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Cave Tours And Caving Experiences In Australia

 

Cave Tours And Caving Experiences In Australia

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I have a deep love for caves.  They hold a special place in my heart and form an important part of my young life.  My father was an active member of The Cave Exploration Group of SA  and I accompanied him on caving expeditions from a young age, discovering a shared fascination with their delicately beautiful formations and the cool stillness in their depths, broken only by an occasional drip as new stalagmites and stalactites were formed by the calcite left behind.

Caves are indeed special places, like no other.  Amazing jewelled fantasy worlds and cathedrals, hidden underground, that give a view into a unique environment of geological wonder to those who visit them.

Often also containing various creatures, bones and fossils of long gone species and even sometimes ancient art, caves are fascinating to explore and well worth a visit.

Many caves are protected, and some are on private land or only accessible to official cave exploration groups.  There are also certain dangers, such as becoming lost or falling, so visiting caves is really something to do as part of an official expedition, or on a guided tour through many of the public access caves throughout Australia.  Naturally, care should be taken not to damage anything (including yourself!) and to take note of what your guide tells you regarding safety and cave protection.


Below are some of the caves that you might like to visit, in your travels, both guided and self-guided.  Most of the caves have an entry fee.


SOUTH AUSTRALIA


Naracoorte Caves  
10km south of Naracoorte.  Located on Hynam-Caves Road.

 

This is where I had all my early cave adventures.  It's an amazing area with lots of impressive limestone caves, several of which are set up for tours.  Also available is adventure caving with an experienced guide.  Camping and picnic facilities are available, along with the Wirreanda Bunkhouse.


The caves include:

Alexandra Cave - Stunningly beautiful, an easy 30 minute tour, suitable for most people.

Victoria Fossil Cave - A great experience for those interested in fossils and ancient life, as well as some lovely cave formations.  Relatively easy, 1 hour tour, approx half of which is spent in the Fossil Chamber.

Blanche Cave and Bat Observation Centre - A great way to observe the Southern Bent Wing Bats which inhabit the area.  The tour is about an hour, and the Observation Centre itself is wheelchair accessible.

Wet Cave - This self guided  cave has sensor activated lighting, and can be accessed from 9-5 daily.


Specialty 90 minute tours which take a deeper look are also available by advanced booking (min 6).  

These include World Heritage Tour, Footprints in the Past and Cathedral Cave.


For the more adventurous, there are adventure caving expeditions to several caves- Stick/Tomato Cave, Blackberry Cave, Starburst Chamber and Fox Cave - however age restrictions do apply, and a reasonable level of fitness is advised.

Naracoorte Adventure Caving 

The Wonambi Fossil Centre (fee) gives us a look into the past, with a walk through diorama, life sized models and lots more.

Tantanoola Caves  
29km north east of Mount Gambier.  Access is via the Princes Highway.

 

Another impressive cave, which has the added advantage of being wheelchair accessible.  A guide will talk about the cave and how it formed, and then you are free to wander throughout the cave at your leisure.  Picnic facilities are available, along with a clifftop walk.

Tatanoola Caves Conservation Park

Caves around Mt Gambier include:   Umpherstons Sinkhole/Cave

Formed by the collapse of a cave chamber, this is now a delightful area for a picnic or evening visit.

It consists of terraced gardens grown on the fertile soil, picnic grounds, BBQ and toilets.  There are information displays as well as an old logging truck and bulldozer.  At night the area is floodlit and friendly possums come out at dusk.


Cave Gardens

Another collapsed chamber, this used to be used as the town water supply, but today is a lovely picnic spot surrounded by rose gardens.


Englebrecht Cave

A 45 minute tour is available, showing 2 large chambers and an underground lake, from which water filters through the limestone into the Blue Lake.  A short video on cave diving finishes off the tour.

The remainder of the cave system is only accessible to trained cave divers.

Piccaninnie Ponds  
32km south east of Mount Gambier.  Access is via Piccaninnie Ponds Road.

