Sorrel checks out where she has to go.
Inside the caves.
Seeing the caves the clean way.
Sorrel squeezes into Tassie’s underground wonderland. It’s adventure yet glorious all in one.
Tasmania certainly has more than its share of natural beauty and wilderness, and the Getaway team is always delighted to show you yet another of the island's gems.
The Hastings Caves State Reserve covers 110 hectares of the tip of Tasmania's far south, an easy two-hour drive from Hobart. Hastings is a tiny place and came into existence in the mid-19th century as timber workers went further and further south seeking sassafras, Huon pine and stringy bark. At its height, it had a port, a sawmill and was home to many timber workers.
Three limestone caves were discovered by a group of timber workers in 1917. Newdegate Cave, named after a 20th century Governor of Tasmania, was opened in 1939 and is the only one open to the public. It can be reached by a road which was once a railway track used for carrying timber.
Newdegate is 1.65km in length, but just the beginning is open to the public. Titania's Palace in Newdegate is simply breathtaking; a rich wonderland of stalagmites and stalactites. From the mouth of the cave, you wander along the Sensory Trail through myrtles and giant ferns under a canopy of eucalypts. Video cassettes are available for hire and features of the area are pointed out and explained.
The Hastings Pool is thermal, with sweet water, warmed by nature to 28°C year round, and is pure indulgence. It is in fact a manmade pool fed by spring water. A boardwalk circles the bubbling springs, making it an easy stroll for elderly people. Those in wheelchairs can also enjoy the pool with the help of a hydraulic lift.
The caves are Precambrian dolomites, meaning they are made from sedimentary rock dating 600 million years. Most tourist caves are limestone and are comparatively young just 450 million years or less!
Visitors who are keen to explore the cave must have a Parks and Wildlife Services tour guide with them, and two adventure trips are offered. Half-day trips are three hours and the other is six hours, including a barbecue lunch. If you fancy providing your own meal, food is available at the Visitors' Centre. Picnic tables are provided and there is a pretty good shelter hut with power points, open fireplaces and wood.
Tours begin at the visitors' centre with a minimum of two and maximum of eight participants who are supplied with overalls, gumboots, gloves and a helmet with light.
There is a 15-minute walk through the forest and fern glades to a 4.5m ladder into the darkness of the cave. You travel through small passageways and with the help of your helmet light, you will see bugs, spiders and little crickets. You will also see paleokarst, which is the term for sediment that builds up in caves over millions of years.
Cottage accommodation ranging to 4-star waterfront is available within 30 minutes drive of Hastings. Camping is not permitted in the reserve, but there is a youth hostel at Lune River and campgrounds at Cockle Creek, which happens to be Australia's southernmost point accessible by car. There is also a campsite at Esperance River.