The most spectacular caves in NSW

Ready to get deep? NSW has some of the most spectacular caves in Australia, from those that date back millions of years to others dotted with the remains of megafauna. And then there are the glow worms…

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Feb 2024 -
min read

Take a deep dive into World Heritage-listed landscapes: Jenolan Caves 

From its gorges to its rainforest to its thundering waterfalls, it’s hard to imagine the Blue Mountains could get any better. But just wait until you glimpse the staggering Jenolan Caves. Near the pretty town of Oberon, about three hours’ drive from Sydney, the exquisite Jenolan system dates back more than 340 million years, one of the oldest, largest and most dramatic limestone cave systems in the world, replete with limestone formations and underground rivers.  

Small group enjoying a tour through the River Cave system at Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains

Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains

There are numerous ways to explore the caves here, including day, night and app-guided Aboriginal Culture tours. You can explore the Temple of Baal Cave and its incredible nine-metre-high Angel’s Wing cave shawl; the humbling Cathedral Chamber in Lucas Cave; the dainty spar crystals in Chifley Cave; and the ancient underground river in Imperial. Little explorers will love the ‘Fossil Hunters’ experience, which sees them kitted up and sent on an expedition to find ancient relics. Enrich your tour with lunch or dinner or high tea in the grand dining room at on-site Chisholm’s Restaurant. You can even make a night of it by sleeping over at Caves House

Note: Due to extreme rainfall at the Jenolan Caves precinct that flooded buildings and caused landslips, the popular destination has closed to the public pending further assessment. For more information, click here.

Caves House Accommodation at Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains

Caves House, Jenolan Caves

Discover rare and dramatic rock formations: Wombeyan Caves 

The sublime, beautifully lit Fig Tree Cave at the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve should be added to your NSW bucket list. You can do a self-guided tour of the cave, sitting pretty in the Southern Highlands, a three-hour drive southwest of Sydney. Other tours through the Wombeyan Caves include guided adventures through Wollondilly Cave and Junction Cave, both replete with impressive formations and imposing columns. 

Wombeyan Caves in Goulburn, Country NSW

Wombeyan Caves, Goulburn - Credit: Destination Southern Highlands

Back on the surface, the Victoria Arch walking track leads to a viewing platform overlooking a remarkable natural rock formation. Stay nearby at Wombeyan Caves Cabins or Wombeyan Caves Campground and explore the region, including historic Taralga, known for its local produce, expertly prepared at The Argyle Inn. 

 Family walking  in the Victoria Arch accessible platform at Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve, Wombeyan Caves

Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve, Wombeyan Caves - Credit: Daniel Parsons

Soak your worries away: Yarrangobilly Caves 

While the Yarrangobilly Caves are not easy to reach from Sydney (get set for a seven-hour drive to the southwest), the end rewards are well worth the lengthy journey. Tucked away in northern Kosciuszko National Park in the state’s Snowy Mountains, the six caves here are created from a belt of limestone laid down some 440 million years ago.   

Couple touring the Yarrangobilly Caves, Kosciuszko National Park

Yarrangobilly Caves, Kosciuszko National Park

South Glory, the largest of the caves, has self-guided tours of its cavernous chambers, while Jillabenan Cave, the smallest, is the most accessible (including by wheelchair) and is filled with fine, colourful formations – it, along with the other caves, can be explored on Discovery tours. 

Bring your swimsuit because above ground, you can take the short Yarrangobilly River Walk to a thermal pool, where you can soak cave-weary limbs; it sits at 27ºC year-round. There is plenty to do in the national park (including bushwalking in summer and skiing in winter), and the remote, heritage Yarrangobilly Caves House makes a great base.  

Yarrangobilly Caves thermal pool, Kosciuszko National Park - Credit: Boen Ferguson, DPE

Yarrangobilly Caves thermal pool, Kosciuszko National Park - Credit: Boen Ferguson, DPE

Walk in the footsteps of megafauna: Wellington Caves 

It’s a little-known fact that the first megafauna discovery in Australia occurred at Wellington Caves, five hours by road from Sydney, or 70 minutes in the air to nearby Dubbo in central NSW. The underwater coral reefs, fossils and limestone formations here date back 400 million years, while there’s also evidence of Aboriginal history dating back more than 50,000 years. Enjoy daily guided tours of its two show caves, the Cathedral and Garden caves, featuring 15-metre-tall crystal formations and complex cave corals. The guided Phosphate Mine Tour explores a 100-year-old mine and the fossils and bones of megafauna that roamed the area two million years ago.  

