Usually Jenolan, Australia’s most spectacular cave system, is open every day of the year, even Christmas. But in December 2019, it had to close for the first time in 101 years, when bushfire swept through the valley. Then in February, it had to close again, after a massive flood washed through Caves House hotel and the ticket office, bringing down tonnes of rock from the surrounding hills.
Amazingly, it was a case of déjà vu. Back in 1919, the exact same thing happened – a bushfire, followed by a massive flood. Back then, to top it off, the destructive flood was followed by the Spanish Flu pandemic.
But, happily, after a huge clean-up, Jenolan has reopened at last and is planning great experiences, such as ‘The Governor’s Getaway’.
Jenolan Caves are very special, and well worth experiencing. In 2006, the CSIRO confirmed that the caves formed 340 million years ago, making them the world’s oldest caves yet discovered.
Local Aboriginal people knew about the caves for thousands of years, and brought their sick to be bathed in the waters that still flow from the caves.
In the 1860s, not long after European discovery, the caves became one of Australia’s earliest reserves, protected for future generations. So they are as jaw-dropping now as the day they were discovered.
Jenolan boasts Australia’s most spectacular caves and Australia’s largest caves that are open to the public. Over 300 caves have been discovered at Jenolan, with no end in sight. Several are open for fascinating guided tours – for all fitness levels – featuring awe-inspiring crystal formations and pure underground rivers.
Jenolan Caves is located on the western edge of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, approximately 1.5 hours west of Katoomba. It’s the only public area in NSW where, on any day, you can spot wild platypus, in the impossibly Blue Lake.
With so much to see and do at Jenolan, it’s a great idea to stay at least one night. There is a range of accommodation, magnificent Chisolm’s Restaurant and handy Caves Café!
If you have been meaning to visit Jenolan, do it this Autumn, and you won’t be disappointed. New, fun and fanciful ways to enjoy the spectacular caves and historic Caves House hotel are being planned. Check www.jenolancaves.org.au, to see what’s new, such as the ‘Governor’s Getaway’, a delightful package offering cave tour, dinner, wine, breakfast and overnight stay in historic Caves House.
The ‘Governor’s Getaway’ leads you back in time, in the footsteps of Lord and Lady Carrington, who visited Jenolan in 1887, colonial days, when Lord Carrington was Governor of NSW. You will uncover the mysteries of the Chifley Secret Chambers tour, which focuses on the surprising history of the cave that was named after Ben Chifley, Prime Minister from 1945 to 1949. Then, at Caves House, you will sit down to a delicious 3-course dinner in elegant Chisolm’s Restaurant. Wash it all down with matched wines, before wandering upstairs to your historic guestroom.
In heritage-listed Caves House, every guestroom is different. The hotel was built between 1897 and 1926, retains original features, and radiates an atmosphere of rustic, vintage comfort. Generations of Australians have honeymooned and holidayed in Caves House – maybe your parents or grandparents. If only the walls could talk!
The guestrooms feature Victorian-era furnishings. Travel back in time to the early 1900s. The heating system is the original, from 1926. Your room has no fridge, TV or phone, and your mobile will only work if your provider is Telstra. But be prepared to embrace it, and enjoy the historical ambience, before renovations alter the authentic old world atmosphere. Caves House is definitely your escape from the modern world! While there, practice the art of conversation. Write a postcard! At night, explore the collection of historical photos that line the corridors, or go outside to explore the massive Grand Arch.
Originally, Caves House was built as a mountain retreat for Sydney’s ‘well-to-do’, so it includes a magnificent grand dining room, now Chisolm’s Restaurant. Chisolm’s serves buffet breakfast and delicious dinner, with a ‘modern Australian’ menu, and vegetarian options. Jeremiah’s Bar, next to the restaurant, offers a truly dizzying array of spirits, wines, beers and cocktails.
For weekend lunch, try Chisolm’s relaxing buffet. Or on weekdays, pop into the Caves Café for light lunch, snacks, coffee, even beer and wine. See www.jenolancaves.org.au for all meal options, even delightful and decadent High Tea.