Art Deco gem near Jenolan Caves
As a kid, I remember being in total awe when visiting Jenolan Caves, NSW. We recently took our own children to visit the labyrinth of limestone caves in the Greater Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage area.
We clambered through the 15-degree-Celsius, largest cave system in the world on a guided tour to marvel at the impressive stalactite formations, feeling like intrepid adventurers. The caves are estimated to be as old as 430 million years. It’s thought that there are as many as 367 limestone caves and tourists are permitted in just eight of these. Our guides Ted and Scotty took us through the Lucas and Chifley Caves and their informative stories of not only the geology of the caves but the history of the region kept even our five-year-olds interested.
It’s also worth taking a stroll around the man-made Blue Lake created in 1908 for the generation of electricity. The vibrant colour is caused by reflection of light on the limestone deposits and bed rock. The lake is flanked by green ferns and has a magical and mysterious quality.
At the Caves site, the historic Federation-style Caves House guesthouse and hotel still stands. Built in 1896, rooms remain in a traditional style and Chisolm’s Restaurant provides a grand dining experience. We lunched at Caves Café, open to both hotel guests and visitors.
For our large group of six, we stayed instead at the nearby Majestic View Cottages which, as the name suggests, offered unbeatable views over the Blue Mountains Escarpment, Megalong Valley and Kanimbla Valley. We woke to kangaroos on our lawn, watching a joey venture out of its mother’s pouch only to dive back in again after a quick nibble of food. We were able to walk around the extensive grounds, taking in the fresh mountain air and passing a rusty, old aqua-coloured vintage Volvo parked on the property.
In the region, we visited the town of Oberon where the magnificent Art Deco Malachi Gilmore Hall stands, built in 1937. The building was recently restored by the local community after receiving a NSW ‘Caring for State Heritage’ grant. The town’s extensive restoration efforts on this Art Deco masterpiece were recognised when the Malachi Revival project was awarded as a winner of a National Trust Heritage Award in 2019. If you’re like me and love Art Deco architecture, you must not miss the former cinema and dance hall, now serving as a craft store and auditorium, at 124 Oberon Street.
A popular pit-stop for more than 100 years on the way to Jenolan Caves is the historic Hartley village.
In this quaint little town you can visit two galleries, take a self-guided tour of the historic courthouse built in 1837 by convicts, or dine in the sunshine on a Devonshire tea at the Old Post Office café.