Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published September 4th 2016
Caves Have A Mystique But They Don't Have To Be A Mystery
Best Places to See Caves in South Australia Limestone caves, granite caves, sea caves or fossil caves; whichever captures your interest you will find them in South Australia. See the wonderful calcite formations adorning the limestone caves. Marvel at rugged and honeycombed rocks. Spy bats in the wild, see fossils in this heritage rich area and even take a look at a sensational sunken garden.
Inside Kelly Hill Caves (Photo by Muzzamo in the Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The magnificent formations we see in limestone caves are collectively referred to as speleothems and are formed from calcium salts deposited by dripping or flowing waters. Stalactites hang from the cave roof and are icicle shaped. Stalagmites rise from the cave floor. Both are formed by dripping water. Columns are formed when stalactites and stalagmites join. Helectites grow every which way rather than vertical. They can give the appearance of a chaotic but delicate lace. Flowstones often present as a smooth and shiny cave walls or floors and are formed from the calcite deposits of flowing rather than dripping water.
Naracoorte Caves National Park
If it's a large dose of caves you want, the Naracoorte Caves National Park is the place for you. The caves, which are around 800,000 years old have been World Heritage listed as they are arguably one of the world's most important fossil sites.
Thylacoleo skeleton displayed in the Victoria Fossil Cave (Photo by Karora (Own work) in the Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Visitors to the site can tour four of the 28 known caves in the park as well as the Wonambi Fossil Centre. The Fossil Centre demonstrates the way in which animals became trapped in the caves leaving behind a wealth of skeletal fossils for mammals, birds and reptiles. It recreates the area of 200,000 years ago.
Spend as much time as you like on your self-guided tour of Wet Cave. This cave has two chambers, one with natural light and a second dark chamber, (with automatic lighting). The stalactites and stalagmites here are sturdy formations.
Inside one of the Naracoorte Caves (Photo by Kevin (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
On a half hour family friendly guided tour of Alexandra Cave your guide will explain how the caves were formed. Many of the stalactites in the Alexandra Cave are fine and needle-like. You will also see stalagmites, columns, helectites and flowstones.
Take a tour of the Victoria Fossil Cave and after passing through chambers with magnificent formations you will arrive at the fossil chamber. You will learn how the bones came to be in the cave, how they are excavated, and will get a close look at the skeletons of megafauna species.
Entering Blanche Cave (Photo from National Parks South Australia Facebook Page)
Caves are often the home to bats and this is the case in Blanche Cave. Your one hour tour commences at the Bat Observation Centre where you will learn about Southern Bentwing Bats and using infrared lighting watch the bats in the maternity chamber. In the Blanche Cave you will view bats in the wild.
For the more adventurous there are Adventure Caving Tours. The tours cater for all skill levels with novice tours held in the Stick-Tomato Cave and advanced tours in the Starburst Chamber of the Victoria Fossil Cave and in Fox Cave which can only be reached by 4WD.
Adventure caving at Naracoorte (Photo from National Parks Australia Facebook Page)
Step outside of your caving experiences and take The World Heritage Tour. This 3 hour tour visits working fossil digs within the park, Victoria Fossil Cave, Blanche Cave and the Fossil Lab.
The Caves Café is open daily from 10am to 3pm and coin operated gas BBQ's and picnic facilities are available throughout the park. There are also camping and accommodation options in the National Park.
Naracoortensis vs Thylacoleo display at the Wonambi Fossil Centre (Photo by Alpha from Melbourne, Australia CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Kangaroo Island, with its picturesque coastal landscapes, dramatic rocky areas and bushlands is a natural wonder. The limestone caves bejewelled with magnificent calcite formations are the icing on the cake.
Inside Kelly Hill Caves, Kangaroo Island (Photo from National Parks South Australia Facebook Page)
Take a 40 minute guided tour of the Show Cave where you will see stalactites, stalagmites, shawls, helictites and column formations. There are some superb examples of straws in the cave. These are the fine vertical dripstones hanging from the cave roof. They are thin, fragile and always hollow, like straws. Keep an eye out for the curved and angular helictites turning every which way and winding together like worms in a barrel.
Kelly Hill Caves, Kangaroo Island (Photo from National Parks South Australia Facebook Page)
Adventure caving tours are offered for the young (8 years minimum) and young at heart. Crawl through an underground maze of small caverns following the original 1920's tourist route.
The caves which were discovered in 1880 and are named after a horse. They were not explored until Harold Bell took on the task in 1925. In 1926 Harold conducted the first tour of the caves and was appointed caretaker. In 1972 the National Parks and Wildlife Service took over management of the caves.
Kelly Hill Caves visitors centre (Photo by Muzzamo [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
There are BBQ's picnic tables, shelters and public toilets at the park. You might like to stroll along some of the above ground walking trails while you are there.
When: 10.15am to -4.30pm daily, longer hours in school holidays (excludes Christmas Day and days of catastrophic fire danger) Click here for the Kangaroo Island Parks Tour and Entry Guide Brochure.
