A Visit to Sydney’s Jenolan Caves

Let’s take a detour from the US trips and head back to Australia for a visit to Sydney’s Jenolan Caves. Mr M and I have just returned from a stiflingly humid fortnight in the motherland (yes, that’s what I’m calling Australia now) and I’m full of homesickness and memories.

Jenolan Caves are quite a drive away from Sydney proper (about three hours) but are worth the car or bus trip. The limestone caves are the oldest discovered open caves in the world and feature 40 kilometres (25 miles) of passageways across a multitude of levels. They can be accessed from over 300 entrances, so it stands to reason that Jenolan Caves are still be explored today.

Even though there is such an expanse of caves and tunnels, 11 caves are open to the public with a tour guide. Over the years I’ve visited the caves a few times – for a tour of the Lucas Cave most recently, and for “Adventure Caving” on the Plughole tour into the Elder Cave.

Estimated to be around 340 million years old, the cave complex contain fossils, bones of wombats and Tasmanian Devils, and spectacular crystal deposits and shawls.

Adventure Caving

Did I mention that I’m both claustrophobic and not a fan of heights? To celebrate this, I decided on a trip to Jenolan Caves for a few hours of squeezing through tight spaces with a bit of abseiling thrown in for good measure.
And I loved it.
Keep in mind that Plughole is the introduction to adventure caving so it’s pretty laid back but you still get overalls, a helmet and a headlamp so that you look like a proper miner. Or caver.

Plughole begins with a short (nine metre) abseil down to the mouth of the cave. This probably freaked me out the most since  not only am I high up, but I’m also standing with my back to the height. It all went smoothly despite my severe lack of coordination meaning that I ended up more horizontal than vertical at some points.

The Elder Cave is great because you’re always working with gravity to get through tight spaces and there are enough open caves for breathing space. Although some of the squeezes mean going feet first and not being able to see where you’re going to land. Having said that, the two tour guides were great with explanations and guiding you through.

See, it’s true! That’s one tight squeeze.

Two hours well spent. And I didn’t cry or whimper once.

Important Details: You need to book an Adventure Cave tour online or by phone at least 48 hours before you visit Jenolan Caves. It costs $100 and lasts for 2 hours. Be sure to wear comfortable enclosed shoes with a non-slip sole.

Regular Cave Tour

My most recent visit to Jenolan Caves a few weeks ago was to see Lucas Cave, which is the most-toured cave in the complex. It’s easy to work out why: this cave has a bit of everything, including stairs.

To be precise there are 910 steps throughout the cave so make sure you can handle the incline before buying tickets. Caves are classified by their level of difficulty so be sure to take that into consideration before booking your tickets.
The Cathedral Chamber is one of the highlights of this cave (and there are many), with great acoustics and a natural “alter” of sorts, this chamber has been used for church services, concerts and is still used for weddings.

We didn’t see any microbats on our tour, but I have seen them on previous tours so keep your eyes peeled for them.

There are, however, many crystal formations: from the broken column, to the emu, the bride with her cascading wedding gown, the mushroom and a bunch more sparkling examples of millions of years of water dripping.

But the icing on the cake was the underground river, that is perfectly clear and blue on days when it hasn’t rained.

Important Details:
Check the tour times before you leave online here and consider booking ahead during busy periods. Don’t forget to wear comfortable clothes and shoes with a non-slip sole.
Jenolan Caves | Visiting NSW  | Australia  | Holiday in Australia  | Vacation in Australia  | Caving  | Spelunking  | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat life
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Getting There

Jenolan Caves is accessible by car or bus at 4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, 2790.

Several bus companies run services to and from the caves, including Grayline, AAT Kings, and FJ Tours.

Tour Times:
The first tour starts at 9am and the last daytime tour begins at 5pm. Night tours are available, see the website for more details.

65 thoughts on “A Visit to Sydney’s Jenolan Caves

  1. It's not really Sydney at all, it's over the Blue Mountains but WELL Worth the drive. We've stayed up there or over in Mt Tomah and done a daytrip from there. I love the Caves. They're quite fascinating!

  2. I LOVE exploring caves, but I'm with you on the claustrophobia thing!! The real tight squeezes get me good! How long were you having to shimmy through that really tight one for?! I will always do it anyways, I just like to know what to be prepared for! This pictures have me want to go jump in one soon though!! Yay for exploring!

