There’s more to Australia than what you see on the surface – in fact, Australia has some of the best caves in the world, from the intimidatingly long and watery Cocklebiddy Cave to the famous Jenolan Caves. And whether you’re looking forward to squeezing yourself through tiny gaps on an adventure caving tour or you just want to see the light show, you’ll find a cave experience to suit.
If you’ve previously only visited Margaret River for the wineries and surf, then you’ve barely scratched the surface – because under the surface you’ll find a remarkable collection of caves, including the popular tourist destinations Lake Cave, Jewel Cave and Mammoth Cave. Lake Cave is famous for its pristine underground lake, which reflects the crystalline formations; Jewel Cave is an epic cave that extends for 1.9 kilometres and Mammoth Cave – well, you’ll just have to visit and find out what makes it quite so mammoth.
Cocklebiddy Cave, 10 kilometres north of Eyre Highway, Western Australia
There’s more to the Nullarbor Plain than meets the eye. Renowned as one of the most featureless stretches of Australia, travellers who call the plain boring are not looking in the right direction – down.
There are hundreds of caves underneath the Nullarbor Plain, many just north of Highway One. The most famous of which is Cocklebiddy Cave, which gained fame in 1983 when cave divers travelled 6259 metres into the cave – at the time the longest cave distance undertaken in the world.
Unfortunately, many of the caves are unstable, and you need to get a special permit from the Department of Parks and Wildlife to enter. You can still poke around the entrance to Cocklebiddy Cave, and maybe get some ideas on how to upgrade your man cave.
As the only privately own cave system on this list, Capricorn Caves has been turned into an adventure playground, with caving adventures, abseiling, rock-climbing and a ropes course all organised around the stunning natural scenery of the caves. The ultimate challenge is probably the caving adventure, where you’ll twist and turn and crawl through rock tunnels, such as squeezing yourself through the 30-centimetre-diametre hole called Fat Man’s Misery.
Of course, you can just admire the caves themselves on one of the hopefully less eventful caving tours, such as the Cathedral Cave tour, which takes visitors through smaller caves through to the incredible natural acoustics of the large Cathedral Cave.
Welcome to Naracoorte, where there are caves so good they’ve been World Heritage listed. The main attraction here are the fossils. Millions of years ago, animals fell into these concealed caves and topsoil was washed over their skeletons, preserving an amazing fossil of megafauna records visitors can enjoy today. Of course, there are also your more traditional cave attractions, such as stalagmites and stalactites, and adventure tours where you can feel the squeeze caving through the underground system.
You can’t mention Australian caves without mentioning Jenolan Caves. These caves, within easy driving distance of Sydney, are among Australia’s most spectacular, and the limestone in these caves is thought to be at least 340 million years old. There are 11 caves open to the public (although more than 40 kilometres of cave in all), and each of these magnificent caves puts on its own show, some with light shows, some with walking tours. If you want something with less flash, try adventure caving. Crawling through the undeveloped caves with just a headlamp will give you new appreciation for the world above ground.