Beth Russell, Manager at Hastings Caves, made contact in mid-September saying she’d love Think Tasmania to visit. And we didn’t need to be asked twice! We were very excited about the prospect of driving south of Hobart for a day out. We started talking about the upcoming visit on Facebook, and do you know what? We had the most feedback we’ve ever had about one of our planned journeys!
Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs
People were commenting about Hastings Caves in one of two ways…
- either they had been and it was wonderful, we were going to love it; or
- they’d never been but had always wanted to visit. Could they come with us?
We can now understand why everyone was so excited. It’s a fabulous and unique experience, and it’s quite easy to manage in a day trip from Hobart. 100km drive (or about an hour and a half) will get you there via Huonville, Franklin and Port Huon.
We stopped briefly in Geeveston on the way, hoping to have some of Masaaki’s Sushi for lunch. It’s another pretty popular draw card for the Huon Valley region, especially since his appearance on Gourmet Farmer. The tiny shop (behind The HR Factor in the main street) hadn’t yet opened for the day, so we missed out. But never fear, we’ll just head to the Farmers Market in Hobart one Sunday and have our fix of sushi!
Hastings Caves Visitor Centre, Huon Valley
As the Huon Highway turns towards Southport, you take the Hastings Caves Road to the right and drive towards Ida Bay Railway until you reach a gravel road into the state reserve, which is well sign-posted. We arrived at the Hastings Caves Visitor Centre, half expecting to be the only visitors. It was a public holiday for the show, and we thought everyone else would be at the Hobart Showground. Wrong! The carpark was full, and when we met Erin at the counter inside, we learned a very valuable lesson that we can pass on to you… make a booking!
Each cave tour can accommodate about 30 people, and we just scraped in to the final tour of the day at 3:00pm. The four tours prior to that had all been fully booked. But waiting didn’t pose a problem at all, as we got to enjoy a walk through the forest. Part way around the boardwalk, we saw an echidna scurry off the track and bury his head in the sand, trusting his spines to protect his bottom!
Swimming and the Thermal Springs
On the walk, you can stop to watch fish in the stream, or search for a platypus. And there’s a special place you can lean down and touch the water to appreciate another phenomenon of the Hastings Caves Reserve: the Thermal Springs. The underground springs feed a swimming pool, where the water is naturally heated to about 28C.
We joined several other families enjoying the surrounds of the thermal pool. Plenty were swimming; others were playing ball games on the grass. Even more were using the BBQs or having lunch at the picnic tables.
Locals can purchase an annual pool membership, and a family from Dover told us they made it their mission to visit quite often. With two roaring open fires in the BBQ huts, the heated pool would be a pleasant experience even during cooler months.
Newdegate Cave Tour
Before long, it was time to whip through the heated showers, make our way back to the car park and drive the 5kms from the Visitor Centre to the Newdegate Cave. We donned jackets (the cave is about 9C) and sturdy footwear. Then with tickets in hand, we made our way past signs detailing the accidental discovery of the caves by loggers, to meet our guide.
Parks and Wildlife Service tour-guide Trish gave the group a quick introductory spiel, and then we were led into the entrance to face… the stairs! Now anyone having read some of my previous articles would know I hate stairs. With a passion! Erin had given me the heads up: there was about 500 of the dreaded steps to negotiate. Worried enough to hand over the camera so I could focus all my energy, I steeled myself.
But I needn’t have worried at all. Walkers set their own pace and when the whole group had assembled in each new chamber, Trish would shine her flashlight and explain how the spectacular dolomite features had formed over 40 million years. While there’s a lot of stairs overall, you’re walking down, then up, then across; and all with breaks in between for photos and questions. I managed the 50 minute tour, including the set of stairs dubbed “Jenny Craig”, with both dickie hip and lungs intact!
Hastings State Forest Reserve
Several of the formations have been given names: headache rock, birthday cake, champagne glasses and a champagne bottle. And while photography (even flash) is allowed in the caves, nothing can compare to seeing the crystal straws, stalactites and glowworms in person. The whole thing is absolutely amazing. $60-00 will cover a Newdegate Cave tour; a swim in the thermal springs pool and a great family day in the Tasmanian forest reserve.
The writer and her family were guests of Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs. For more information visit the website or phone (03) 6298 3209.
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