 

Popular cave diving and snorkelling area.  Permits and conditions do apply, so please make sure you follow all procedures.  Cave diving can be dangerous!

If you are interested in cave diving, why not get in touch with the Cave Divers Association of Australia, and do it properly.

www.cavedivers.com.au/

Great walks, including a boardwalk, beaches and a fresh water beach spring are also within this Conservation Park.

Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park

Kelly Hill Caves on Kangaroo Island  
90km south west of Kingscote. Access via South Coast Road.

 

You can go on a 45 minute guided Show Cave tour, or an adventure caving expedition.  These caves are unusual for limestone caves, because they were formed by collapse, instead of water.

Above ground, enjoy the Visitor Centre, BBQ's, picnic area, and walks.

Kelly Hill Caves of Kangaroos Island

Murrawijinie Caves
 
Nullarbor Plains, 10km north of Nullarbor Roadhouse

These are the only easily accessible caves on the Nullarbor... although "easy" might not be the appropriate word, as the track is quite rough.

While these are not fully enclosed caves, in the traditional sense, they have examples of ancient Aboriginal handprint artwork.  They also have hawks and swallows nesting in their cool reaches... and sometimes snakes, so beware!

Nearby you can also find the Bunabie Blowhole, where the ocean currents blow water up through the karst system.

Yourambulla Caves  
11km south of Hawker in the Flinders Ranges

These open caves contain fascinating well preserved Adnyamathanha art, done in charcoal and animal fat, with some ochre.  There are 3 caves within the site, accessed by a walking track up the hill and steep steps.  To see all of them, allow about 90 minutes.




Riba's Underground Camping & Caravan Park   William Creek Road, Coober Pedy

Not exactly caving... but an underground adventure of a different kind.  You can camp underground near Coober Pedy.  Tent camping or basic underground rooms are available, along with an above campground too.

You can even take part in the evening opal mine tour.

www.camp-underground.com.au/


QUEENSLAND

   

Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park

Chillagoe Caves
Photo:  Berkeley Robinson
 
215km west of Cairns

This area has both ranger guided and self guided cave tours.


Ranger guided tours

Royal Arch Cave - One of the largest cave systems in the area, this tours highlights include bats, shafts of daylight and marine fossils, along with limestone formations... all seen by hand held lamps!

Donna Cave - this cave has a formation in the shape of a Madonna... and 200 steps!

Trezzkin Cave -  A beautiful chandelier formation... and several sets of steps.


Self guided tours

The Archways -  A semi open cave- though torches are still needed in places- with butterflies and skinks making their homes there.

Pompeii CaveBats and rock wallabies may be seen here, along with some attractive formations.  Torches required.  The track to the cave goes down many steps.

Bauhinia Cave -  A steep scramble is involved down a narrow, dark crevice.  Keep a look out for cave coral.  Torches required.


www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/chillagoe-caves/about.html

Natural Bridge Cave in Springbook National Park  
100km south of Brisbane

Large glow worm population, which can be seen after dark.  In warm months may also see luminescent fungi and fireflies.  This cave has a waterfall falling down into it, and is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area.

There are small campgrounds with no facilities.

www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/springbrook/culture.html#glowworms

Undara Lava Tubes  
About 4 hours from Cairns

Spectacular lava tubes, extending extensive distances.  One is 160km long, which makes it one of the longest in the world in modern geological time.  The tubes also contain a population of around 250,000 micro bats!!

There's lots of tours, activities and events.  Accommodation options include railway carriages, pioneer huts, swag tents, stockmans quarters and a caravan park.  There is a bistro, saloon car bar and a bushmans breakfast in the ringer's camp.

http://undara.com.au/lava-tubes/

 Capricorn Caves  
 23 km north of Rockhampton

Here you can go on conventional guided tours- complete with a candlelight experience or be daring and go adventure caving.  There's even family adventure caving so the younger ones can try it out too.  You might even meet a Bent Wing Bat!

There's a climbing wall, high ropes course and abseiling.  Special events are held, such as the Summer Solstice Light Spectacle and Underground Opera Company performances, or you can hold your own conference or wedding there.

