The caves of the Margaret River Region are set deep within the limestone of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge; surrounded by coastal bushland in the region’s north, and towering forests in the south.
The lighthouses stand guard at the very edges of the capes; warning of treacherous waters beyond the rugged beauty of the coastline.
Some of the questions we are frequently asked by visitors to these amazing natural and heritage attractions are listed here, to help in your planning and preparation.
1. How many steps are there in the caves?
Each cave is unique and there is a cave tour experience to suit almost every visitor.
The Mammoth Cave has a long boardwalk entrance from the valley on the eastern side of the cave. This provides universal access into the first chamber of the cave (no prams); it’s the only wheelchair accessible cave in the region. After the first chamber, there are about 370 steps staged throughout the remainder of the cave, and a climb of 170 steps to exit up through the ridge on the western side of the cave.
At the other caves - Ngilgi Cave with 350 steps, Lake Cave with 325 steps and Jewel Cave with 250 steps - there is only one entrance/exit; so each step you went down you have to step back up!
Are all those stairs done at once?
No! At each cave the steps are staged, with sections of boardwalk between them, and rest-stops at platforms along the way.
Can we take photos?
Yes, photography is encouraged from the viewing platforms, but for safety reasons is not recommended when walking on the stairs.
You can use a flash, but most people find that they get better photos without it.
Can I take a tripod?
Tripods and selfie-sticks are not allowed in the cave. This is to ensure the safety of all visitors and the preservation of the delicate cave decorations, as well as adhering to timing constraints.
Is it cold in the cave?
Ngilgi Cave is actually quite warm, maintaining a reasonably constant temperature of 20 ̊C, while Jewel Cave is about 17 ̊C year-round. Lake Cave is slightly cooler, and varies seasonally from 16 ̊C down to 14°C. At Mammoth Cave there can be quite a difference in the cave temperature throughout the year, from around 15°C in summer down to a cool 6°C in winter.
Are the sites still open in wet weather?
Yes, all the caves and both lighthouses are open, even if the weather is very wet.
What do I need to bring?
Since there are quite a few steps involved in most of the tours, comfortable enclosed shoes are recommended, however you can still do the tours in thongs/flip flops/jandals if you feel you are able to.
The caves are fragile environments, and we try to minimise our impact on these irreplaceable natural attractions as much as possible; for this reason we ask visitors not to bring too much into the cave with them (remember also you will have to carry it while climbing!)
Do bring a camera (see Qu 3 & 4 above), and water if you need; but no other drinks, and no food. Depending on the weather; sunscreen, a hat and/or wet weather gear may be required. A jacket is sometimes required at the lighthouses, even in the summer months, as the wind at the Capes can be quite ‘invigorating’!
Do I have to pre-book for the ‘Adventure Tours’ at Ngilgi Cave, or can I just come along?
Yes, bookings are essential for all Adventure Tours at Ngilgi Cave. 72 hours’ notice is preferred, any less and the booking is not guaranteed.
How long will the tour take?
You should allow a full hour for any of the cave tours.
At the lighthouses the tours are half an hour, but remember to allow extra time to wander through the grounds. Adventure Tours at Ngilgi are of various duration, as per the booking page.
Will I get claustrophobic?
As you walk through the caves, there will be places where you are required to bend down a little, or turn to the side slightly to avoid bumping your head or shoulder, but most of the caverns are quite open. If in doubt, the best cave to visit is Mammoth Cave, with its huge open caverns and easy entrance, it tends to allay most people’s phobias.
Is there any lighting in the cave? Do I need a torch?
There is excellent lighting throughout the caves, and on guided tours the guide will operate these as you move through the cave, as well as using a torch to highlight points of interest.
It is only on the Adventure Tours in Ngilgi Cave, when you explore the ’wild’ sections of the cave, that visitors require torches (headlamps provided).
How many steps are there to climb in the lighthouse towers?
The Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse tower has 59 steps to climb up, while the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse has 176 steps, spiralling all the way up to the balcony at the top – it is the mainland’s tallest lighthouse after all!
How fit do I need to be to climb the lighthouse?
The guide leading the tour will not take the group straight up to the top of the tower. The steps are staged, with rest stops at landings along the way as required. With a reasonable amount of determination, and a functional set of knees, almost anyone can get to the top!
Is the lighthouse tower climb suitable for kids?
Although the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse tower tour is suitable for children of any age, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse tower does have a minimum age requirement.
Children must be four years of age to be able to join the tour, and they must climb up by themselves; they can’t be carried up the steps inside the tower.
Will I see whales?
Between the months of June and September, Humpback and Southern Right Whales migrate north along our coastline, and are frequently seen in Flinders Bay, Augusta. During these months, and when the ocean conditions are favourable, the whales are regularly sighted from the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.
From September through to early December the whales make their return migration; back to Antarctica, this time with their young in tow. They stop to rest in the waters of Geographe Bay during this time, and can often be seen from the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse (weather permitting) as they relax and play, before resuming their journey south.
Is it possible to hire the caves and lighthouses for weddings or events?
The Lake Cave Events Deck and the Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin Lighthouses are all available for hire
The Lake Cave Events Deck is suspended over the cavern, presenting a unique setting in which to hold weddings and special events.
At the lighthouses there are lawned areas set between the original keeper’s limestone cottages, which are available for hire for intimate wedding ceremonies.
Are there any regulations or restrictions on flying a drone at the caves or lighthouses?
Remotely piloted aircraft (Drones) in Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association (MRBTA) Managed Precincts
Remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs), also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or drones are growing in popularity for both recreational and commercial use, particularly for filming and photography.
These craft can pose potential danger to visitors if they crash. There are also environmental concerns relating to visual and noise impacts that may affect wildlife.
These craft may detract from other visitors’ experiences, places of cultural significance as well as impact on visitor privacy. Model aircraft, rockets and RPAs are considered aircraft under the Civil Aviation Regulations 1998.
Under regulation 65 of the Conservation and Land Management Regulations 2002 (CALM Regulations), launching, landing or making a touch down of such aircraft, except in an emergency on any estate belonging to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions - Parks and Wildlife Service is only allowed if lawful authority (written permission) has been issued for a specific purpose.
MRBTA operates by the same regulations within the caves and lighthouse sites under our management. As such, members of the public are not allowed to operate drones at any of our attractions without prior written permission being granted.
Requests to fly drones at any of our sites must be made in writing to Mark Delane, Assets and Environment Manager at [email protected]