22 August 2019
When you’ve had enough of the sunshine, surf and sand, why not head underground to discover some of the State’s most fascinating caves? From caves etched by the wind to a gallery of Indigenous art, here are five of the most notable underworlds to explore. (A note: it can get slippery and chilly in cave land, so make sure you pack good walking shoes and a jacket.)
The Jenolan Caves, about three hours’ drive west of Sydney, are probably the most famous caves in the country. And not just the most famous: at about 340 million years old, they’re the oldest open caves discovered in Australia—and the world. The system includes some 400 known caves, 10 of which are open to the public. There are 40km of multi-level passages running through the show caves: you could spend several days here and still not see everything. Marvel at dramatically lit stalactites and columns, and take in the vast expanse of the Cathedral, a 54m-high chamber where the acoustics are so perfect that it’s often the site for classical music concerts.
When people think of caves, they often think of dark, cavernous spaces sheltered from the outside world. But Wind Cave, near the highest point in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, offers a strikingly different experience. The cave was created by wind carving the rock over thousands of years—as a result, its walls are marked by fascinating honeycomb-like patterns. The cave also has expansive views of Mount Banks and the Grose Valley. You can reach it by taking the Anvil Rock Track (check local maps to find it).
The Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve is home to some of NSW’s most impressive caves, including Wollondilly and Fig Tree. You can take a guided tour of Wollondilly, the longest and most varied of the Wombeyan Caves; or a self-guided tour of Fig Tree, where you can view stalagmites, stalactites and cave coral as you move from chamber to chamber. The reserve itself has some good bushwalks and an excellent swimming hole.
Red Hands Cave is home to some of NSW’s best Indigenous rock art. Inside this 12m-high cave are more than 40 stencils of hands, created with red, white and orange ochre. The works are thought to be anywhere between 500 and 1600 years old, and experts believe the cave itself was used as a ceremonial site to initiate young warriors. Get there via the 8km Red Hands Cave walking track, near Glenbrook.
Caves Beach is a lovely stretch of sand on a peninsula between Lake Macquarie and the ocean at Swansea, just south of Newcastle. This 300m-long beach was named after the network of sea caves found at its southern end. Wait until low tide, when the retreating water level grants access to a number of connected caves. If you’ve got kids on board, they’ll love exploring the hidden nooks and crannies of this cave system.