Western Australia’s ancient landscape is honeycombed with caves; there are more than 150 beneath the Margaret River region alone. Each yields its own treasures, from fascinating Indigenous artwork and strange fossils, to ethereal crystal formations and glassy, subterranean lakes.
WHERE TO GO
NorthWest | The rock art in the Kimberley is largely in shallow caves or rock shelters formed by erosion undercutting hard, resistant sandstone. The Mimbi Caves can be found 90km east of Fitzroy Crossing. The unique network, part of the 350 million-year old-Devonian reef system, contains stunning limestone formations, freshwater pools and ancient rock-art galleries. Tours are available through Girloorloo Tours. The Mitchell Plateau area in the Kimberley region offers a wide array of stunning rock art. On the Kimberley coast, opposite the Mitchell Plateau, is the Kimberley Coastal Camp, accessed by light aircraft or floatplane, and offering guided tours of beautifully preserved Aboriginal rock art, including Gwion Gwion art and Wandjina art.
Coral Coast | The adventurous can head for Stockyard Gully National Park (so named because the area was part of the Old North Stock Route). It’s accessible by 4WD, and you can take an unguided walk through the cave formations. The Pinnacles visitor centre can help with directions.
Perth Surrounds | Within an hour’s drive from Perth, Yanchep National Park boasts a number of caves (there are 600 plus in the area). Crystal Cave, a beautiful limestone cave full of stalagmites, is a tourist draw. For group bookings, there’s also adventure caving available (popular in school holidays). Another of Yanchep’s features is the Cabaret Cave, a purpose-modified function cave available for hire.
Golden Outback | Not too far from the well-known tourist attraction of Wave Rock, Mulka’s Cave, found in The Humps Nature Reserve near Hyden, offers a notable collection of Aboriginal paintings. Also in the Goldfields region is the Cave Hill Nature Reserve that hosts a granite outcrop and a viewing platform. A cave formation that might appeal to 4WDers and camping enthusiasts, it can be difficult to access during winter months.
SouthWest | This is a popular caving area, thanks to a natural limestone ridge that runs along the coast. In the Margaret River region, you can enjoy a guided tour of Jewel and Lake caves, or choose the self-guided option at Mammoth Cave. From June to December, Moondyne Cave is open for full morning tours (around three hours) on Saturdays and Sundays, an involved option that boasts a bit of crawling. Giants Cave and Calgardup Cave are self-guided caving options to include on your southwest caving schedule. Giants Cave is about 600m long, while Calgardup Cave includes boardwalks and stairs. For details, contact the Calgardup Guide Hut. In Yallingup, take a semi-guided tour of Ngilgi Cave and learn about the Wardandi people’s legend of the subterranean space. Fully guided adventure tours are also available so you can see formations up close.
WA’s limestone caves were created over the eons by water flows dissolving the
soft rocks deep underground. Some, such as Mimbi Caves in the northwest, formed within rocks that were part of the 350-million-year-old Devonian Reef system. Visitors can see the remains of many extinct species of reef animals in the cave walls. In the southwest, Mammoth Cave was once home to Zygomaturus trilobus, a large diprotodontid species of megafauna, dating back around 50,000 years. A fossilised jawbone of the creature is a highlight of the tour.
This cave, 8km from Augusta, is a fairytale-experience renowned for its straw stalactites. Children enjoy checking out the cave’s natural formations, referred to as the Organ Pipes, Giant Shawl, Friendly Ghost, Jedi and Jewellery Box.
Looking to scramble up steep ladders, or crawl under overhanging rocks and calcified tree roots? The 600m Giants Cave in the southwest is perfect for those who enjoy a self-guided caving experience.
The ancient rock paintings, marine fossils and limestone formations of the Mimbi Caves – hundreds of millions of years old and situated in the heart of Gooniyandi Country – will leave you breathless.
Kimberley Coast/Mitchell Plateau
Travelling through the northwest? Take in the beautifully preserved Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley region, including breathtaking examples of Gwion Gwion art and Wandjina art.
Located in Yanchep National Park within an hour of Perth, this amazing underground limestone cave features stalactites, stalagmites and helictites – a picturesque experience that will appeal to the kids, too.
Yanchep National Park (08) 9303 7759, parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/yanchep
Lake, Mammoth, Jewel and Moondyne caves (08) 9757 7411, margaretriver.com/what-to-do/1-caves-in-margaret-river-augusta
Ngilgi Cave (08) 9755 2152, geographebay.com/accommodation/ngilgi-cave
Calgardup Cave and Giants Cave
Self-guided – contact Calgardup Guide Hut for any queries (08) 9757 7422.
Mimbi Caves (08) 9191 5355, mimbicaves.com.au
Kimberley Coastal Camp
Kimberley Coast 0417 902 006, kimberleycoastalcamp.com.au