The Ten Best Caves to Visit Near Sydney
Crawl out of your living room cave and into these awe-inspiring ones.
January 27, 2023
Within a couple of hours' drive of Sydney, there are hidden caves for cooling off in, huge sandstone caves for camping in (with 50 or so of your closest mates), beachside caves for picnicking in, tunnel caves for meeting glow worms in and river caves for swimming in.
In short, there are a lot of caves. Here are ten we think you should visit.
CAVES BEACH, LAKE MACQUARIE
Caves Beach is no misnomer. This magical beach is famous for the labyrinth of caves found at its southern end. They're only explorable at low tide, so be sure to time your visit according to the charts. You'll find Caves Beach 130 kilometres north of Sydney, just south of Swansea Heads, which is where Lake Macquarie joins the sea. Bring some camping supplies — and a good book — and camp out until the tide starts to change.
CAVE BEACH, JERVIS BAY
Not to be confused with the aforementioned Caves Beach, Cave Beach is located on the other side of Sydney in Booderee National Park — about a three-hour drive south from Sydney. As well as its namesake cave, at the western end of the beach, it is known for its turquoise waters primed for snorkelling, surfing and swimming. If you're planning to spend the night there, you'll find a secluded campsite 300 metres from the beach.
PINDAR CAVE, BRISBANE WATER
Contemplating a cave party? Pindar Cave might well be your first choice. It's an enormous overhang made of sandstone that can accommodate as many as 50 explorers at once. And you're perfectly welcome to stay the night. To reach Pindar, jump on a Central Coast or Newcastle-bound train to Wondabyne Station. From there, the cave is located three or four hours on foot. If you're driving up, there are several places to park your car before venturing into the national park.
GLOW WORM TUNNEL, WOLLEMI NATIONAL PARK
Strictly speaking, this isn't a cave. It's a 400m long, disused train tunnel that used to form part of the Wolgan Valley Railway. Glow Worm Tunnel may be rocky and dark, but there are stacks of glow worms hidden within. So we could hardly be expected to leave it off the list. You'll find it about 30 kilometres northeast of Lithgow. The best way to arrive is via a five-kilometre stroll along what used to be the railway, which you can even work into an overnight hike. But if you're short of time, drive further and reduce the walk to one kilometre.
While you're there, please avoid flashing torches, smoking, lighting fires, making a racket and, most importantly, touching the glow worms — they're fragile creatures and easily killed. And if you want to explore the area across a few days, we recommend staying at this local treehouse accommodation.
RED HANDS CAVE, KU-RING-GAI NATIONAL PARK
This is one of Ku-ring-gai National Park's most well-known sites for Indigenous heritage. On the Red Hands Cave walls, you'll see ochre handprints that have been there for thousands of years. Red Hands Cave is a short walk from Resolute Picnic Area in Ku-ring-gai's West Head section. For a longer journey, continue along the Aboriginal Heritage Walk, a nearly five-kilometre loop featuring more art, engravings and a historic shelter.
JENOLAN CAVES, BLUE MOUNTAINS
Needless to say, we couldn't exclude this classic. In Jenolan Caves, 175 kilometres west of Sydney, you'll discover some of the most ridiculously beautiful rocks on the planet. There are nine caves altogether, filled with limestone formations, pristine underground rivers and secret chambers. The only way to visit is by tour — choose the cave that most appeals to you, take it easy with a one-hour Imperial Cave Tour or get an adrenaline hit on an abseiling escapade.
PALONA CAVE, ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
Made of limestone, Palona Cave stands out in the mostly sandstone Royal National Park as it comes with exotic furnishings like stalagmites and stalactites. That also means it's a lovely place to cool off, made even more refreshing by a nearby waterfall (to find it, follow the track another 20m). Getting to Palona Cave involves walking or cycling a couple of kilometres along Lady Carrington Drive, from the crossroads with Sir Bertram Stevens Drive.
FIG TREE CAVE, WOMBEYAN KARST CONSERVATION RESERVE
Like the Jenolan Caves, the caves in the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve are a dazzling series of natural limestone structures. The most visited is Fig Tree Cave, which can be explored via self-guided tour, and is crowded with all kinds of striking 'cave furniture', from stalagmites and stalactites to helictites and cave coral. Leave yourself enough time to swim in the stunning Wombeyan Gorge. You can always stay the night too, as there's a campground, cabins and private accommodation. The Wombeyan Caves are in the Southern Highlands, about 180 kilometres southwest of Sydney.
RIVER CAVES CANYON, NEWNES PLATEAU
Even though River Caves is a canyon, you don't need abseiling skills to visit. All you have to do is walk in. That said, you can expect to get your knees — and maybe even your thighs — wet. But chances are you'll be so awed by the towering sandstone walls surrounding you to notice. River Caves Canyon is on the Newnes Plateau, just west of Newnes State Forest, about 162 kilometres northwest of Sydney. Navigating your way there can be tricky, but there are some helpful instructions over here.
WIND CAVE, BLUE MOUNTAINS
This extraordinary structure is the creation of wind erosion. As a result, the walls are covered in tiny, intricate formations that have the colour and look of honeycomb. Being far taller than it is deep, it feels a bit like a giant's picnic spot. The views are beautiful, incorporating the Grose Valley and Mount Banks. To reach Wind Cave, head to Blackheath and take Hat Hill Road all the way to the end before following the signs leading to Anvil Rock. From there, it's only a 200-metre walk from the carpark.
Top image: Jenolan Caves, Destination NSW.
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what an underwhelming list of caves...really scraping the bottom of the barrel to make a top 10 list here
That is not a picture of the Glow Worm Tunnel near Lithgow. It looks nothing like it