Family exploring the cave systems at Wellington Caves and Phosphate Mines, Wellington

Wellington Caves, Wellington

Once above ground, follow the ‘Fossil Trail’ taking you on a course of discovery 400 million years in the making, while meeting native fauna moving across the Catombal Ranges. Or step inside a scientific lab to examine fossils through a lens. You can stay at Wellington Caves Holiday Park, and Wellington Golf Club is just  down the road.

Family exploring the cave systems at Wellington Caves and Phosphate Mines, Wellington

Wellington Caves, Wellington

Absorb bush-ranging history: Abercrombie Caves 

Famous for its incredible limestone caves, the striking Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve is in the Bathurst area of country NSW, about four hours’ drive west of Sydney. Take a tour of Archway Cave, characterised by the largest natural arch in the Southern Hemisphere; it’s also home to enormous colourful formations and the gold miners’ dance platform, built in 1880 and still used today. 

An entrance to the Abercrombie Caves, near Bathurst

Abercrombie Caves in Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve, near Bathurst

Adventurous explorers might prefer the Belfry Cave guided tour, which takes in the upper levels of the Archway Cave and is accessible only by a suspension bridge and ladders, or the narrow passageways — and optional crawl section — of Grove Cave. Colonial history buffs should head to Bushrangers Cave, a shelter for the eponymous outlaws in the 1830s. Finish your day with a refreshing swim at gorgeous waterholes on the Grove Creek Falls walking track, then pitch your tent in the Abercrombie Caves Campground.  

Note: All caves in the Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve are closed until Monday 23 December 2024 due to flood damage.

Immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture: Mutawintji Caves 

It’s a long drive (like, 13 hours long) from Sydney northwest to Broken Hill – the best way to arrive is by air into Broken Hill Airport. Just to the northeast of town you’ll discover the ancient landscape of Mutawintji National Park, a ruggedly beautiful desert region rich in Aboriginal history.  

While there are some walks that you can do independently, in the shadow of the red Bynguano Ranges, you will need to book a tour with Mutawintji Heritage Tours to see the fascinating Aboriginal rock art – one of the most impressive collections in NSW – that decorates the caves of the Mutawintji Historic Site. In addition to the rock art, you’ll spot remains of ancient fireplaces, stone flakes and grinding stones, all the while being captivated by Dreamtime stories. 

Live life illuminated: Glow Worm Tunnel 

Located in the World Heritage-listed Wollemi National Park, about three hours northwest of Sydney, an old, abandoned railway line has been transformed into a magical world of sparkles and twinkles. Welcome to the Glow Worm Tunnel, which offers a breathtaking front-row seat to this shimmering spectacle. Any visit involves an easy hike that is self-guided, and you will need a torch. But don’t shine light directly at the thousands of creatures all around you, and tread lightly, as they are sensitive to disturbances like noise, lights and touch. Wander along the 400-metre glow worm cave admiring the blue glow, which is even visible during the day thanks to the intense darkness of the tunnel. 

Glow worm tunnel tour with Wolgan Valley Eco Tours, Wolgan Valley

Wolgan Valley Eco Tours, Wolgan Valley - Credit: Wolgan Valley Eco Tours

Discover a secret side to Manly: Queenscliff Tunnel 

You don’t need to leave Sydney to explore wild and wonderful caves. Head to Manly in Sydney’s Northern Beaches to discover the Queenscliff Tunnel (aka the Manly Wormhole), a rock cave of sorts that was dug by local fishermen in 1908 as a shortcut between beaches. It’s a short, but narrow, walk through the tunnel, and at the end you emerge to sparkling harbour views framed by the tunnel’s edge. There’s plenty to do in the area, you’re in Manly after al, including taking a dip in the nearby, 50-metre Queenscliff rockpool or picking all manner of waterside walks around the coast.  

Queenscliff Tunnel also known as The Wormhole at sunrise, Manly

Queenscliff Tunnel at sunrise, Manly

Get your feet sandy: Caves Beach

The name of this beach pretty much sums up its best asset: a network of sculptural sea caves at the southern end of a stretch of sand, which can be explored at low tide. Caves Beach is located on the Swansea peninsula between Lake Macquarie and the Pacific Ocean, around 1.5 hours north of Sydney. When you’re not weaving in and out of the caves, take a dip in the ocean (it’s great for swimmers and surfers), or lace up your walking shoes for the Caves Beach Walk, which runs 6km from the car park and runs through part of Wallarah National Park, which is a great spot for dolphin and seasonal (May to November) whale watching.   

Friends enjoying a warm sunrise from Caves Beach, Lake Macquarie in the North Coast

Caves Beach, Lake Macquarie

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