Where: 90km south west of Kingscote on Kangaroo Island via South Coast Road. Kangaroo Island is accessed by SeaLink ferry which operates daily (except Christmas Day) between Cape Jervis (two hours south of Adelaide) and Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island. The journey takes 45 minutes for the 16km crossing.
Telephone: Kelly Hills Caves Visitors Centre (08) 8553 4464
Cost: (Sept 2016) Show Cave Tour: Adult $18.00, Concession $15.00, Child $10.00, Family $45.00. Adventure Caving: Adult $70.00, Concession $55.00, Child $40.00. Kangaroo Island Tour Pass – 12 month's entry to 5 attractions. Adult $70.00, Concession $57.00, Child $43.00, Family $191.00.
The Tantanoola Caves were originally sea caves, gouged from the rocks of the cliff face by the constant pounding of waves. Today, thousands of years on, the caves are a long way from the coast but there is still evidence of their ocean beginnings in the pebbles, seal bones and shells found within.
Tantanoola Cave (Photo by Fairv8 (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)
After a guided tour in which you will learn about the history and geology of the caves you will be free to wander about the large cavern at your leisure. The large cavern is 30 metres wide and up to 8 metres high. The interior is a wonderland or stalactites, stalagmites and helictites.
Tantanoola Caves (Photo by Steve Clark via National Parks South Australia Facebook Page)
Unlike many caves Tantanoola are wheelchair accessible having become the first caves in Australia to be so in 1983. There are picnic facilities in the park. You may wish to enjoy the 500 metre loop track walk around the base of the cliffs and to the top where you will be treated with panoramic views.
In 1979 The Lions Club of Mount Gambier rescued Engelbrecht Cave from being used as a rubbish dump and began its clean-up and transformation to a tourist area. The cave is popular with divers and along with the viewing platforms inside there are a number of dive sites. Engelbrecht Cave is near to the town centre in Mount Gambier and at one point goes beneath the highway.
Engelbrecht Cave Mount Gambier (Photo by Carole Mackinney CC0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Tours of the cave are run hourly between 10am and 2pm and take around 45 minutes. You will learn about the geology and history of the cave and have ample opportunity to take in the scenery. The water in the cave is so clear you will be able to see rocks metres beneath the surface. Be surprised at how far the water level has dropped over time.
Work is being done to open a second cave and expand the tour. An onsite café sells drinks, snacks and souvenirs. There are also picnic areas and public amenities.
While you are in Mount Gambier take some time out to see the Blue Lake and the Umpherston Sinkhole.
Blue Lake Mount Gambier (Photo by Mike Lehmann, Mike Switzerland (Own work) CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Cost: (Sept 2016) Tour Cost: Adult: $12.50, Concession: $10.00, Child (4 to15 years): $8.00, Family (2 Adults and 3Children): $35.00
Giants Cave, Morialta Conservation Park
The Giants Cave is within the Morialta Conservation Park and you'll need to go for a bit of a walk to reach it. It is a feature on the Morialta Falls Plateau Hike which takes you to the top of First Falls which accords spectacular views over the gorge before descending 60 steps to Giants Cave. The 2.5km walk takes around one and a half hours.
Giants Cave - Morialta Falls Park (Photo by by Peripitus (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
The Talia Caves, The Woolshed and The Tub, can be found along Talia Beach near Elliston on the Eyre Peninsula. The caves here are more correctly grottos, small caverns carved from the cliff face by centuries of wave erosion.
The Woolshed Cave (Photo by Diceman (Own work) Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The Woolshed is a cavern with a honeycombed roof, set in a granite cliff face. It is accessed by a walkway and wooden steps leading onto rocks. You might not be able to access the Woolshed if the surf is up.
The Tub is a 10 to 30 metre deep and 50 metre wide crater with a connecting tunnel between the granite base and the ocean.
There are free camping sites at Talia Caves but no facilities beyond a water tap are provided. Enquiries can be made at Elliston Council (08) 8687 9177.
The Umpherston Sinkhole or Sunken Garden was at one time a limestone cave but the roof has long since collapsed leaving the impressively deep crater we see today. In 1886 James Umpherston set about turning the sinkhole into a garden. Today his legacy is a traditional English garden view that will leave you awestruck.
Vines hang into the Umpherston Sinkhole which was once a cave before the roof caved in. (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Vines hang from the edges and drop metres into the sinkhole. A platform at the top gives sweeping views down to the gardens. Stairs lead to the terraced gardens at the base. Hydrangeas and tree ferns are a feature. Walk around the edges where in places you can duck under the overhangs and get a close up of what was once a rugged cave wall.
The Umpherston Sinkhole (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Visit at dusk and watch the possums come out to play. If you're game they may take fruit from your hand.
There are undercover picnic tables and free BBQ's. An onsite kiosk sells coffee, snacks, ice creams, and souvenirs.
The walls of the Umpherston Sinkhole (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)