Just 30km from Oberon, Jenolan has the most spectacular and best-known Limestone caves in Australia. They are world renowned and have been open to the public for over 150 years. These caves are believed to have been first explored by European settlers in 1838. There are 11 richly decorated show caves open for public viewing every day of the year. The duration of the guided tour of each show cave is from 1 to 2 hours.
Open daily, award-winning Jenolan Caves are the world’s oldest caves (340 million years), and are considered Australia’s most outstanding. Friendly guides will show you through your choice of 11 spectacular show caves, for all ages and fitness levels. Plus there are night tours, ghost tours, Adventure Caving, multi-lingual self-guided tour, bush walks, underground concerts, and kids tours (in NSW school holidays). There is a wide range of food and accommodation - something for everyone!
Guided Tours of Spectacular Show Caves
‘Show’ caves feature paths, handrails and subtle lighting, designed to highlight the most outstanding cave features and enhance your experience of the amazing underworld. You can tour any of 11 show caves, each one different. Tours are 1 to 2 hours in duration. Although all the show caves include stairs, some are easier than others and there is a cave tour to suit most people. With prior notice, there is even limited wheelchair access.
The Jenolan Caves and their amazing formations were explored by men slithering up and down muddy slopes and through small openings with only candlelight to guide them. Today, challenge seekers can also enjoy an exhilarating experience crawling, squeezing and climbing in undeveloped caves. There are 4 levels of adventure caving experiences, to suit novices to veterans, from 2 hours to a full day. Bookings for these adventure tours are essential.
More Underground Activities and Concerts
Jenolan Caves also offers evening tours. Some of these, such as the intriguing ‘Off the Track’ tour, allow you to see underground areas that are no longer on the ‘show’ cave itinerary. Then, on Saturday evenings, there is the popular ‘Legends, Mysteries & Ghosts’ tour (not for young children).
During NSW school holidays, there are tours that have been specially developed for children, aged 7-12. For those who prefer to tour at their own pace, there is the self-guided tour (complementary with the purchase of a show cave tour ticket). The self-guided tour of the ‘twilight’ Nettle Cave and Devil’s Coach House cave is available in a range of languages and is great for visitors who don’t like enclosed spaces. Sometimes, history tours are available. Visit Jenolan Caves to see the concerts and events calendar. Plus, it is still free of charge to stroll along the several bush tracks at Jenolan Caves. The best known is the 6 Foot Track.
The caves are set in a 2,416 hectare reserve which has beautiful bush trails with lookouts and restful spots to enjoy the scenery. Colourful birds and native animals, wallabies, kangaroos, possums, echidna and wombats make their homes in this habitat. Almost any day, shy platypus can be spotted in Jenolan’s Blue Lake.
The 6 Foot Track
The 46km, 6 foot track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves has become a popular walking track for self-planned groups or guided walks. The 6 foot track follows the route of the original horse track marked out in 1884. It winds down through Nellie's Glen, through the Megalong Valley, over Mini Mini Range to Little River, then up Black Range (the steepest section of the walk where the climb is 230 metres over 3km). This walk is suitable for anyone reasonably fit and can be traveled comfortably in 2 and a half days.
The annual 6 Foot Track Marathon takes place on the second weekend in March. This marathon is Australia’s biggest off-road marathon, attracting over 850 competitors. The starting line is at Katoomba and the finish is at Jenolan Caves.
Jenolan Caves House
Heritage-listed Caves House is an imposing hotel complex, only a quick stroll from the caves. Built in 1896, it is one of few remaining guesthouses of the Victorian era. After spending the day exploring the magical underworld, treat yourself to dinner and overnight stay in atmospheric Caves House.
You can choose from a range of accommodation - grand historic guesthouse, modern Mountain Lodge rooms, budget Gate House backpacker rooms or self-contained cottages.
Upstairs, relax at Jeremiah's Bar and dine at award-winning Chisolms Restaurant. Downstairs, the bistro offers al fresco dining throughout the day.
The Caves House is known for its romantic ambiance and warm country hospitality. It is a unique conference and function venue, plus many couples choose it for their romantic reception (following their unique underground wedding).
More information: Jenolan Caves House
Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve
The Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve is 2422 hectares in size and preserves these magnificent limestone caves and the surrounding wilderness.
Jenolan Caves are the oldest known open cave system in the world, and is a special place for the Wiradjuri, Pejar and Gundungurra Aboriginal people.
