Australia's most spectacular caves

The beauty you can find in Australia runs more than skin-deep. Our underworld is also pretty awesome. Australia's most spectacular caves
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Australia's most spectacular caves

The beauty you can find in Australia runs more than skin-deep. Our underworld is also pretty awesome. 


By Katrina Lobley

Plunge into an otherworldly wonderland by exploring Australia’s most extraordinary caves. Take a night tour to see resident bats, marvel at glittering crystals and columns, admire dramatically lit reflective pools – or spend the night in a man-made cave. 

Australia's underworld

JENOLAN CAVES, NEW SOUTH WALES 

Australia’s most famous cave system, Jenolan Caves, lies beyond the Blue Mountains, 175 kilometres (108 miles) west of Sydney. There’s a mind-boggling range of tours that showcase the caves’ limestone formations and underground rivers. Head into the labyrinth and discover show caves such as the Imperial Diamond Cave that sparkles with pink and apricot tinted crystals and the Lucas Cave, home to the much-photographed Broken Column. Download an app before arrival (there’s no Wi-Fi at the caves) to follow an Aboriginal culture self-guided tour. On Fridays and Saturdays, night tours of the caves are available.

NARACOORTE CAVES, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Thanks to the discovery of important fossils, South Australia’s Naracoorte Caves National Park achieved World Heritage status in 1994. The caves, a 3.5 hour drive southeast of Adelaide, acted as pitfall traps for animals for half a million years. The collected bones cover several ice ages; palaeontologists have reconstructed the skeletons of many megafauna that roamed the area long ago. While some caves are off-limits to the public, four of the park’s 28 caves are open for tours. Activities include a night bat tour that allows visitors to see the exodus of southern bent-winged bats as they leave the caves for their nightly forage.

JEWEL CAVE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Jewel Cave, in the Margaret River region south of Perth, is Western Australia’s biggest show cave. The highlight within the three massive chambers is the straw stalactite – one of the longest in any of the world’s tourist caves. Look out, too, for a large stalagmite known as the Karri Forest. Fossilised remains of Tasmanian tigers – a marsupial that once roamed mainland Australia and became extinct in Tasmania in 1936 – have also been discovered in Jewel Cave.

CHILLAGOE-MUNGANA CAVES, QUEENSLAND 

Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park, a three hour drive west of Cairns in Far North Queensland, isn’t all about its awe-inspiring limestone caves decorated with calcite stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones (although some formations, such as the Chandelier, are truly impressive). The fossilised bones of the extinct giant kangaroo have been found in the caverns and the park is also home to galleries of Aboriginal rock art.

CUTTA CUTTA CAVES, NORTHERN TERRITORY

Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, near Katherine in the Northern Territory, is a rare example of an accessible tropical limestone cave. The cave system is home to several kinds of bats, including ghost and leaf-nosed bats, as well as the odd brown tree snake and spotted python – whose favourite food is bats. Peer beyond the resident wildlife to admire the caves and their sparkling limestone features.

TUNNEL CREEK, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Tunnel Creek, in the central Kimberley region, is part of Western Australia’s oldest cave system. The 750 metre long (0.5 mile) tunnel leads to the other side of the Napier Range. Visitors armed with a torch can slosh through the tunnel’s permanent pools to emerge into daylight on the other side. Note, though, that freshwater crocodiles, which are usually harmless to humans, inhabit the tunnel.

MOLE CREEK CAVES, TASMANIA

Mole Creek Caves, 75 kilometres (46 miles) from Launceston in northern Tasmania, is famous for glow worms. Take one of the tours of Marakoopa Cave (one is easy, the other requires a medium level of fitness) to see the glow worms, along with impressive cave decorations including glittering crystals and reflection pools.

BYADUK CAVES, VICTORIA

Byaduk Caves, 310 kilometres (190 miles) west of Melbourne, are Victoria’s most accessible and extensive lava caves. Formed by volcanic activity about 8000 years ago, the caves are relatively young and unweathered. Harman’s Number 1 Cave is a simple lava tube that features a profusion of ferns and mosses at its entrance.

DESERT CAVE HOTEL, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The quirky opal-mining town of Coober Pedy, in outback South Australia, is famously filled with underground homes, businesses and churches. Stay in a cave room at the four-star Desert Cave Hotel or at the Underground Motel on the edge of town.

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