Going Underground: exploring Margaret River's Caves
Long before the chic wineries and fine dining, Margaret River’s stunning caves attracted well-to-do tourists to the region. Wealthy honeymooners and adventurous travellers would stay at the Jenolan Caves House and experience the mesmerising maze of Margaret River’s caves.
Although we no longer wear our Sunday best when heading underground, the caves remain a large part of the Margaret River experience.
Of the hundreds of caves in South West Australia, there are four easily accessible caves managed by the Margaret River tourist board. Entry is covered by the same ticket and they are all a short drive from each other.
We visited each of the four caves over two days, and we've put together this handy guide to assist you in deciding which caves to visit.
If you only have time to visit one cave, make it this one.
Just outside Augusta, Jewel Cave is the best preserved of the four. It was only opened to the public in 1980s and as a result it hasn’t been raided by nineteenth-century tourists, unaware of the damage they would cause. Its stalactites and stalagmites are huge and there’re lots of interesting formations that your guide can explain in further detail.
It also has the biggest cavern out of the four caves. Its treasures include a 5.9m straw stalactite and the fossilised remains of a Tasmanian Tiger, believed to be around 3500 years old.
At 62 metres deep, this is the deepest cave in South West Australia. As the name suggests, a small lake runs through this cave which makes for breathtaking reflections. The most spectacular is the central hanging table but if you look closely at the surrounding features, you never know what you might see!
Lake Cave has been relatively well-preserved, however one woman on our tour did her best to take a piece of the cave home with her. Fortunately, the swift action of our guide prevented an ancient stalactite from being snapped from the ceiling.
The only self-guided cave in the Margaret River region, Mammoth Cave is the most easily accessible cave of the four. You get an audio guide and are free to take your time to explore. It's one of a small number of caves that contains fossils and is huge, so there's plenty to see. We preferred the guided tours at the caves above, but we still enjoyed exploring Mammoth Cave.
We found this to be the most visited and most damaged of the caves, with noticeable marks where people have touched the calcite. This is hardly surprising, given that it was the first cave to be opened to tourists in Western Australia. Regardless of this, the network of tunnels and boardwalks were impressive and we still found much to gawp at!
Planning your visit
A pass to visit all four caves is $67 per person. You can purchase passes at a Visitor Centre. We bought ours at Augusta and worked our way up the coast from there.
We took two days to visit all four, but if you really love caves, it's doable in a single day. It's an hour's drive from Jewel Cave to Ngilgi Cave, and the other two caves can be found on the way.