The discovery of Gunns Plains Caves is genuinely an interesting tale.
It all began by chasing a possum down a hole. Yep, that’s how these Tasmanian caves are believed to have been discovered.
In 1906, Mr Bill Woodhouse was out hunting possums with his dog. While chasing down a possum his dog is alleged to have fallen down a hole connected to the cave system. Not wanting to lose his dog, Bill entered the hole and discovered Gunns Plains Caves, and the rest is history.
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Gunns Plains Caves Tour
54 narrow, steep and often damp steps descending downwards is how the tour of Gunns Plains Caves begins.
Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs and entering the cool, damp and dark cave. The first thing you’ll notice is the sounds of ordinary life fade away. The trickle of water from the permanent underground stream is all that you hear.
This permanent underground stream is what carved and shaped the cave system and is home to Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish and we’ve been told a rather elusive platypus.
The tour winds its way down 275 metres deep into the Gunns Plains Caves, passing through several large caverns.
What is truly enjoyable about this tour is how almost everything has been left in its natural state. Besides the lighting and a few ladders needed to get around, the cave has been left untouched to display its natural beauty.
Everywhere you look you’ll see some new formation or tiny detail to enjoy. Such as stalagmites growing upwards from the floor and reaching for the skyless night above. Or stalactites dangling from the cavern ceiling with tiny droplets of water falling from their points. Misshapen flowstones looking like blobs of melted flowing wax. And some truly impressive shawls, fanning out to display their colours.
If delicate stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones and shawls don’t impress you, then Gunns Plains Caves also boasts some impressively large formations.
The gigantic formation known as the Wedding Cake was our favourite on the tour. It looks sensational as the calcite crystals glitter silver in the subterranean light.
Gunns Plains Caves is also home to an impressive flowstone formation dubbed the Golden Fleece, and the giant dangling formation named the Beanstalk.
While these formations are impressive, they aren’t the only things making this cave tour special.
Before we began our tour, we’d been having a casual chat with our tour guide Geoff. During this chat, we mentioned our visit coincided with Ronins fourth birthday.
Unknown to us, Geoff had planned a little birthday surprise.
The last underground cavern visited during the tour is known as The Cathedral, and this is where Geoff sprung his surprise.
Pulling a candle out of seemingly nowhere, he had the entire tour group sing happy birthday to Ronin. Finished with the traditional blowing out of the candle.
It was a fantastic addition to the tour and something we will always remember fondly.
Exceptional Tour Guides
While the caves are an amazing attraction, the tour was certainly improved by the exceptional tour guides, Geoff and Trish.
We did the tour with Geoff and thought he did a wonderful job. He has the right mix of knowledge, enthusiasm and passion. Our friends toured the caves with Trish and said she was equally awesome.
It was obvious that Geoff loves guiding and teaching people about these remarkable caves.
He was enthusiastic about sharing the history of the caves and answering any questions the visitors threw his way. But he also likes to have fun. His typical Aussie humour really shined, and as I was soon to learn, he also enjoys a practical joke.
The Butt Of The Joke
During our tour, I was as lagging behind the rest of our tour group, busily taking photos.
The eleven other visitors that day had already left the cavern chamber and proceeded down the dimly lit hallway.
In the distance, I could hear Geoff counting them as they passed. Counting eleven I heard Geoff loudly say “that’s all of them”.
I hear the click of the light switch and darkness!
I’m standing in an unknown cave, deep underground with my only light source being the tiny glow from my cameras viewfinder.
I yell out into the dark nothingness and hear a chuckle coming from off in the distance. Geoff is obviously enjoying his practical joke.
I hear the click again and the lights come back on. I’m amazed by how fast I was disorientated in the darkness. I’m somehow facing the entirely wrong direction.
“I thought we had 12 people” Geoff jokingly says.
We quickly catch up to the rest of the tour group. It’s time for the caves next attraction. It’s time to see the glow worms!
Much like a Hollywood movie star, glow worms don’t like the paparazzi. They are sensitive little critters and cameras can cause them harm. Since photos are not allowed in the glow worm chamber to preserve the colony. Sadly we have no photos to share.
Entering the glow-worm chamber is unassuming at first. It looks much like the rest of the cave complex, the only difference is the underground stream flowing past.
Here you’ll learn some interesting facts about glow worms and their life cycle. And then the fun begins.
The lights go off and its pure darkness once again.
At first, nothing is visible. But as your eyes slowly adjust. You start picking out one, then two, then three glowing points of light on the ceiling.
The glowing dots of light begin to gradually spread out across the entire roof until it comes alive with little pinpoints of iridescent blue everywhere.
It’s like looking at a beautiful night’s sky, only its deep underground where no starlight will ever reach.
The display at Gunns Plains is regarded as one of the best in Tasmania due to its permanent underwater stream. This constant water source creates the perfect environment for glow worms which require dark damp conditions to live.
The permanent water source also means the glow worms are visible year-round as the cave doesn’t rely on seasonal water runoff.
Total darkness. It’s a surreal experience. It’s something I’d imagine not many have truly experienced.
Even standing outside, away from light pollution, on the darkest night, a minute amount of light still exists. Whether it be faint moonlight or the glow of the stars, there is usually enough light for your eyes to function to a certain degree.
Inside the cave is a different matter. Outside light is unable to penetrate the caves depths. So when the lighting is turned off, you’re eyes which depend on light to see, no longer work.
Experiencing total darkness is one of the highlights of the tour. Albeit a very strange, disorientating and claustrophobic one.
Like most people subjected to sudden darkness, you stand still and wait for your eyes to slowly adjust. But nothing happens.
Even after waiting a few minutes, I still couldn’t see my hand mere inches from my face. I was unable to orientate myself or detect any movement around me.
Losing my ability to see was a very freaky experience, and knowing the early explorers navigated the caves using candles must have been a risky and scary endeavour.
Tour Group Sizes
One thing we loved about this tour was the smaller tour group sizes. While group sizes can vary, our group was only 12 people which made the tour feel more personal.
We have attended other cave tours where the tour group was 30+ and felt overcrowded.
The cave is pretty easy to navigate for most people. There are a few short ladder climbs to tackle, but the rest is made up of fairly smooth paths with handrails.
Young children should be able to get around fairly easily with a little parental assistance on the staircase and ladders.
Babies carriers are possible. There are a few narrow points and low ceilings, so a spotter will be required to ensure you have the required clearance.
- Child: 7.50 AUD (4-16 years. Under 5 years free )
- Adult: 19 AUD
- Family: 50 AUD (2 Adults, Children)
Tours depart daily at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:30, 14:30 and 15:30.
Exceptions: Closed Christmas Day.
Check the official website for up to date information.
- Car park
Address: 46 Caves Road, Gunns Plains. Tasmania, Australia.
Click to view map to Gunns Plains Caves.
- Enclosed shoes should be worn as some paths can be damp
- We recommend leaving backpacks and camera bag in the car. They make navigating the cave annoying
- Hiking boots
- Warm clothing
- Floors and handrails can be damp and slippery in certain areas
With its beautiful cave formations, excellent tour guides and low admission prices. Gunns Plains Caves should definitely be added to your must-see list. Its close proximity to the Spirit of Tasmania also makes it a great first stop on any Tasmanian road trip itinerary.
- Leven Canyon
- Preston Falls
- Wings Wildlife Park