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 June 12th 2016
A Tourist Attraction Since 1885
Top 5 Things to do at the Wellington Caves Complex Around 60kms from Dubbo, at the junction of the Macquarie and Bell Rivers is the picturesque rural town of Wellington. We've come to see the Wellington Caves and Phosphate Mine and although we are making it a day trip from Dubbo there is a caravan park next to the Caves along with a golf course for those who'd like to get into the swing of things.
Enjoying the tours at the Wellington Caves Complex (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
When: The complex is open from 9am to 4pm. Click here for tour times. Where: Caves Rd, Mitchell Highway, Wellington NSW Telephone: (02) 6845 1418 Website:www.wellingtoncaves.com.au Cost: Tours are offered for each of the two caves and for the phosphate mine. Costs (June 2016) are For 1 tour: Adult $24, Child $10, Concession $19 and Family $68. For 2 tours: Adult $36, Child $15, Concession $28.50 and Family $102. For 3 tours: Adult $48, Child $20 Concession $38 and Family $136.
Wellington Caves Café and Aviary
We buy our tickets in the Wellington Caves Café, which was established in 1934 and looks to be in its original form with old fashioned cabinets and a large bluestone fireplace. We have time for coffees before the first tour and then we go outside to wait and to look at a very large parrot aviary.
This Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is using a stick to dig this hole (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
In the corner of the aviary a sulphur-crested cockatoo is digging a hole using a stick it holds in its beak. I kid you not, he is a prisoner burrowing for freedom. Also in the aviary are some Australian king parrots, a twenty-eight parrot, a Port-Lincoln Parrot (a ringneck), a regal parrot, a red-rumped parrot, red-winged parrots and some I do not recognise with long, flowing tails.
In the main part of the cave is a floor to ceiling column comprising boulders, flowstone and stalagmites covered in a glittering crystal calcite. This 15 metre high formation is called The Alter. Church services were held here in times gone by and special services still are. On a magnificent bench of calcite crystal is a bible left behind near a century ago and now calcified to the stone.
Stalactites and stalagmites in Cathedral Cave (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Further into the cave we view The Well, a deep water filled cavern. We climb some more stairs to an area called the Thunder Cave. On cue we all stamp a foot and the echo booms through like reverberating thunder. Quite an affect. We are told singing also highlights the wonder of this cave and as no-one volunteers a song we all sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Pleated Skirt, a pendant flowstone formation in Cathedral Cave (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Old Phosphate Mine We move straight onto our second tour to the Old Phosphate Mine, which does not have stairs. We don a hard hat for this tour. Phosphate was mined here just before and during the First World War.
Inside the Old Phosphate Mine (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
During the war, boys between the ages of 12 and 17 worked the mine. The footholds they dug into the walls of the shafts can still be seen. Although more than 6,000 tons of phosphate was removed from it, the mine was disappointing and was abandoned and backfilled. It remained so until 1996 when it was decided to turn it into a tourist attraction and it was re-opened using the Work for the Dole Scheme.
A layer of calcite crystal in the Old Phosphate Mine (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The phosphate here is bat poo and slim seams of phosphate can be clearly seen in some of the walls. The phosphate sits beneath a seam of calcite crystal. Our guide turns off the lights and then flicks on ultra-violet lights and the phosphate glows purple.
A model of fossil bones of a lion sized marsupial found in this place in the mine (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Fossil finds have been common in this mine and have been actively sought here since the 1930's. Only partial fossils have been found. Some of the bone fragments date from 300,000 years ago. In two separate areas are replica fossils of some ancient mammals. On a shelf around a corner are bone fragments which we are permitted to hold.
Osawano Japanese Gardens
We lunch at the café and while we wait for our last tour we walk across the road to the Osawano Japanese Gardens. Carefully laid out and with a back drop of green paddocks and rolling hills, the gardens are delightful. The trees are in bud and we can only imagine how magnificent they will be in spring.
Osawano Japanese Gardens (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Through the wooden entrance we are greeted with a small hill of maples and conifers from which a waterfall springs and cascades down a stream of ponds before winding its way under several bridges to a reflection pool. A water pavilion sits over the pool, an obvious favourite of the ducks. Koi are visible in the water.
Tranquil settings in Osawano Japanese Gardens) Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Paths wind through gardens of shrubbery and between hedges. There are water features throughout and a 4.5 metre stone water tower faces the street. Eucalypts of significant size and age form part of the garden, a perfect blend of Australian and Japanese and a tribute to the sister cities of Wellington and Osawano.
Our third and last tour for the day is Gaden Cave, which was discovered in 1902. This one apparently has 200 stairs.
Stalactite straws in Gaden Cave (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
It is smaller than the Cathedral Cave but has many more limestone formations. Here we see a stalactite forest, straw stalactites, coral formations, and curtain formations. Everywhere we look up the roof is covered in these wonders of nature.
Limestone formations in Gaden Cave (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Cost:Tours are offered for each of the two caves and for the phosphate mine. Costs (June 2016) are For 1 tour: Adult $24, Child $10, Concession $19 and Family $68. For 2 tours: Adult $36, Child $15, Concession $28.50 and Family $102. For 3 tours: Adult $4