Tasmania is home to some of Australia’s deepest and longest caves. Carved out of limestone and dolerite, these sites offer a unique experience of the Tasmanian underworld and an insight into an archaeological heritage dating back 30,000 years. Whether your interest is guided tours or wild caving, Tasmania’s caves offer a powerful experience that can be enjoyed by all ages.
Where to do it
There are a number of caving opportunities open to the public:
The Gunns Plains Cave Reserve is 30 km south of Ulverstone, in North-West Tasmania. This 10 hectare area was one of the earliest cave reserves in Tasmania, being proclaimed a state reserve in 1918. The cave was formed by an underground river which still flows through some sections, and contains freshwater crayfish, fish and eels. Platypus nest in sandy banks along the river and lofty chambers contain many formations, including the magnificent calcite shawls.
Mole Creek Karst National Park
Near the town of Mole Creek about 85 km west of Launceston, is the Mole Creek Karst National Park. This park offers tours in both Marakoopa and King Soloman caves, as well as areas of natural bushland with picnic facilities and nature trails.
Marakoopa (from the Aboriginal word meaning ‘handsome’) is a cave of large caverns and extensive areas of flowstone formations. This cave also offers the best glow-worm display of any tourist cave in Australia. A large underground stream, fed from a series of sinkholes in the Western Tiers is also a feature of the cave. Marakoopa is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
King Solomon Cave
This compact cave displays a range of formations and caters for all age groups and levels of fitness. King Solomon features lavish colours and formations, with sparkling calcite decorating
Newdegate Cave is open to the public and is situated in the Hastings Caves State Reserve, 125 km south of Hobart. The reserve contains lush vegetation, including many rainforest species typical of Tasmania’s high rainfall areas. Named after Sir Francis Newdegate, the Governor of Tasmania from 1917–1920, Newdegate Cave is the only tourist cave in Tasmania which occurs in dolomite, rather than limestone. Near the cave is the Thermal Pool, a swimming pool continuously filled with the warm (28°C) waters from a natural thermal spring.
Junee Cave State Reserve
Situated just outside the township of Maydena, on the edge of Southwest National Park, is Junee Cave. A short nature trail leads to the entrance of the cave where Junee River rises to the surface. The Junee Cave system includes Niggly Cave, Australia’s deepest cave. Turn right at the Maydena store and follow the signs, for five km, to Junee Cave.
Other caves of interest
The area of Tasmania is less than one per cent of the total area of Australia. Despite its size, Tasmania contains more cave development than any other state, with the deepest and longest caves in the country. Without formal development many of these ‘wild’ caves would be very rapidly degraded, if access was open. For this reason access to many undeveloped caves are restricted to trained speleologists.
With a length of 23km, Exit is the longest known cave in Australia, and is noted for its immense chambers, sandy stream bank deposits and impressive glow-worm display. The Exit Cave area is contained within the Southwest National Park. This is a limited access cave with permits issued only to recognised speleological groups.
Kubla Khan at Mole Creek Karst National Park is a 2.2km cave whose fame lies in its incredibly rich formations. The cave is not open to the general public, but its 18m high stalagmite, known as the Khan, is famous. The Khan is in a huge chamber called Xanadu. This cave also contains a flowstone floor which is 40m long, and terraced up to a height of 15m. This is a limited access cave with permits issued only to recognised speleological groups.
The name Khazad-Dum was borrowed from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. This cave, in Mount Field National Park, is representative of the deep caves in the Maydena area in South-West Tasmania. At 320m deep, Khazad-Dum is one of the deepest potholes in Australia. This cave is too dangerous for inexperienced people to enter. This is a limited access cave with permits issued only to recognised speleological groups.
In order to protect them, a permit is required to enter certain caves. Entry to limited access caves is only available to members of clubs affiliated with the Australian Speleological Federation.
For permit information, contact the Mole Creek Field Centre for information on northern caves, and for southern caves, contact the Huonville Field Centre.