Chasing a possum down a cave.
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 enter the hole and discovered Gunns Plains Caves.
Stairway into the darkness
54 narrow, steep and often damp steps descending downwards is how the tour of Gunns Plains Caves begins.
Upon reaching the bottom 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 elusive platypus.
The tour winds its way 275 metres deep into the cave system, passing through several large caverns. What is truly enjoyable about this tour is how 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 displays its natural beauty.
Everywhere you look you’ll see some new formation or tiny detail to enjoy. Stalagmites reaching for the sky. Stalactites dangling from the cavern ceiling, tiny droplets of water falling from their points. Misshapen flow stones looking like blobs of melted flowing wax. And some truly impressive shawls, fanning out to display their colours.
The cave boasts some big highlights as well. Formations such as the Wedding Cake, the Golden Fleece and the Beanstalk are truly breath taking.
While these formations are impressive, they aren’t the only things making this cave tour special.
Celebration in the caves
Before we began our tour, we’d been having a casual chat with our tour guide Geoff. During this chat we mentioned we were visiting on Ronins 4th birthday. Unknown to us, Geoff had planned a little birthday surprise.
The last underground cavern visited during the tour is known as The Cathedral. Geoff sprung his surprise here. He magically seemed to produce a candle, I have no idea where he was hiding it. I had not seen him carrying it at any time during the tour.
But standing in pitch black silence of the Cathedral. With only the candle throwing off light. 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. Ronin loved it and talked about his “Birthday Song” on the drive home.
These little personal touches are what really make the difference.
Even a great attraction can be improved by an exceptional tour guide. Luckily, Geoff is exceptional. He has the right mix of knowledge, enthusiasm and passion.
(Trish also conducts tours. Our friends toured the caves with Trish and said she was equally awesome)
It’s obvious that he loves guiding and teaching people about these remarkable caves. Sharing the history 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.
During our tour, I was as usual lagging behind the rest of our tour group. Camera in hand busily taking photo after photo. The other eleven visitors that day had already left the last chamber. Proceeding down the hallway and around the corner.
I could hear Geoff off in the distance counting them as they passed. 8, 9, 10, 11…
“Well, that all 11 people” Geoff says loudly.
“Click” goes the light switch.
Darkness! There I am, camera in hand, standing in an unknown cave. My only light source is the tiny glow from the viewfinder on my camera.
I hear a cheeky chuckle coming from somewhere ahead of me. Geoff is obviously enjoying his practical joke.
“Oi” I yell into the darkness.
“Click” goes the light switch again.
The lights come back on. I’m amazed by how fast I was disorientated in the darkness. I’m facing the entirely wrong direction.
Turning around I see Geoff throwing me a cheeky smile.
“I thought we had 12 people” he 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 look 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 darkness once again. At first nothing is visible. But as your eyes slowly adjust. You start picking out 1, then 2, then 3 glowing points of light. The glowing points seem to spread across the entire roof until it comes alive with little pin points of iridescent blue. A beautiful nights sky in all its glory. Only deep underground.
Gunns Plains Caves has one of the best glow worm displays in Tasmania. As glow worms only survive in dark and damp conditions. Having a permanent stream running through the cave makes the perfect environment for them to thrive.
Total darkness. It’s a surreal experience. Something I’d imagine not many have truly experienced. Even standing outside on the darkest night, some light still exists for your eyes to use. Even if it’s very faint and barely perceptible.
One of the tours highlights is experiencing absolute total darkness. During the tour you’ll stop in a cavern. The lights are shut off and you’re left in total darkness. And you wait, and wait, and wait some more. You’re waiting for your eyes to slowly adjust to the darkness. Trying to pierce that gloomy cave. But they don’t!
After a few minutes you’re still unable to see. It’s all remains black.
The reason? Without even a tiny amount of light penetrating that far into the cave. You’re eyes will never adapt to the darkness. You can’t even detect your hand inches from your face. It’s spooky!
Tour Group Sizes
One thing we loved about this tour was the smaller tour group sizes. While group sizes can vary depending on who arrives. Our group was only 12 people and the tour felt more personal. We have attended other cave tours where the tour group was 30+ and felt overcrowded.
Tours run regularly throughout the day. (10am, 11am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm)
We personally found the pricing extremely reasonable and great value for money.
Check the official website for up to date pricing.
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 which are well railed.
Children around 4 – 5 years old 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 is required to ensure you have the required clearance.
[alert type=”info” dismiss=”no”]
We recommend proper enclosed shoes as some paths can be damp, and warm clothing to keep out the chill.[/alert]
[alert type=”info” dismiss=”no”]Leave your backpack/camera bag in the car. They get in the way and make moving around the cave harder.[/alert]
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 ferry also makes it a great first stop on any Tasmanian road trip itinerary.