Thunderbolt’s Cave is named after Captain Thunderbolt, a bushranger in the 1800s who used the cave as a hideout in 1867 and 1868. He conducted robberies in the New England area through to Tamworth. Frederick Wordsworth Ward (1835-1870) was renowned for escaping from Cockatoo Island in 1863 and had a reputation of a “gentleman bushranger”.
The name Thunderbolt came from an article in the Maitland Mercury after the Rutherford Toll-bar robbery. The toll-bar keeper told the Police the door burst open like the sound of a thunderbolt and the name stuck.
History of Fred Ward can be found throughout the New England North West. Uralla is less than 50km south of the cave where Thunderbolt’s Grave can be found. Thunderbolt Hideout is another of Fred Ward’s hideouts closer to Tenterfield towards the north.
The parking area has a bin and a table with bench chairs. From here it is a 200m walking track to the cave. It is marked out with stones painted white every now and then. The walk is easy enough but is down hill most of the way (meaning it is up hill to return).
There is a 4wd track off to the right from the walking track that gets you closer to the cave. It is an easy track to drive, and suitable for soft roaders. There isn’t much room for parking where the walking track crosses over it, but there should be enough room for a couple of vehicles.
The walking track leads to the entrance of the cave. The cave is not very tall. It is tall enough to sit upright in, but to move around you will be crawling. There were a lot of mossies buzzing inside the cave when I was there, so I didn’t enter the cave. You can see much of it from the entrance.
To Get There
Off the New England Highway near the top of Black Mountain, between Armidale and Guyra, Thunderbolts Cave is about 2kms drive on a dirt road. The later part of the road narrows to a track, but is kept in good condition and suitable for 2wd cars to drive on. I believe you can also enter from the bottom end, but I didn’t drive on this part, and may not be suitable for cars.