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Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs

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by Linda Moon (subscribe)
... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published December 29th 2016
The wonder of the subterranean amongst the Tassie wilderness
Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
The thermal spring - magical ambiance

After a scenic detour from the main highway - through ferns and schlerophyll forest - one arrives at the Hastings Caves site, a unique attraction worth putting on your itinerary.

Not only is it the location of one of the largest dolomite caves in the southern hemisphere, and one of the key experiences of Tasmania's far south, the reserve is also the site of a natural thermal pool (see above pic).

Quiet, untouched, and light on the tourist bustle, signage and stage-like lighting associated with more commercial caves like Jenolan (in NSW), the Newdegate Cave - the sole cave in the Hastings complex open to the public - provides one with a mesmerising and authentic experience of exploring the mystical underground realm. And if that isn't enough, the highway transporting one to the Hastings Caves travels through one of the most scenic drives of Tasmania - the Huon Valley.

Huon Valley, Tasmania
The beautiful Huon Valley - one of many perks to visiting Hastings

At the Hastings Caves visitor centre, you can purchase your ticket, which includes complimentary entry to the thermal pool. The Newdegate Cave lies a further five to ten-minute drive through the forest. After parking your vehicle, the walk to the cave entrance - past giant trees and ferns - sets the mood for adventure and discovery.

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
Wilderness along the way to Hastings Caves

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
Walking towards the cave entrance.

At the entrance a spindly, long-legged spider hanging over the door of the cave doesn't inspire me to head inside. Our cave guide, Alice, informs us it's a Tasmanian Cave Spider, a primitive, Gondwanan species that can live up to 30 years and is unique to Tasmania. Significantly, it predates the dinosaurs.

"They're making a film about it … a doco called Sixteen Legs," Alice says, revealing the spider - an important predator in the cave ecosystem - is hoping to catch a cricket or millipede in its web. "He could be waiting six months," she says. "They don't eat much."

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
Prepare to be spellbound

Following Alice through the multi-level cave, we're given the opportunity to view several large chambers decorated with vast numbers of stalactites. The quantity of them is astonishing, making the Newdegate Cave possibly the prettiest cave I've ever visited. The absence of bats and water, such as an underground river, has allowed for lots of fine crystal formation to exist here, Alice explains. It's more fairy grotto than hades. Peering into the shadows, I half expect to see a stumpy dwarf or troll.

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
Abundance of stalactites within the Newdegate Cave

Other delightful parts of the cave include "the stage", where one can enjoy the rare experience of walking over and touching crystal called flowstone, and "the cave mysteries" - crystal that grows upward instead of down, defying gravity. "It's similar to wicking," Alice explains.

hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
The gorgeousness of flowstone - like a natural crystal floor.

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
The flowstone floor

With the lights turned off, we're instructed to hone our sense of hearing. As the group falls silent, far off drips can be heard deep within the bowels of other chambers. "As your hearing adjusts you'll be able to hear a long way into the cave," Alice says.

Experiencing this temporary blindness and the acuity of our hearing gives a taste of what life might be like for creatures living in caves, and is one of the highlights of the tour.

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
Large chambers filled with masses of fine stalactites.

Although the cave hasn't been dated, it's estimated to be around 630 million years old and dates to the pre-cambrian period, Alice says.

Extending 3 kilometres into the hillside, the cave entrance was first discovered by tree-cutters in 1917 and opened for its first tour in 1939.

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
One of the prettiest show caves in Australia

After roaming the underworld, it's relaxing to bathe under the sunlight in the thermal pool (located back at the Visitor Centre). With hardly anyone around, it's like bathing in your own private billabong amidst ferns and native trees. Overhead, clouds float by, wind rustles the trees and birds whistle.

While the 1.1-metre deep pool might look like an ordinary swimming pool, it isn't. Instead of the usual chlorine stench, the water smells earthy and mildly sulphuric. Beth Russell, Business Enterprise Manager at the Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, reveals the water in the pool comes from a natural underground spring and is injected with a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to purify the water and kill bacteria.

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
Outdoor bliss

A constant 28 degrees all year round, the water is naturally warm without being hot, and perfect for bathing on a cooler summer day. Beth says that many locals come regularly here to swim.

For those brisker days, there are luxuriously hot showers to warm up in afterwards. A log fire (maintained by staff) adds extra cosiness. BBQ's and picnic tables make the site perfect for an outdoor BYO lunch, and children are welcome here.

Before you leave, be sure to wander down the Hot Springs Circuit. Here you can see the wonder of warm water bubbling up to the surface from deep below the earth and the convergence of two streams - the cold and warm. These can be differentiated by their colour. The cold stream, coloured by tannins, has a brownish-red, tea-coloured hue. The warm spring water, coming from deep underground, is bluish and clear.

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
Check out the warm spring waters bubbling up from the deep underground and hopefully spot the platypus.

Along the Platypus Walk, tread quietly: you may be lucky enough to see the resident platypus. While I didn't see it, I was able to share in the delight of two walkers coming back from that direction who did.

Hastings caves and Thermal Springs, Tasmania
Along the Hot Springs Circuit you can see the water bubble up from the underground.

The reserve offers not only the chance to view two varied phenomenons of the underground - caves and subterranean waters - but a relaxing experience in the Tasmanian wilderness.

GETTING THERE:
The Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs Reserve is located in Tasmania's far south and is about 1.5 hours drive south of Hobart and 1 hour south of Huonville.

ACCOMMODATION:
Accommodation close to the caves can be found in the small towns of Southport and Dover. Both towns are situated on the water and feature seaside ambience and village charm.

I can thoroughly recommend Castaway Cottage, a holiday house in the tiny seaside town of Dover. Think: views of the sea from just about every window, lavender and roses in the front garden, modern facilities and a big breakfast hamper of local ingredients including scrumptious Tassie jam, a fresh loaf and more - essentially the perfect ingredients for a holiday house. Ah, but that's another story.

Castaway Cottage, Dover, Tasmania
Castaway Cottage - beachside views and charm at Dover.

FAST FACTS:
- Amenities at the thermal pool include toilets, showers, picnic tables, BBQ's, open log fires. There is also a kiosk. These are all wheelchair and pram accessible.
- The cave has about 500 steps (includes the return journey). These aren't overly strenuous and include handrails.
- The cave temperature is about 9 degrees celsius - wear warm clothing.
- Arrive 30 minutes before your tour commences.
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Why? Largest dolomite cave in Australia with many large chambers filled with a profusion of stalactites. Thermal springs and forest walks add additional things to do and it's one of the main attractions in southern Tasmania.
When: Visit any time of year.
Phone: 03 6298 3209
Where: 754 Hastings Caves Road Hastings TAS 7109
Cost: Adults: $24, Children 4-17 years: $12, Children under 4: free, Concession: $19.20, Family (2 adults 3 children): $60
Your Comment
I have relos in Tassie but we never seem to visit anywhere except Hobart and Southport.Thanks for this! :)
by Lucinda Rofe (score: 2|342) 711 days ago
A well written article, love the images of Newdegate Cave too. Congrats on the award :)
by RC (score: 3|1221) 651 days ago
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