Exposed at the Caves is upper Silurian limestone rocks, dating from 500 million years old, when the area was submerged under the sea. The limestone deposit is composed of the skeletal remains of marine organisms such as shells and corals. The extensive cave system has at least 320 entrances, and an abundance of stalactites, stalagmites and dripstone formations.
The soil derived from the surrounding limestone rock supports a special part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
The Reserve is also the home of many different native bird and animal life, including echidnas, kangaroos, wallabies and platypus.
There is so much for visitors to enjoy while in the Jenolan Karst area. As well as of course exploring the amazing 11 show caves, including adventure caving, go for a bushwalk on one of the scenic bush tracks, including around the beautiful Blue Lake. Enjoy bird watching and picnicking.
For more information on the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve visit National Parks
Flora and Fauna
No matter where you are in the Oberon area, whether strolling one of our tree-lined streets in the middle of town or out in the depths of the national parks, you will always encounter some lovely native wildlife.
Our area is the home of many different varieties of birds and it is very common to see large flocks of white cockatoos sweeping across the sky, a family of choughs waddling together or the friendly laughter of kookaburras in the branches of gum trees.
Wherever you are in the area you can see parrots, magpies, kookaburras, wrens, eagles, ducks, thrush and owls.
When you visit Jenolan Caves, make sure you keep an eye out for Rockwarblers, Spotted Quail-Thrush, Flame and Scarlet Robin, Satin Fly-Catcher, Superb Lyrebird, White-earned Honeyeater, and the Wedge-tailed Eagle.
The Gang-gang Cockatoo is a distinctive bird in the area. The Gang-gang likes the alpine bushland of the Oberon area, and is mostly mild grey in colour with some lighter scalloping. The male has a red head and crest and the female has a small fluffy grey crest. Unlike most other cockatoos, Gang-gangs nest in young solid trees and the female use their strong beaks to excavate nesting cavities. The Gang-gangs are most distinctive for their unusual call, which has been described as being like a creaky gate.
There are many insects in the Oberon area, from dragonflies, spiders, moths and butterflies, but the most famous is the rare Purple Copper Butterfly. This butterfly is a tiny multi-coloured butterfly which is only found in the Bathurst, Oberon and Hartley areas. The butterfly has a wingspan of only 2 to 3 centimetres and is very unique as the upper sides of their wings are copper-coloured and display a purple, blue, and green iridescence when sunning. The butterfly only lives in areas with an altitude greater than 850 metres above sea level, and lives only in the plant Bursaria spinosa. It also only lives where there is the presence on the attendant ant Anonychomyrma itinerans.
Eucalypt forests are a feature of the Oberon area, and there are many kinds of native trees in the area, from large towering gums to native shrubs and vines. One very common tree in the area is the Snow Gum. The Snow Gum is a very pretty tree which can grow up to 20 metres in height, with smooth generally light-coloured bark which sheds in patches. The Snow Gum is very unique to its alpine climate as it adapts to the weight of the snow by slowly bending its branches over time so that the branches grow to extend vertically down so it can shed the snow from its leaves.
There are many native plants in the area, including Sundews, several varieties of banksias, Conesticks, Flannel Flowers, and Sweet Sarsparilla. Some have very beautiful flowers, and one of the most stunning is the Silver Banksia. The banksia can grow from a small shrub to a large tree depending where it grows. This plant is most distinctive for its yellow flower spikes in late summer and early winter. Many species of bird, particularly Honeyeaters, forage on the flower spikes, as do native bees.
Native wildlife is a favourite for many visitors to the Oberon area, with many opportunities to catch a glimpse of kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, platypus, possums, koalas as well as frogs and snakes. The Brush-Tailed Rock-Wallaby is an endangered local wallaby, with distinctive facial markings, black paws and a thick furred tail. It is a very agile small wallaby and lives around Jenolan and Wombeyan Caves. Another special and endangered animal in the area is the Stuttering Frog. This large highly camouflaged frog, which can grow up to eight centimetres in size, lives in the wet leaf-littered floor of forests. It lives on insects and smaller frogs and can be found in national parks and forests in the Oberon area. The Spotted-tailed Quoll is another unusual animal that makes the Oberon area its home. It is a medium-sized marsupial carnivore with dark brown fur with white spots. The Quoll is an agile climber and feeds on birds, reptiles and mammals, and is listed as being a vulnerable species.
For more information on local flora and fauna visit National Parks.
Because Oberon is the home of so many native animals, they are often crossing local roadways. If you accidently hit an animal on the road or see an animal injured or dead on the road, please call WIRES.