Descend Deep into a Limestone Mountain
The CSIRO has established that Jenolan is one of the oldest (arguably the oldest) cave systems in the world – 340 million years old – in a mountain of limestone that is 430 million years old. There is no doubt that Jenolan ranks amongst the world’s most spectacular caves. It lies almost completely concealed by eucalypt forest, on the western edge of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
For millennia, the local indigenous people met at Jenolan, and bathed their sick in the mineral-rich waters. In 1836, while hunting a bushranger to his underground lair, European settlers discovered the caves. Since then, more than 400 caves have been found at Jenolan, the largest cave system in Australia that is open to the public – so large, that its furthest reaches have not yet been discovered.
There is a feeling of awe and excitement when descending deep into the mountain, where walls and roofs are richly draped in crystal formations. There are pure underground rivers and fascinating tours, led by helpful tour guides. The pathways and chambers are illuminated using subtle, eco-friendly, LED lighting which highlights all the most gorgeous features. Something that always surprises visitors is that regardless of the surface temperature, the caves are always 15 or 16 degrees Celsius – perfect for walking.
For many visitors, their first experience of Jenolan was as a child, full of wonder. But for adult visitors, maturity enriches their experience. Adults value the subtler aspects – unimaginable timeframes coupled with mind-boggling natural forces, breathtaking beauty, clever technology, sensory experience, quirky history, delicious dinners, excellent wine, romantic walks and rugged beauty in a World Heritage area.
Jenolan offers fascinating cave tours, bush walks, historic hotel, restaurant, bar and café. Visit for a day, or take your time to explore over several days. Visitors can choose activities that are suitable for their fitness level. For example, although the Imperial Cave guided tour involves stairs, the tour is mostly level. Also, although the Nettle Cave also involves many stairs, it is a free, self-guided experience, so they can take their time.
Also, if they visit Jenolan mid-week, especially outside of holidays, adults appreciate the peace and tranquility, along with the lower mid-week accommodation prices. They appreciate the discounted guided cave tours for families, Seniors Card Holders and age pensioners.
They love that it is still free of charge to walk along any of the bush tracks, relax beside the impossibly Blue Lake and wander through the awe-inspiring Grand Arch and Devil’s Coach House Caves. In the pristine mountain valley, several trails lead walkers past waterfalls and massive limestone arches. Jenolan sits in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, teeming with native fauna. Visitors may glimpse lyrebirds, platypus and rare Brush-Tailed Rock Wallabies.
Jenolan’s heritage listed hotel, Jenolan Caves House, was built between 1897 and 1926, alongside the caves. It was designed by prolific NSW government architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, in the romantic Federation Arts and Crafts style. Caves House immediately became the fashionable escape for Sydney society, honeymooners, celebrities, including Agatha Christie and, in 1927, the Duke and Duchess of York. Caves House is a time honoured beauty that exudes a comfortable, vintage atmosphere.
While there is still time, guests who book now, will be amongst the last to experience this unique ambiance, pre-renovation.
Although historic Caves House is expected to be completely renovated during 2020, it is part of a much larger accommodation complex which will remain open – the motel-style Mountain Lodge and several bush cottages. Guests can stay for a night or much longer, and use Jenolan as a base for visiting other attractions in the region.
Evening guests relax upstairs in the historic Chisolm’s Restaurant, an experience in itself. Chisolm’s is a ‘grand dining room’ of the Edwardian era, famous for stately Art Deco features and great food, by international Head Chef Mark Livingstone. Jenolan seems to span an invisible lifestyle crossroads between Sydney chic, tree-changers and rural tradition. Dinner guests from the Central West tend to prefer generous helpings of traditional dishes, such as savoury lamb shanks or local Black Angus tenderloin. City foodies prefer imaginative morsels. There is growing demand for vegan and heart friendly dishes, along with economical choices for families. Mark takes all tastes and needs into account, in creating his tempting menu.
Next to Chisolm’s, the cosy Jeremiah’s Bar offers spirits, beer, colourful cocktails and regional wines. On the ground floor, the new fast-food Caves Café tempts Spring visitors into the shade of the purple flowering wisteria that graces the wide verandah. This old wisteria is a remnant of the original garden designed by Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Joseph Henry Maiden, in 1897.
Tip: Readers who book online, using offer code LBASPR, will get a 10% discount on Lucas, Chifley and Imperial cave tours. This offer is valid for online bookings only, before 26/12/2019.