The Wombeyan Caves are located in the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve – approximately 180km southwest of Sydney. 'Wombeyan' is an Aboriginal word meaning "grassy valley between mountains" which is a fitting name because the area is a natural wonder hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
I'll be honest - the drive to the Wombeyan Caves isn't for the faint hearted. The last part of the journey consists of unsealed road so be prepared for a bumpy ride. The winding roads leading down to the caves are also very narrow with plenty of blind corners. I have never come across a 'SOUND HORN ON BENDS' sign prior to this day trip - but it all added to the sense of adventure. From Sydney, the drive took just under 4 hours but it was well worth it. The alternative route via Goulburn and Taralga is further but the safer route for less daring drivers.
In 1865, Wombeyan was the first area in Australia to be reserved for the protection of caves. The Wombeyan Caves consist of nine limestone caves - some of which, for preservation reasons, are closed to the public. However, there are five show caves. Guided tours are available for Wollondilly Cave, Junction Cave, Kooringa Cave, and Mulwaree Cave. Fig Tree Cave offers self-guided tours. Contact the Wombeyan Caves Visitors Centre for Guided Tour times.
The Wombeyan Caves are less commercialised than some other caves I've visited. *cough* Jenolan Caves *cough* Exploring the caves felt like I had discovered a majestic underground world.
On this occasion, I was there for a day trip and visited the following two caves:
This cave is considered the best of the five caves as it is the longest and stretches across five levels. Discovered by Charles Chalker in 1865, Wollondilly Cave was opened to the public in 1885. The cave features many beautiful limestone structures.
The guided tour takes about 1.5 hours and covers a distance of 800 metres. The guide was knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions. The tour was 'hands-on' and fun, and required us to do a bit of climbing. There are 520 steps, including five ladders. That being said, you don't need to be fit to complete the tour - I found it easy to complete. I also felt safe as there are plenty of lights, handrails and fencing installed in the cave.
An amazing coral-like formation in Wollondilly Cave
This cave is described as "Australia's premier self-guided cave". Fig Tree Cave was opened to the public in the 1870′s, closed by 1928 and re-opened in 1968. The cave's lighting and tour commentary is activated via nifty motion sensors.
The walk takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete. But the beauty of a self-guided tour is that you can explore it at your own pace. My favourite part of the cave was the spectacular Victoria's Arch near the end.
Fig Tree Cave is ideal for people of all ages - the area is fully wheelchair accessible and pram-friendly.
Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve is a fantastic place for a day trip, a weekend getaway or an extended trip. The reserve has a camping site and other accommodation options including cabins, dorms and the Post Office Cottage. Apart from touring the caves, activities include hiking, canyoning, tennis and swimming.
If you are there for a day trip, I would suggest enjoying a picnic lunch or a BBQ in between cave tours. There are picnic areas and electric BBQs available in the reserve.
Bringing a camera is a must (preferably one with a good flash) so you can capture the caves' spectacular limestone structures. Note that tripods not allowed on the cave tours.
The caves can get slippery and are a bit chilly, even during the Summer months. So make sure to wear comfortable non-slip shoes and bring along a light sweater/jacket.
Cave Tour Prices
Discovery Pass: entry to the self-guided Figtree Cave, plus join a guided tour of any one additional cave (Wollondilly, Junction, Mulwaree or Kooringa caves). Price: $30 adult, $23 child/concession, $28 senior, $75 family
Explorer Pass: entry to the Figtree Cave, plus join a guided tour of any two additional caves (Wollondilly, Junction, Mulwaree or Kooringa caves). Price: $40 adult, $30 child/concession, $35 senior, $90 family.
Fig Tree Cave Entry Fee: $18 adult, $12 child/pensioner, $15 senior, $45 family