Where our natural wonders are concerned, it’s no secret that sun-drenched Queensland is a veritable trove of coastal splendour. Our idyllic beaches are the best in the country, the surf is stellar, and only about 70% of the wildlife wants to kill us. But beneath the surface, Queensland is also home to some of the most beautiful natural caves in Australia.
If you consider yourself a fan of Aladdin, the Phantom, or Clif bars, this one’s for you. Here are six of the state’s finest caves to explore.
The Capricorn Caves are set in a limestone ridge just outside of Rockhampton and include the Cathedral Cave Tour among their many attractions. So named because of the absolutely breathtaking natural acoustics, this subterranean chamber is often used as an actual cathedral playing host to Underground Opera performances and can even be used as a wedding venue. Perfect for loved-up spelunkers. Visit in the right season and you might even spot some insectivorous bats. Get among it.
Mt Etna Caves
Also just outside of Rocky, the Mt Etna Cave’s limestone karst was created by the gradual dissolution of ancient coral reefs. What remains is a bunch of overground caves in a limestone ridge, perfect for the first-time spelunker. If you’re after some wildlife sighting, the caves at Mt Etna also happen to house 80% of the Australian population of bent-wing bats, the smallest and most adorable variety of cave bat, as well as a colony of significantly more terrifying ghost bats, which are the only carnivorous cave bats in Australia. The more you know.
Known for being some of the longest lava tubes in the world, a trek through the Undara Caves in far north Queensland makes for one of the most memorable experiences in the state. Located about four hours south-west of Cairns, the cavernous tunnels are natural conduits forged 190,000 years ago by streams of lava that erupted from the Undara Volcano and onto the Atherton Tableland. Make sure you time your visit with breeding season if you want to see some microbats.
Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park
With limestone outcrops, Indigenous rock art, and a warren of breathtaking limestone caves, the entirety of the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park is a wholesale bonanza of natural and cultural heritage. The underground caves and caverns themselves were created by the limestone dissolving away, leaving a forest of stalactites (hanging), stalagmites (rising), and flowstones (watery-looking rocks) for visitors to navigate.
If you’re after some real natural splendour, check out Springbrook’s Natural Bridge. Every aspect of the experience of visiting the bridge is a visual feast for your eyes (even the drive there showcases the state’s lush hinterland). The rock formation of the bridge creates a natural archway and echo chamber flexing a waterfall and a modest colony of bent-wing bats. Come nighttime, the cave’s resident glow worms light up the grotto and transform it into something truly magical.
Cherubs Cave Dive site
Here’s the thing about Cherubs Cave: it’s underwater, so you’ll need some scuba chops to access its aquatic glory but let me tell you it is well worth it. The cave itself is circular, with six different exits that make it feel like something from the lost city of Atlantis. Around the cave is a smattering of smaller caves and overhangs, and the whole area is awash with turtles, grey nurse sharks, and a heck load of fish.
Lover of the outdoors? Find the best places to walk and hike around Brisbane here.
Image credit: Joshua Sortino