Wellington Caves

Useful Information

the entrance to the cave.
Location: Hwy. 32, 8 km South of Wellington.
Open: All year daily at 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16. Additional tours on weekends, public and school holidays. Closed on Christmas.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: Cathedral Cave: D=45 min.
Garden Cave: D=40 min.
V=50,000/a. V=42,000/a[2000]
Bibliography: R.A.L. Osborne (1998): Karst Geology of Wellington Caves: a review, Helictite 37(1):3-12
Joan Starr and Doug McMillan: The Wellington Caves ,
Kent Henderson: The Wellington Caves and Abercrombie, detailed description of all the cave tours for both cave complexes.
Greg P Plummer (2004): A History of Wellington, NSW and the Discovery of Wellington Caves, NSW., Journal of The Sydney Speleological Society, Vol 48 (2) 39-45. Includes a 3 page bibliography.
Address: Wellington Caves, P.O.Box 62, Wellington NSW 2820, Tel: +61-68-45-1418, 1800-621-614 Fax: +61-68-45-3086. David Hearn, Manager.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


the entrance to the cave.
1828 first recorded in the diary of Hamilton Hume.
1830 fossil bones discovered by the colonist George Rankin.
1830s fossils examined by Charles Darwin.
1884 caves became a reserve.
1888 the caves were visited by 1500 peoples a year.
1913-1971 phosphate mining has destroyed huge amounts of the bones.


The cave is entered through narrow passages and then down an iron staircase into the huge main passage.

Wellington Caves are really dry caves as they are located west of the dividing range. Only occasional rains are not enough to explain the existence of those caves, so they were formed long ago, when Australia was far more south to the pole and the climate was much wetter. The cave has nice river passages, which are the last remains of a strong cave river. Today the floor is covered with dry earth.

the biggest stalagmite of the world. Or probably one of them.

The regular tourist cave tours show a cave, which is called Cathedral Cave. The last chamber of the tour contains the Altar Rock, a 15 m high stalagmite with 32 m circumference at the bottom. It is told to be the largest stalagmite in the world. From the geological or speleological viewpoint, the cave with its multiple flow forms, is very interesting. Despite the single huge pillar there are fortunately not many speleothems covering the scallops of the wall.

The second cave, open for the public is Garden Cave. This cave is famous for its unusual and beautiful Speleothemcave coral.

The third related sight, open for the public, is the old Phosphate Mine. This cave is home to numerous bats, among them a threatened species called bent-wing bat. As a result there are enormous amounts of bat guano, which was once mined as fertilizer, hence the name. A troglobiontic crab living in the caves is considered to be a living fossil.

In the Bone Cave, which is only open to scientists, millions of years old fossils have been found. It was discovered in 1830 by the colonist George Rankin, who accidentally fell into the entrance of a cave. There he found piles of bones, many of them were of enormous size and could not be matched with any known Australian animal. In the same year he and Surveyor General Thomas Mitchell collected more than 1000 specimens.

The age of the bones ranges from approximately 30,000 years up to four million years. The extinct species found here are for example marsupial lions (Thylacoleo), the Diprotodon, giant kangaroos, huge seven metre-long carnivorous goanna, other reptiles, and birds. The Diprotodon was a herbivorous marsupial and its teeth were well adapted for grazing. It roamed the area during the Pleistocene period. At the entrance of the cave is a sculpture which tries to show its original look. Looks a bit like the big rabbit from Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, just without watch and hat.

In 2000, right before the Olympic Games, the Australian Museum in Sydney opened a major exhibition with bones from Wellington. The exhibition toured several natural museums in Australia.

The reserve contains numerous other caves. With recent discoveries by the members of the Sydney University Speleology Club their number is 26. Two of them are water filled: River Cave and Water Cave.