When in Tasmania, there is a whole world of attractions to see above ground, but there is also an amazing network of caves available for visitors to see while travelling around the state.
Tasmania is well known in caving circles for its collection of karst (cave) systems including what some would consider the deepest and best decorated caves in the entire southern hemisphere. Karst caves are those caves that are developed principally by a chemical process rather than just a physical one. This is commonly through processes such as the erosion of limestone rock by acidic water.
One of the better known public access cave systems in northern Tasmania is Mole Creek which is located around 40 mins drive from Deloraine, a perfect short detour if you are on enroute to Cradle Mountain. ( link to Cradle Mt Wilderness Village page?)
There are two main caves located in this area, King Solomon and Marakoopa, and both offer different experiences due to their different sizes.
King Solomon is the smaller of the two caves, and is named as such due to the calcite crystals which make the cave sparkle similar to the fabled King Solomon’s mines. This system was first discovered in 1906 by two local Tasmanian men and then in 1908 a Hobart man set about improving public access as a tourist attraction to the area. By 1928, an electric light system was installed in the caves to improve visibility for those traveling to the site (this was at a time where even the township of Mole Creek didn’t even have electricity!).
Tours operate within the King Solomon caves at 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm daily as well as an additional tour during the summer months at 4.30pm. It is suitable for all ages and fitness levels.
The second cave is called Marakoopa and is known as a wet cave which (as the name suggests) means it has water activity in the cave at some point in time. The cave is also recognised for its amazing glow-worm display, considered the largest in any public access cave in Australia.
The Marakoopa cave was originally discovered by two young brothers in 1906 and it remained a secret with them until they obtained a land grant in 1911 and they opened the cave to the public in 1912. It remained in their hands until 1921 when the Tasmanian Government Tourist Bureau purchased it from them.
The Marakoopa cave has two tours on offer including the “underground rivers and glow-worms tour” and the “great cathedral and glow-worms tour”.
The “underground rivers and glow-worms tour” has tours operating at 10am, 12pm and 2pm and takes in the lower chamber where visitors can view reflection pools, the sparkling crystals as well as see stalactites and stalagmites. This is an easy tour that caters for all levels of fitness.
The “great cathedral and glow-worms tour” has tours running at 11am, 1pm and 3pm daily and explores the magnificent cavern and the ‘gardens’ feature within the cave. This tour requires a medium level of fitness to get up the stairs to the Great Cathedral.
Keep in mind that your tours are happening below ground, so no matter what the weather is like on the surface, Mole Creek caves sit at around 9 degrees, so they are perfect to explore anytime of the year. Don’t forget your jumper and comfortable walking shoes though!
In southern Tasmania, you should take the time to travel the 90 minute drive from Hobart through some of the most picturesque countryside to the Hastings Caves and thermal pool.
Formed millions of years ago the caves were discovered by local sawmillers who were operating in the area. It is said that a tree they fell had branches that penetrated into the cave itself. The sawmillers actually discovered three caves, Newdegate, King George V and Beattie. The Newdegate cave is the largest and most decorative of the three and the cave you explore at Hastings. The Newdegate cave is the largest tourist cave in Australia which occurs in dolomite instead of limestone which further enhances its unique appeal.
The attraction also hosts the thermal pools. The relaxing pool sits at around 28 degrees Celsius due to the water entering the dolomite in the caves at a higher elevation than the springs area and then rapidly descending 600m underground before being pushed back to the surface again. The water is then captured, filtered and run through a UV disinfection system before being returned to the pool.
The thermal pool is located near the information centre and the cave is a further five minutes by car along the road followed by a 5 minute walk to the cave entrance. A tour of the cave takes around 45 minutes and you will see all manner of decorative formations in the cave including flowstone, stalactites, columns, shawls, straws and stalagmites. The cave is also unique in the growth of helictites – stems of calcium that grow all directions!
Tours of Newdegate cave are available at 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.15pm and 3.15pm. Additional tours are available at 10.30am and 4.pm from late December to late January.
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