo Island. Six years on the run, with 77 crimes – he was known to avoid violence and attend horse races. 

However, he was involved in mail robberies, and held up stations, hotels, stores. Plus committed arson, abduction and 5 shootings. 

This “gentlemanly” bushranger ran riot over NSW’s New England Tablelands, and we checked out several of his rocky retreats…

Thunderbolt’s Hideout

We’ve driven past before on the Oracles Way, but space is a bit tight for caravans. This time we parked and followed the sign.

The track is quite easy, a little overgrown and there is a very small water crossing. But it was pretty cool. You can see where the bushranger stabled his horses, and where he and his gang camped. I could only imagine scrambling up to the top of those massive rocks to look for oncoming victims!

So close to the road, this was the best of his “retreats” we saw, for easy access.

Where to camp nearby

  • Basket Swamp Campground (FREE)
  • Tenterfield Showground or caravan parks

Thunderbolt’s Lookout

Thunderbolt Lookout walk Torrington State Conservation Area NSW
Thunderbolt Lookout walk Torrington State Conservation Area NSW

Just the BEST! Located in Torrington State Conservation Area – we loved the adrenalin filled walk inside (see the cave, stone steps and a ladder climb) and the views.

Where to camp nearby

  • Blatherarm Campground (booking fee, otherwise FREE)
  • Emmaville Caravan Park

Thunderbolt’s Cave

Thunderbolts Cave, near Black Mountain NSW

Not far from Armidale – and just south of Black Mountain you can see signs for Thunderbolts Cave Rd. It must have been a bushranger kind of trip, having lived in Armidale, we have passed this sign too many times. This month, we turned in.

Access is good from the northern entry and it takes you to a small rest area. The road may not be suitable for caravans or larger vehicles.

From here it is a steep walk down (take the road on the left, where you will see a sign). Cross the dirt road to a small track that takes you to the base of the rock. It was only a few hundred metres all up – but we took longer via the right hand track. 

You can walk into the cave. This was the smallest of Thunderbolt’s lairs we saw.

Heatley chose to drive out to the southern entrance at Devils Pinch. It was very steep, and definitely 4WD only, next to a mountain bike track called “Robbers Run Trail”. 

Where to camp nearby

Thunderbolt’s Rock

 Just 6km south of Uralla, you’ll see the sign. Don’t blink or you’ll miss this!

As well as keeping lookout for mail coaches to rob, this was where Thunderbolt was shot in the knee by a trooper.

Just west, you can see trees at Kentucky Creek – where the bushranger was shot and killed, May 25, 1870.

Where to camp nearby

  • Uralla Golf Club
  • Uralla Showground

Thunderbolt’s Way

From Gloucester to Walcha, then onto Inverell. From there you’ll travel to Bundarra and the iconic road trip finishes at Uralla – it is named one of Australia’s most scenic routes!

Where to camp nearby

All the way along – check out your CAMPS App, CAMPS guides and CARAVAN PARKS books

Pop into the New England Information centres for some great brochures on these retreats and bushranger history. 

McCrossins Mill Museum and Thunderbolt Gallery in Uralla is open 7 days – is on my list for another time. 

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