Far from other Blue Mountains attractions, the limestone Jenolan Caves is one of the most extensive, accessible and complex systems in the world – a vast network that’s still being explored. The numerous caverns are a spectacular sight with vast subterranean spaces, otherworldly limestone formations and an underground river. Cave visits run throughout the day but book up fast, so it's worth reserving in advance online. If you don't, you may face a substantial wait at busy periods, especially if you're a group.
Named Binoomea (Dark Places) by the Gundungurra tribe, the caves took shape 400 million years ago. White explorers first passed through in 1836 and the caves were a major attraction by the 1860s.
Cave tours cycle between different spaces. There are three standard tours: Chifley Cave, suitable for everyone, with spectacular formations and lots of crystal; Imperial Cave, the easiest on the legs; and Lucas Cave, which has more steps but lots of visual highlights. All three are suitable for children. Guides are informative and humorous, pointing out the inevitable nicknames of unusual formations.
Less frequent tours head to Orient Cave, Temple of Baal and Diamond Cave, while small group visits head to the River Cave, Ribbon Cave and the Off the Track Tour. Beyond this, there are numerous packages and other special visits available, including adventure caving catering to three levels. The daily Plughole Adventure Tour ($130, two hours), with no experience necessary, is a good introduction to caving and includes a bit of abseiling.
The caves are about 1½ hours' drive from Katoomba and the road is not suitable for caravans. On arrival, you pass through the Grand Arch, a spectacular rock tunnel from which the principal caves are accessed. Most car parking is a long walk from the caves, so you might want to let off some passengers just beyond the tunnel by the main Caves House complex, which includes a hotel, a restaurant serving breakfast and dinner daily and the ticket office. The return road through the tunnel is closed from 11.45am to 1.15pm, but you can make your way back by continuing past the caves towards Oberon. The closest fuel to the caves is in Oberon or Mount Victoria.
There are various accommodation options, including the dated but characterful, heritage-listed Caves House – check the website for details – but there are good choices not far away that offer more peace and quiet, such as Jenolan Cabins.
There is no public transport to the caves, but several tour companies offer trips. Otherwise you could walk here from Katoomba via the Megalong Valley along the 46km Six Foot Track, normally undertaken as a three-day hike.