The area around Margaret River and Witchcliffe has one of the most extensive cave systems in the State’s South West region. There are over 350 caves hidden below the surface of the Margaret River region. The main reason for this large cave system, is the water, which over years, had seeped through the limestone ridge which stretches some 80kms along the coast. Understandably some of these caves are not open to the public, due to safety reasons, but there are several tourist caves ready to be explored along Caves Road.
The first recorded discovery of a cave in the Margaret River area, was in 1848 and was presumably the Old Kudardup Cave, near Augusta . In the 1880’s, following the clearing of forests by the M.C. Davies Timber Co, a series of caves were discovered.
The Bussell family who were early pioneers of the area, were also responsible for the discovery of many caves. In fact, the Brides cave was named in honour of Grace Bussell’s daughter.
The town of Witchcliffe was also named after a cave of the same name in the area.
In the early 1900’s a Caves Board was established by J.W.Hackett to manage and protect 14 caves for the intended tourist possibilities. The first cave to be opened to the general public was the Yallingup Cave in 1902. With great success the Caves board began an extensive advertising campaign to attract both local and international tourists to Western Australia’s south-west region. By 1910 the Caves Board was partly abolished and the caves fell into neglect. The demise of the tourist caves continued for the next 20 years due to vandalism, graffiti, flooding and bush fires.
By the 1950’s there were only five caves still open to the general public. However, around the same time the Jewel Cave was discovered, which reignited interest in caving and tourism. Sir David Brand officially opened the Jewel Cave to the public in 1959.
During the 1960’s many new caves were discovered by cavers including the Labyrinth Cave, Strong’s Cave, Christmas Star Cave, Terry Cave, Winjan’s Cave, Boya Booka Cave and Beenup Cave. None of these caves are open to the general public and require special caving permits.Information about the permits can be found at CALM.
Tourist Caves of Margaret River
The Jewel Cave, which is probably the most spectacular of all the tourist caves in the area, boasts the longest straw stalactites to be found in any tourist cave in the world.
The Mammoth Cave is a self guiding cave and you can wander through at your own leisure. You are even supplied with you own self guiding audio headset. It also features partial disabled access. Inside the cave are fascinating formations and nicely displayed remains of extinct animals, such as the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger / Nannup Tiger ). There are some interesting formations such as the crocodile head which for the life of me I couldn’t see (until it was pointed out to me, by a 6 year old!).
The Lake Cave features a tranquil lake which reflects the formations suspended from the roof of the cave. The cave is only accessible by tour guide . Be warned there are only limited tours thoughout the day, so it is important to check times and days before you go, as it may save you a long wait. There is a cafe and gift shop at the caves entrance.
And There Is More
Okay, you now know about the tourist caves of Margaret River, but did you know that there are many other caves to explore in the Witchcliffe area. Click here for more information caves of Witchcliffe.