As I have said before, I am something of a sun worshiper (not in a religious sense) and as such I generally prefer to stay above ground. But, while looking for things to do in Southwest WA I came across information about Jewel Cave, and we decided to check it out.
Located near the town of Augusta, it is roughly a four hour drive south of Perth. The drive itself is rather lovely. Much of the drive is through varying types of forest interspersed with gorgeous green pastureland. Especially after spending the last few months in the outback, being amongst the tall coastal gums was a refreshing change. The drive also takes you through the Margret River wine region, which deserves its own post so I won’t get into it here.
The cave site was already located in protected parkland when it was discovered, so the area is well preserved. The gents that found the cave worked rather hard on the place, and with the help of some government funding, they set the place up well. The road to the site is all paved and the building that houses it looks like something of a bunker with spokes. There is a café and gift shop inside. There is also a half K walk that wanders through the massive Karri trees and passes by the original opening that the explorers entered through. There are numerous info graphics along the trail that describe the flora and fauna.
The tour enters through a covered entrance built just outside the gift shop. It follows a wooden boardwalk and though some of the areas have low clearance or steep stairs, it was easy to navigate. One of the best parts about the cave is the fact that for the most part it is sparsely lit. Each viewing platform has a switch box that allows them to highlight individual areas as the tour progresses, but when they are off the low light really gives it a “cavey” feel that many of the other tourist caves do not have.
The cave itself is a natural wonder beyond description. It has more geological formations packed into then I even knew existed, and the tour guide did a wonderful job of touching on the sort of processes that formed them. There were stalactites of varying sizes that hung down from the roof through out the cave. The cave is known for a certain type of stalactite called straws. They are pencil thin and vary in length from a couple inches to a couple meters. The cave has the third longest straw in the world. They are very fragile structures and can crumble at a touch. There is even a stalagmite that looks like a forest. There is a section of the lower part of the cave where the ceiling is covered in yarn thin helictites that sparkle like crystal. There was an amazing amount of natural decoration, which held me in constant wonder.
The tour lasted an hour and I was rapt the entire time. The tour costs $22.50 per person and is well worth the price. The tour guide was awesome and did a wonderful job, and the cave itself is a wonder to behold. It is a must see destination for any one traveling in WA.
The valley of the giants is another natural wonder in southern WA. The giant tingle trees tower more then a hundred meters high. Tingle trees are an interesting species. Most of the living part of the tree is just under the bark. Frequently the middle of the tree burns creating a large hollow space, occasionally large enough to drive a car through. The trees are amazing.
The tree top walk is what draws most of the people. At its tallest the walk way is suspended 70 meters above the ground. The walkway itself is a rather ingenious piece of construction, and though it does swing a tad, it is rather solid and takes up very little ground space. The views from the platforms are unique and it is certainly different to literally walk through the treetops.
However, it cost $15 to do the walk, and to be honest, I didn’t really think it was worth it. The walk is short and the views really are not that spectacular. I did not think it was worth the money.
There is a free walk at the park that is worth doing. It is not long, less than a K, but it has some rather informative plaques and you get to learn a lot about the trees. There are plenty of large, hollow trees to stand in and get a sense of how big these 300 + year old giants really are.
While we were around Wapole, we stayed at a lovely little place called Jenny’s Lake B&B. The rooms look out over a small lake surrounded by trees. The birds flit about the trees, their songs ringing in the air. There is a lovely little deck to sit on and enjoy the wonderful surroundings. The room was clean and comfortable and had everything we could ask for. The family that runs the place is fantastic. They invited us into their home for meals and made us feel like we were cherished house guests. It was a wonderful place to stay.
If you’re in the area, be sure to head on over to Denmark. The town itself is nice, but the wineries and meaderies about are wonderful places to visit. Beyond the wine, there are chocolate factories, a leather works, and a toffee company that was such an experience, I plan on giving it is own post.
All in all the great southern forest was a great place to visit. The landscape is very unique within Australia. The forest is amazing, and it runs right up to a very unique coastline. There are caves to explore, trees to climb, unique coastline to explore, and wineries and sweets factories where one can binge on free samples. What else can a traveler ask for?