One of the spectacular family highlights of visiting the Margaret River Region of Western Australia is getting the opportunity to visit the complex labyrinth of limestone caves that lie beneath the fertile soils.
There are six readily-visitable caves in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, though there are believed to be over 100 scattered throughout the Margaret River Region.
Some are only accessible with guided tours, through to hard-core abseil entry, whilst others you can explore at your own pace. Depending on how much time you have Down South – as well as budget – you may not be able to see them all, so we’re here to help you choose!!
There is no ‘one best’ cave to recommend in Margaret River as it really depends on your group’s age and abilities. From our experience visiting Margaret River with our three young children at different ages and stages, we will point out accessibility features of each cave and a few health and safety pointers that may help you make up your mind.
Why visit the Margaret River Caves?
The Margaret River caves are one of Australia’s spectacular geographic features. Dating back a million years, the limestone caves system stretches from Cape Leeuwin in the south to Cape Naturaliste in the north.
Not only educational, a visit the caves can break up a Margaret River trip for kids that may be dotted with winery & brewery stops.
The caves of Margaret River make for a great year-round activity. The underground caverns keep a fairly consistent year-round temperature so perfect for both summer and winter. Additionally, most are safe and dry to visit even on a rainy day.
Map to the Caves in Margaret River
- Open Daily 9am to 5pm
- Tours depart on the half hour from 9.30am to 3.30pm
Jewel Cave is the region’s largest cave, with three massive chambers. It is one of the most spectacular show caves in the world with fossilised remains and gleaming crystal ornaments, including the longest known straw stalactites found in any tourist cave in Australia.
Sitting around 30 minutes from Margaret River (10 minutes north of Augusta), guided tours are held every hour, there are no self-guided options. Your tour is completed with an easy self-guided trek through the Karri Walk and refreshments are available from a small cafe.
Of all the Margaret River Caves, it is probably the most educational so makes a great starting point if you’ve never explored limestone caves before. With the tour lasting an hour, it may be more suitable for older children with longer concentration spans. However, there are fewer steps here than both Ngilgi and Lake Caves making it more accessible.
Staying in the far south? Look out for an ” Augusta Icons” pass (Adults $36 AUD) which includes Jewel Cave and Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Purchase at Jewel Cave or Cape Leeuwin.
- Open daily 9am to 5pm (last entry 4pm)
- Self-guided tours no fixed time slots
At a huge 500m long and 30m in depth, this is one of the more accessible caves, with wheelchair and stroller-friendly access possible in the first chamber. There is boardwalk throughout, however, the remaining chambers include some steep stairs.
Tours here are completely self-guide through an MP3 player and headset available in several languages. Highlights within the cave include fossilised remains embedded in the limestone walls for over 46,000 years, and in the winter a natural red stream (stained from the tannins) flows through the cave.
There’s an additional 0.2 km walk at the completion of the cave tour around the Marri Trail. You are just 15 minutes south of Margaret River town.
- Open daily 9am to 5pm
- Fully guided tours only every 40 minutes from 9.20am to 4pm daily
Lake Cave, located just 20 minutes away from Margaret River town is set in a sunken forest, beneath the towering lush karri forests. It is the smallest but deepest of the caves with a permanent underground lake, and eerie permanent dripping year round!
Highlights include the stunning ‘suspended table’ stalactite which at several tonnes in weight precariously hangs from the ceiling. Through clever lighting, the cave reflects the stunning crystal formations from the cave roof. At several points along the tour, the lighting is changed to emphasis and highlight the caves beauty points – arguably even more breathtaking than Jewel Cave!
The cave is only accessible by tour and visitors must be aware that there is a steep 350 step climb down and, of course, back up, as well as low ceiling points. Kids will need close supervision and there are points where silence is required as part of the experience.
Although there are no age limits, you should be aware of the physical challenges involved and the ambience of the experience (there’s a point where the lights are completely switched off). It’s not the best for your littlest ones nor those with health conditions due to the climb.