  3. Good on you for confronting those fears to enjoy these caves. Thanks for sharing your photos and memories. You made me remember a primary school camping trip to the caves area just out of Perth where I grew up. It was a lot of fun. And later, I did visit the caves outside my mother's home town in Malaysia. Quite a different experience as the formations there were decorated with lots of religious statues and offerings.

    SSG xxx

  4. I've heard of the Jenolan Caves but never been here I'm afraid. In fact I've not done much travelling inland from the coastal sections of New South Wales, which hopefully I will remedy next year. I'm glad we turned up the heat for you during your recent visit! #TeamLovinLife

  5. There's nothing like a bit of adrenaline to keep you on your toes! Oh cool, you went camping in primary school? The closes we got was to Bathurst for some Gold Panning. And the Malaysian caves sound beautiful. I know they decorate caves like that in Malta as well.

  6. Oh my gosh, I've been there! So often I read blog posts about 'places to visit' and I've never ever been there but… in 1992-1993 (sometime around then) I went with my folks, bro and SIL to visit her parents who were outside of Sydney at the time. We did the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves… and some wineries enroute if memory serves me.

    Of course this was very much pre-mobile / smartphone so I don't even know if I have pics!

  7. Yay! I love it when someone posts about a place that I've been. I get to relive it. Hopefully some of the pictures are familiar to you Deborah. I didn't think to include some winery visits on the way up! But that's a good tip for next time!

  8. I really like caves and this one is no exception. You photos remind me of the ones I have been to (and how covered in mud I ended up). Not sure if I would be able to crawl thru one now that one of my knees is not doing well but I would like to do a not so "extreme" tour. #TPThursday

  9. David and I have just been talking about a return trip to Jenolan. We haven't been there for years. It is funny how you travel the world and then sometimes forget about the most amazing places in your own backyard.

  10. Great pics! I'm a bit scared of heights and small spaces too – so well done for doing it! I think you are braver than me… maybe I'm best to start on a regular cave tour first and work up to it 😉 Jenolan isn't too far from us… will have to get down there and check it out!! #throughmylens

  11. You're a braver woman than I! I've been to the caves many time and have visited almost all of them but I've never had the bottle to attempt the Plughole and don't think I ever will! That said, I enjoyed the virtual tour and exploring vicariously through you!

  12. For someone who doesn't like tight spaces or heights, I'm amazed you gave the Plughole a go! But you must be thrilled that you did. I'm not sure I could do it. I once went on a geography field trip at school and shrieked when they turned the lights off for a minute in the limestone caves we were exploring. The idea was to show us what 'pitch black' looked like – yup, I got the idea!

  13. OOOOhhhhh noooo. That is not for me. I'm so claustrophobic I'd either be screaming or passed out. Good on you that you can squeeze through and enjoy such tight spaces! Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration! See you again next week!

  14. I've been to the Jenolan Caves twice (not the adventure tour though). Once as a kid and once with our own kids. They are definitely worth visiting but the traffic and road down to the township can be horrible.

  15. Ugh, I have a thing with having to do things that scare me. And it was such an awesome feeling when it was done.
    Oh Trish, you poor thing! They did the pitch black thing to us as well. I think it's much easier if you have someone's hand to hold onto.

  16. I have had the pleasure to visit Lucas cave aswell, but I never got any good photos of it. My partner was filming with a go pro, but as we didnt have a stabiliser then and it was quite dark at times, you can only imagine how usable the footage is haha! I would suggest not going during a school holiday though, as most of the tours were all booked out by 11 am..

  17. Oh no! I was taking pictures on my phone and I've used some of those for this blog, but they're not as good as Mr M's fancy camera photos, which came out really well.
    That's true, we did go on the first week back at school so it was quiet although there were still around 47 people on our tour.

  18. The cave's interiors look interesting and even beautiful, but I'm with Corinne. you wouldn't catch me crawling through those tight spaces to get there. Glad you enjoyed it! #wkendtravelinspiration

  19. These caves are truly amazing! I am jealous that you get to explore them. I've only been caving once and I wanted to do it again. This seems like a great place to try caving again in!


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