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Hastings Caves – Go underground in Tasmania’s far south

3 November 2011 No Comment

What are Hastings Caves Tasmania likeTasmania is home to some 4,000 known caves, including the deepest caves in Australia. While many of these are the domain of the serious adventure caver only, there are several excellent examples that you can walk through to admire the formations and learn about the region’s natural history. These are perfect for a family adventure in Tasmania.

For visitors to Hobart, Hastings Caves makes a good day trip. This cave reserve is about 90 minutes drive south of Hobart or an hour from Huonville. It is well-signposted from there.

National Parks & Wildlife Service guides lead informative 45 minute tours of Newdegate Cave, the largest tourist cave in Australia. It is unusual in that it occurs in dolomite, rather than limestone. Its highly decorated chambers began forming some 40 million years ago. Timber workers discovered it in 1917 and named it after then Governor of Tasmania, Sir Francis Newdegate. In its well-lit caverns you can see stalactites, stalagmites, shawls, columns, flowstone and those crazy helictites that seem to ‘grow’ in all directions.

In one part of the cave, you can glimpse the sky through the roof way above and perhaps unsurprisingly, the cave contains skeletons of unfortunate animals that many years ago slipped through the cracks and fell to the depths below.

Before you reach the caves, you’ll come to the modern visitors centre with café and souvenir shop. Here you’ll need to purchase your tickets for the caves tour. Tours run on the hour, but opening times vary according to the season. Buy your tickets at least 15 minutes before the tour start time, as it is a 5km drive and short walk from the visitors centre to the caves entrance.

Take your swimming gear – seriously – there is a thermal pool that is supplied with water at 28 degrees Celsius by a spring. Facilities at the hygienically controlled pool include change rooms, toilets, picnic and barbeque areas and a wading pool for kids. There are also some lovely easy walks in the surrounding forest. Along the Hot Springs Track, you can put your hand in the water and feel the warm current from one stream meeting the cold current from the other.

If you’d prefer to avoid the ‘tourist’ caves with cement paths, stairs and handrails and see some truly ‘wild’ caves, there are also plenty of options for you in Tasmania. We’d recommend contacting a caving club (like the Southern Tasmanian Caverneers) or a tour organiser if you intend exploring the non-tourist caves in Tasmania, as local knowledge is essential, even for experienced cavers.

For more information, visit the official Parks Tasmania Hastings Caves site.

If you are visiting Tasmania and don’t have transport or enjoy a guided activity, a Deep south day tour departs Hobart regularly which included a visit to Hastings Caves.

Susan Moore lives in Tasmania’s Huon Valley. She shares a glimpse of daily life in Tasmania, as written by a “blow in” from the mainland, on her fascinating site Houn View. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive her regular articles.

Image – tvguru via Flickr

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