Visitor Reception is open 8:30am to 6pm.  There's a gift shop, alfresco dining, licensed Bat Bar, swimming pool, BBQ's, bush walks and cabins and camping.


 www.capricorncaves.com.au

Mount Etna Caves  
26km north of Rockhampton

Here you can go on a night bat tour, and watch thousands of little bent wing bats pour out of Bat Cleft.

The track is steep and has many steps, so a reasonable level of fitness is required.

www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/mount-etna-caves/about.html


NEW SOUTH WALES

   

Yarrangobilly Caves  
 Kosciuszko National Park

Some of the most beautiful caves in Australia, offering both self guided and guided tours.  You can also relax in the nearby thermal pool, with change-rooms and toilets, which is a constant 27 deg all year round.  Plenty of beautiful walks, picnic grounds and chances to enjoy nature.

The caves on show are:

South Glory Cave - A self guided experience on a massive scale!

Jersey Cave - Cleopatra's Needle, a 4m stalagmite that nearly reaches the ceiling of the cave is a highlight here, along with a rare example of grey and black flowstones.

Jillabenan Cave - Probably the oldest cave of the system, this cave has some beautiful formations such as helictites, straws, shawls and corals.


Yarrangobilly Caves

Wellington Caves  
8km south of Wellington

There are two main caves:

Cathedral Cave which contains the Southern Hemisphere's (and arguably the world's) largest known stalagmite at 15 metres in height and 32 metres in circumference at its base.

Garden Cave which contains delicate limestone coral.

These caves are one of the world's most significant fossil sites in the world and contain the biggest deposit of Plio-Pleistocene fossils in Australia.

www.wellington.nsw.gov.au/eservice/info/tourism/caves.htm

Carey's Cave  
Near Wee Jasper

About 30 steps down takes you to a mostly flat easy cave walk, suitable for most people.  The tour is about 75 minutes and takes you through 7 beautiful chambers of stunning formations.  There are also special educational activities such as underground workshops.  You may also be lucky enough to be in the area for one of the underground concerts or other musical experiences in the cave.

www.weejaspercaves.com/index.html

Jenolan Caves

Jenolan Caves
 
Blue Mountains


This is an area which offers tours of many spectacular and varied caves.

    Lucas Cave
    Imperial Cave
    Chifley Cave
    Orient Cave
    Temple of Baal Cave
    Imperial Diamond Cave
    River Cave
    Pool of Cerberus Cave
    Ribbon Cave
    Jubilee Cave

Also, multi-lingual self guided tours of Nettle Cave and Devil's Coach House Cave are available as well as adventure caving experiences.

There is a special 'Legends, Mysteries & Ghosts' night tour, in which the guide will tell of mysteries in the area, as you journey through one of the caves.  Concerts and events are also held in the caves.

You can also hold your wedding in a cave... or your own event within the area.

Dining, picnics, walking, wildlife and much more is to be found in the surrounding area!



 www.jenolancaves.org.au

Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve  
180km south of Sydney

Stated to be the premier caves experience in NSW, there are both self guided and guided caves.

There is also camping, picnic and BBQ facilities, walks, swimming and a kiosk, amongst beautiful scenery.


The caves you can visit are:

Figtree Cave - Easily accessible for most people, this is a token operated self guided cave experience.  

Interpretation and lighting are controlled electronically.

Junction Cave - Refurbished, for its centenary of discovery, in 1997 this cave has rich colours and spectacular formations.  It has 350 steps, so a reasonable level of fitness is advisable.

Kooringa Cave - Although only a single chamber, this cave is stunning and the most heavily decorated in the area.  Iron rich draperies accentuate the white columns to great effect.  Only 200 steps here.

Wollondilly Cave - Formed by free flowing streams, this cave has five main chambers over several levels, and the most variety of any of the show caves.   It is the longest one of the caves and has 400 steps!

Mulwaree Cave - With striking colours and wax like decoration, this cave is actually an upper part of Wollondilly Cave.  226 steps.

Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve

Tara Cave  
Warrumbungle National Park

This is a sandstone cave shelter used by indigenous Gamilaroi people for their art, and is of great cultural significance.  Tours are given by local Aboriginal Discovery Rangers.

www.environment.nsw.gov.au


VICTORIA

   

Princess Margaret Rose Cave  
Located in the Lower Glenelg River National Park, near Nelson

This beautiful cave is called "the jewel in the crown" of the Park.  You can view it on a 40 minute guided tour.

There's camping and cabins, and lots of walks and wildlife.

Princess Margaret Rose Caves

Buchan Caves  
Situated near Buchan township

There are many caves located in this area and two caves are available for guided tours, Royal Cave and Fairy Cave.  Special tours, using helmet and light, are available in school holidays by prior booking.

There's lots to do in the area too, such as swimming, walking, tours and accommodation is available for camping, cabins and in special Wilderness Retreats.

parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/buchan-caves-reserve


WESTERN AUSTRALIA

   

Crystal Cave  
Yanchep National Park - Approx 1 hour north of Perth

One of hundreds of caves within the Park, with underground lakes and beautiful formations.  Tours run several times a day.

Crystal Caves

Cape - Leeuwin-Naturaliste NP  
15km south of Margaret River

Various caves are available to explore within this National Park, two of which are operated by the Dept. Environment and Conservation:


Calgardup Cave

Self guided tour via steps and a boardwalk to protect the cave from further degradation.  This cave has a lake, with tea coloured water due to the tannins picked up from vegetation, and roots of redgums hanging down into the chamber and the water in places.  Allow about 45 minutes to view the cave, but feel free to meander for longer.

www.dec.wa.gov.au/content/view/2849/1440/1/1/

Giants Cave


Once again a self guided cave, this is cave is a more adventurous experience, using torches (no electric lighting within the cave) and traversing ladders and other hurdles.  Nocturnal animals, calcified tree roots, colourful mineral deposits and fascinating formations line your way.

www.dec.wa.gov.au/content/view/2849/1440/1/2/

The remaining tourist caves are operated by tourism associations-

The Cape Naturaliste Tourism Association for the Ngilgi Cave and the Augusta-Margaret River Tourist Association for Mammoth, Lake, Jewel and Moondyne caves and the Caveworks Visitor Centre.


TASMANIA

   

Gunns Plains Cave State Reserve  
23kms SW of Ulverstone

This cave was formed by an underground river, which still flows today and wildlife such as platypus, freshwater crayfish, fish and eels can be found within it.  The cave contains one of the largest shawl formations in Southern Hemisphere and a colony of glow worms.

45 minute guided tours take you down 54 steps, down a ladder and through beautiful formations.  

Reasonable fitness is required.

There are also toilets and picnic/ BBQ facilities.

www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?id=5854

Hastings Caves & Thermal Springs  
situated 125km south of Hobart

Newdegate Cave is open to the public, with a 45 minute guided tour.  This cave is the largest tourist cave in Australia which has formed in dolomite, not limestone.

An added attraction in the location are the thermal springs nearby.  A small fee is charged for all day use of the thermal swimming pools and its change rooms and hot showers.  It also has a lovely picnic area with free electric BBQ's, picnic tables and shelters.  You can explore further on a 10 minute sensory trail forest walk and the 30 minute hot springs forest walk.

www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=4221

Mole Creek Karst National Park  
40 min west of Deloraine

This area has a large number of caves and sink holes- around 300- of which 2 are open to the public.  

Toilets and picnic and BBQ areas are available.  Adventure caving is also available.


Marapooka Cave

This cave boasts the largest glow worm population of any cave open to the public in Australia.  It also contains underground streams and beautiful rim pools.  There are two different tours available in this cave.


King Solomons Cave

The tour of this cave is about 45 minutes and takes visitors through some magnificent limestome formations.

www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=3538


If you are interested in exploring caves as more than a tourist, why not join one of the very active Cave Exploration Groups in Australia.  

An extensive list can be found here  http://www.caves.org.au/c_clubs.htm
 
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