Naracoorte Caves

Naracoorte Caves, South Australia, Australia. Public Domain.
Geologic Map, Naracoorte Caves, South Australia, Australia. Public Domain.

Naracoorte Caves are part of the 410 hectares Naracoorte Caves National Park, where until now 28 limestone caves are known [2021]. The area is called the Naracoorte East Range but it was also known as Mosquito Plains Caves. The first caves were discovered in 1845 and used by the locals, but also opened as show caves. Several local entrepreneurs offered guided tours, ferried visitors from Naracoorte and provided Magnesium Lamps. In 1908 Naracoorte had eight caves open to the public.

Today there are five caves open to the public, four are regular show caves with guided tours, one cave may be visited in a self-guided tour, and one has no light and is visited with electric torches. Additionally, there is Wonambi Fossil Centre exhibition in the Visitor Center, which is well worth a visit. The static displays are colourful, interesting and professionally laid out. Those with reconstructed megafauna, complete with movement and animal noises, are just amazing.

Beneath the five show caves there are different cave trekking tours offered, into various caves in the park. There are two levels, novice and advanced. If you want to participate in an advanced tour you have to do a novice tour first. This way the guides can better assess if you are able to do the advanced tour. The available tours seem to change rather frequently, Cathedral Cave is not available any more [2022] but tours are available in Stick-Tomato Cave, Victoria Fossil Cave, and Fox Cave. There is also an archaeological tour called World Heritage Tour and a Photography Tour which takes three hours and stops are intended for extensive photography. The World Heritage Tour shows excavation sites which are not on the show cave tours, anbd there is always the chance to talk to the scientists. The Photography Tour changes depending on the participants, locations and duration are negotiable. The experienced guides know the caves and can provide hints for photogenic spots. The starting point is the Visitor Center and most sites are less than 300 m away and easily accessible on gravel trails. Only the Victoria Fossil Cave is located 1.5 km to the south, and Fox Cave is accessible only by 4WD. The caves have 60,000 visitors per year [2000].


1845 first cave in the area which was discovered, named Big Cave.
1885 Department of Woods and Forests appoints caretaker due to "the popularity of the caves and their vulnerability to vandalism".
1886-1919 the cave guide and caretaker William Reddan put into place new principles around visitation and management.
1916 20 ha transferred from the Department of Woods and Forests to the Immigration, Publicity and Tourist Bureau to manage it as a national pleasure resort.
27-APR-1972 renamed as the Naracoorte Caves Conservation Park.
1988 nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage List.
1994 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
30-NOV-2000 constitution of Naracoorte Caves National Park with National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 Sections 29(3) and 28(1) by the House of Assembly and by the Legislative Council.
18-JAN-2001 proclaimed as a National Park by the Governor of South Australia.