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Cave Beach Jervis Bay interior
Photograph: Destination NSW/Dee Kramer

Seven incredible caves to visit in New South Wales

These subterranean wonders prove there are great days out to be found underground

By Maxim Boon
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From cathedralesque caverns with towering stalactites to salty beachfront grottos and wind-scoured cliffs, Mother Nature sure has been busy gifting New South Wales with some of the most beautiful and breathtaking caves in the country. Some are vast systems stretching for kilometres, while others offer more intimate connections to the past. But one thing they all have in common is their ability to inspire awe on an epic scale. Prepare to be wowed by seven of the state’s most incredible caves.

Please note: Some visitor attractions are still closed to the public or operating with restricted hours, so please call ahead or check opening times online before your visit.

RECOMMENDED: Check out these amazing natural wonders worth a day trip from Sydney.

NSW's best caves

Caves Beach, Lake Macquarie at sunset
Caves Beach, Lake Macquarie at sunset
Photograph: Destination NSW

Caves Beach, Lake Macquarie

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Not far from the channel where the waters of Lake Macquarie meet the ocean, the movement of the waves against the soft sandstone of the Swansea Peninsula have carved out a network of sea caves that you can explore at low tide. Once you’re done checking out the gnarly formations and secluded rock pools, the beachfront just north of the caves is one of the nicest stretches in the area, so bring along a beach towel, some sunscreen and make a day of it.

Jenolan Caves interior
Jenolan Caves interior
Photograph: Destination NSW

Jenolan Caves

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It took more than 340 million years for these vast caverns to be hollowed from the soft limestone of the Blue Mountains, making the Jenolan Caves the oldest open cave system in the world. Fortunately, it’ll take you a lot less time to make the 175-kilometre drive from Sydney to see them for yourself. Currently underway, major upgrades to the caves’ visitor facilities, walkways and lookouts are due to be completed by 2021. Once open to the public again, visitors will be able to enjoy even more access to this geological marvel in all its glory.

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Queenscliff Tunnel
Queenscliff Tunnel
Photograph: Destination NSW

Queenscliff Tunnel

Things to do Queenscliff

Affectionately known as the ‘Manly wormhole’, it was actually industrious fishermen – and not natural erosion – that chiseled this 40-metre channel through the rock of Queenscliff Head more than a century ago. Connecting Queenscliff and Freshwater beaches, the tunnel is still the most direct route between the two seafronts (without having to cut through any suburban streets, at least) and is something of a local secret – you won’t find signposts or boardwalks to help you on your way. While it may be a bit of a challenge scrambling over the rocks of the headland north of Manly Beach to access it, your efforts are soon rewarded with a close encounter with Sydney’s rich history and a view of Freshwater Beach that’s hard to beat, especially if your visit happens to coincide with sunset.

Yarrangobilly Caves
Yarrangobilly Caves
Photograph: Destination NSW

Yarrangobilly Caves

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Snaking their way through the limestone of the Snowy Mountains, this sprawling system of caverns actually gives you six caves for the price of one. While each has their own charms, South Glory Cave is the showstopper of the bunch, famed for its soaring vault pricked by thousands of needle-sharp stalactites. The caves, which are within Kosciuszko National Park, are open all year round and there are guided tours so you can learn more about the area’s unique geology, as well as its rich Aboriginal heritage. Since you’re in the neighbourhood, the Yarrangobilly thermal pool, fed by the same ancient waters that carved out the cave system, is also well worth a visit.

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People inside a cave
People inside a cave
Photograph: Destination NSW/Dee Kramer

Cave Beach, Jervis Bay

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Nestled along the sea-facing edge of Booderee National Park, three-hours by road south of Sydney, you’ll find this small yet perfectly formed grotto tucked away at the western end of the beachfront, just a few hundred metres from the nearby campground. And it’s not just the cave that makes a weekend with your tent a good call here. Cave Beach is popular for its sapphire waters and its excellent snorkeling conditions, so this is definitely one to add to your summer getaways list.

Junction Cave
Junction Cave
Photograph: National Parks NSW

Wombeyan Caves

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To the untrained eye, these caves are pretty spectacular, but to a geology nerd, they’re downright mind-blowing. Stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, cave coral, helictites, stone shawls and subterranean lakes – it’s geological bingo down here, including some incredibly rare rock formations that are seldom seen by the general public. Most of the individual caves of this system can be accessed individually, but make sure Junction, Fig Tree and Wollondilly are part of your visit, as well as the Dennings Labyrinth, so long as you’re feeling adventurous and don’t mind squeezing into tight spaces. The Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve also has holiday cottages, campgrounds, and guided tours of both the caves and surrounding bushland, so this is an ideal destination for an outdoorsy weekender during the warmer months.

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Red Hands Cave Blue Mountains
Red Hands Cave Blue Mountains
Photograph: National Parks NSW

Red Hands Cave

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Located not far from Jellybean Pool, in the Glenbrook area of the Blue Mountains, this rocky overhang is the canvas for one of the most striking examples of ancient Indigenous artwork in NSW. Painted by the Oryang people of the Darug nation, this mesmerising display of stenciled handprints – from 45 individuals including some children – is thought to have been made between 500 and 1600 years ago. This protected cultural site is only accessible via a well-maintained walking loop, reached from the causeway at the entrance of the Blue Mountains National Park.

Looking for more big adventures in the great outdoors?

Garie Beach in the Royal National Park
Garie Beach in the Royal National Park
Photograph: CC/Dimitri Koussa

The best national parks to explore near Sydney

Attractions Parks and gardens

Next time you need a break from the city, we suggest you take a trip to one of these lush and leafy retreats within 100km of the CBD. Hike coastal paths, see native fauna, and get back to nature just a stone's throw from the Big Smoke.

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