We have recently hosted a Japanese student in our home and needed to find something to do on a rainy winter's day (although my photos show blue skies, we really did dodge the showers!). We decided on Yanchep National Park as it has a bit of everything for everyone. We could have lunch there (as a picnic wasn't an option in the rain for us), get a true feeling of being in the bush, see some wild kangaroos and koalas and either do the Aboriginal Experience or a tour of the Crystal Caves.
Yanchep National Park is located approximately 50kms north of Perth city, just a few kilometres from the ocean (another bonus for us as we managed to have a walk on the beach in-between rain showers and our Japanese student managed to tick another thing off her bucket list whilst in Perth - 'Paddle in the Indian Ocean')
On arrival at the park, we were too late for the Aboriginal Experience, so booked in for the 2pm Crystal Cave Tour. Adults are $15.00, children $7.50 and a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) $37.50. This is in addition to the $12.00 fee to gain entry to the National Park. You buy tickets for all tours at The McNess House Visitor Centre (which was staffed by lovely experienced ladies when we visited), where you can also buy local handicrafts, souvenirs and gifts at reasonable prices.
We all congregated by the cave entrance and, while waiting for our tour guide, had a quick walk in the bushland hoping to spot a kangaroo. They were all clearly taking shelter from the rain as we didn't see any.
On time, our guide arrived, gave us a short introduction and safety talk and then opened the gate to the cave. We had to walk down some steps and then we were plunged into darkness, but in just a few seconds our eyes adjusted to the lack of light, exactly as our guide told us would happen.
Our history lesson was about to begin. Henry White first entered Crystal Cave in 1903 through the same entrance we used. Our guide asked us to transport our minds back to that time when there were no steps or lighting to assist him and think about how much harder the assent would have been, and with the drawback of going into the unknown! Henry regularly took visitors to the caves and we were going to walk in their footsteps to encounter Crystal Cave as they did (but with modern amenities like lights, steps and the massive advantage of an experienced guide).
There are stalactites, stalagmites and helictites throughout the caves and the crystal formations are amazing. Some of the formations actually look like animals, people, buildings etc and it kept the children entertained wondering what the next formation would resemble.
Everyday really is a school day and we all retained some of the information we were given whilst on the tour. We could go again though, and learn and see different things, just like when you watch a movie again and see something you had missed before (I am referring particularly to the Harry Potter franchise for me).
The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes and was thoroughly enjoyable. There were quite a few children (including babies in slings) in our group, and none of them appeared bored. You do need to be able bodied and the caves are not suitable for prams, which would need to be left at the entrance or in your car.
It is a perfect rainy day activity but equally a perfect hot summer's day activity too. Once away from surface influences, i.e. not near an entrance or another close connection to the surface where air movements can influence the temperature, caves are usually at the same temperature (or very close) as the annual average temperature for the cave's location all year round. So they can provide a respite from the searing summer temperatures we commonly experience in Perth, making the caves a year round attraction.
There is so much to do at Yanchep National Park that you could camp there and make a weekend of it. Enjoy the views of the lake and birdwatch (we saw pelicans fishing); build a cubby with the kids; walk one of the nine trails (500m to 46.2km) to suit a variety of age groups, interests and fitness abilities; eat at the cafe near McNess House Visitor Centre or the more substantial Yanchep Inn; see the koalas and wild kangaroos; or take the Crystal Cave Tour and the Aboriginal Experience Tour. A weekend would still not be long enough!