You can finish your tour taking in the views of the sunken forest, and marvelling at your physical prowess (or lack thereof!) from the Lake Cave Deck. Kids will also enjoy the Lake Cave Eco Centre with cave crawl tunnel experience in the ticket office.
- Open 9am to 5pm daily
- Semi-guided tours every 30 minutes between 9.30am and 4pm
Located between Dunsborough and Yallingup, Ngilgi Cave (formerly known as Yallingup Cave) is the most northern-most of Margaret River Regions accessible caves. Discovered in 1899 there are three different tours on offer through the interconnecting caverns of Ngilgi.
From huge caverns to smaller crawl spaces, it’s the colourful light display that makes Ngilgi Cave spectacular!
A semi-guided tour starts with a 15-minute introductory talk. Learn about Ngilgi’s geological formation and the Dreamtime legend of Ngilgi “the great spirit of the ocean” that lives within the cave.
You are then free to self-tour the remainder of the cave with signage along the way but guides are still on hand to answer your questions. Although there are a few uneven steps, this is your best bet with young kids as it’s quite accessible and there is also a junior explorers tunnel.
Alternatively, there is an ‘Ancient Riverbed Adventure Tour” and ‘Cave Explorer Adventure Tour’ (aged 10 and over) option where you can head off the boardwalks with hard hat and lamps.
You can also enjoy an “Above and Below” ticket which combines Ngilgi Cave & Cape Naturalist Lighthouse $32 AUD.
Up for more outdoor adventures? Why not try Mountain Biking in Margaret River
- Open 9am to 4.15pm
- Adults $25 and children 6 to 16 years $10. Family $60 (under 6 free)
Calgardup Cave is one of two caves managed separately (see Giants Cave below!) by WA Parks & Wildlife Service.
After a 27m descent, you will find a cave abound in colourful stalactites, stalagmites and walls of flowstone. The cave forks into two branches each 150m long and accessed via boardwalk and steps.
Helmets and torches are provided for your self-guided underground tour which lasts around 30 to 60 minutes. It is easy to access (though no strollers/wheelchairs due to steps). Little ones scared of the dark may want to skip this one as you provide your own lighting.
- Open daily during school and public holidays 9.30am to 3.30pm daily; October to April 10am to 1pm
- Self-guided and with adventure tour operators
- Adults $25 and children 6 to 16 years $10. Family $60
Adventure seekers only!
Giants Cave, managed by WA Parks & Wildlife Service is one of the more challenging self-guided caves, sitting just 15 minutes away from Margaret River town centre. It is only open for part of the year to those aged 6 years and up.
With plenty of vertical ladder climbs and rock scrambling involved, you need to navigate through some tight spots with torches and helmets 86 metres deep to meet the huge hidden chambers.
You can follow the marked trail on a self-guided tour, or adventure caving is possible through licensed tour companies. Abseiling is only possible with advance booking, contact the booking office (08) 9757 7422.
Further tips for the Margaret River Caves
- Even in dry weather, the surfaces underground can be slippery. Thongs/flip flops are not recommended, you should all wear good walking shoes.
- Strollers not recommended at any of the caves, you will want infants in a sturdy carrier.
- Temperatures below-ground can be much cooler than above, usually around a constant 20c, you may want longer sleeves on even in summer.
- Caves are open every day except Christmas.
What does it cost to visit the caves in Margaret River?
Advance purchasing is advised to guarantee your spot on organized tours, however, you can buy a cave multi-pass at your first cave to save (don’t worry, you don’t have to see them all in one day!)
Pricing for Jewel Cave, Lake Cave, Mammoth Cave and Ngilgi Cave:
- Single Adult $22.50 AUD
- Child (4 to 16 years) $12.50 AUD
- Families (2 Adults, 2 Children) $58.00 AUD
- Seniors $20.00 AUD
- Two-cave pass adult $41.00 AUD
- Three-cave pass adult $54.00AUD
- Four-cave pass adult $67.50 AUD
If you’d like to learn more about exploring the Margaret River region, don’t forget to check out our highlights guide to Margaret River with kids and our complete guide to touring the South West corner of Western Australia.
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