Dig a little and you can uncover some of the most amazing underground places to visit in Australia. After a trip to Abercrombie Caves we were keen to explore more caves. When we planned our road trip to Dubbo during the spring holidays, we quickly added Wellington Caves to our itinerary knowing that we would find it fascinating.
Our trip coincided with some of the heaviest rainfalls in the region for decades. We had changed our route to Dubbo via Forbes after the town was cut off and diversions were put in place. Taronga Western Plains Zoo saw us style up the good old plastic poncho and we were a little worried that Wellington Caves would be washed out. Luckily, the morning check by the cave team revealed that they were still safe.
There are three cave tours at Wellington Caves: Cathedral Cave, Phosphate Mine/Bone Cave and Gaden Cave. A single tour runs each hour on rotation so if you have a particular cave you are super keen to visit, make sure you check the timetable. We had a small window of opportunity to catch a tour and arrived in time to visit the Cathedral Cave, the largest of the caves.
It was absolutely pouring as we walked up the hill to the Cathedral Cave. There was no way we were going to let this stop us. Just before we reached the Cathedral Cave entrance, our guide stopped us and revealed where a Stalagmite had once stood. On top of the hill. It was as thick as a small car. Can you imagine that? This could only mean that once upon a time, the top of the hill was inside a cave. Wrap your head around that!
To enter Cathedral Cave you climb down a ladder. It is not an accessible site for anyone with mobility issues. I also suggest keeping a hand on the kids as the stairs are steep and especially slippery in the first section after you enter. There are 150 steps across the cave in total. Pace yourself.
As you enter Cathedral Cave your eyes are likely to move straight to the Alar, a 15m tall stalagmite with a whopping circumference of 32 metres. It is a thing of beauty and was considered the biggest in the world for a very long time. If you’re lucky, you will also get a chance to see Thunder Cave, Headache Rock (don’t bump your head) and The Well. Due to the weather, the water table had risen to a point which made walking down into the lower caverns pretty much impossible without a snorkel. We gave it a miss (you’re not actually allowed to go in). The kids were thrilled to discover that you can see some of the marine organisms that formed the limestone if you look closely.
The entire tour took about an hour in total. In that time we learned that the caves are around 400 million years old and that official tours started here back in 1885. Besides the amazing rock formations, the caves also contain diverse fauna of Devonian marine invertebrate fossils and, what I found most interesting, the largest deposit of Pliocene–Pleistocene mammal fossils in Australia. We were shown some fossil finds from the latest university dig on our trip which made me consider (for a moment) heading back to uni so I could study them more! Next time we visit, I would be keen to tour Gaden Cave where you can see megafauna bones in the walls.
Wellington Cave tour schedules start at 10.00 am each day. The ticket prices start at $25.00 per adult and $11.00 per child for one tour. Pricing increases as you add more tours. Head to the Wellington Caves website for full details.