The Buchan Caves Reserve has been attracting visitors for well over a century. Beautiful parkland with tall trees, river and peaceful green spaces are suitable for campers, day-trippers and picnickers alike. The reserve is home to the natural wonder of the caves themselves and this underground experience is like nothing you've ever seen before; well worth the four-hour drive from Melbourne.
It's like taking a journey to the centre of the earth. You descend down a flight of steep stairs, then with the help of an experienced tour guide, explore the network of caverns discovered by Frank Moon over a century ago. There are two caves you can visit any day of the year (except Christmas Day), the Royal Cave and the Fairy Cave. There is a cost saving for visiting both, but if you must chose one the Royal Cave is my recommendation.
The caves are suitable for all age groups and there are handrails for assistance and support. The Royal Cave is more accessible for taller people and the elderly. The Fairy Cave is quite narrow and low in places making it more of a challenge for some. They also have sections called 'the chicken run', which is very narrow walkways surrounded top and sides with chicken wire. If you have any trouble with small spaces, you may run into strife here. While both are visually stunning, the Royal Cave also provides more diversity and a slightly more interesting landscape. The caves are both 500 metres in length and a very comfortable constant 17 degrees, so the weather outside doesn't matter.
The caves were formed by underground rivers and are full of spectacular calcite and limestone formations as a result of rainwater seeping through the cracks. Over many hundreds of years stalactites have formed on the cave roof and stalagmites have built up from the floor. Some have been developing for so long they've met in the middle. The Royal Cave also houses the magnificent calcite-rimmed pools, which is an underground masterpiece.
The caves are dimly lit. To truly appreciate everything they have to offer, I recommend taking a torch. Shine it at the walls and they glow as though sprinkled by glitter. The tour guides refer to it as fairy dust. You can also explore how deep some caverns and small holes go along the walks – something you can't see without the aid of additional light. Cameras are most welcome and we took photos both with and without the torch for different effects.
Tours are run from 10am October through to Easter and there are 5 different tour times you can choose from. Post Easter to September tours start at 11am and there are 3 tours daily. On public holidays tours are run more frequently throughout the day.
Purchase tickets at the Buchan Caves Reserve Visitor Centre. They recommend 30 minutes prior to the tour time, but we purchased 15 minutes ahead and were fine. Ticket prices for single cave tour are $21.50 for adults, $12.60 for children, $18 for seniors or a family ticket (2 adults & 2 children) $59.40. For both caves ticket prices are $32.20 for adults, $18.60 for children, $26.40 for seniors and a family ticket (2 adults & 2 children) $88.70.
There is parking outside each cave and at the main carpark. It's a bit of a walk from the main carpark to the caves but as the reserve is home to lots of native Australian animals, you never know what you'll see. The day we were there we saw a wallaby, two wombats and lots of lovely birds.
The best way to visit the Buchan Caves is to plan a short stay in the area. The Buchan township is very small. You can certainly find something to eat, but there's a petrol station, several small eateries and that's about it. You can buy pies and sausages rolls, etc at the Buchan Cave Visitor Centre. However, there are BBQ and kitchen facilities in the park, mostly for the campers, but are available to anyone. We visited the caves in winter and the enclosed kitchen area was very cosy with tables, a sink and bench and a fire blazing away in the fireplace. There are also several open-air picnic tables and covered BBQ cooking areas throughout.
Unless you plan to camp at the Buchan Caves Reserve, Lakes Entrance is a great place to stay and is a cruisy (approximate) 45 minutes drive. Alternatively, Bairnsdale is the largest township in the area and offers all major supermarkets, a department store, takeaway food and lots of general retailers. There is also a good playground outside of Bairnsdale with a long slide and adult sized zip-line that is worth a stop for families with kids.