The show caves area was accidentally reserved in 1887, as they were on land set aside for stock camping. The government commissioned an exploration of the land and, on the recommendation of the geologist Albert Ernest Kitson, reserved the area to protect the caves.
The battle of the states – Jenolan Versus Buchan!
When the NSW Government opened the Jenolan Show Caves they became a tourist hot spot and big tourism dollar earner. The Victorian government got very jealous and set to work trying to find their own show caves. They hired a team including a brave soul named Frank Moon.
In 1907, Frank Moon discovered the Fairy Cave which was opened to the public later that year. Royal Cave was discovered in 1910 by Frederick Wilson and after an entrance tunnel was excavated, it was opened to visitors in 1913. The Caves Reserve was set out and planted mostly in the late 1930s. Moon discovered many other caves in Buchan in his research.
Other ex-tourist caves
So, there are three show caves now in Buchan. Lilly Pilly, Shades of Death and M7 caves have also operated as tourist caves but are now closed to tourists, as they are not as long, extensive or as decorated as Fairy and Royal and having that many tourist caves running was not realistic. Shades of Death is considered one of the best wild caves in the section beyond the show cave.
Fairy and Royal Caves are open all year round and usually have several tours a day. In peak periods and holidays they have more tours and they sometimes open the third show cave – Federal Cave. Both Royal and Fairy have some world class decoration and are worth the visit. Neither have any particularly large chambers but there is a lot to see, and when I run beginner’s trips to Buchan I always encourage people to have a look at them. In wet weather they sometimes have small streams and the rimstone pools fill up which is very pretty.
The show caves are in ‘Caves Reserve’ which is the campground for the town. It is a beautiful space, with much wildlife, a creek which is normally dry but is gorgeous in wet weather, several excellent walks of different lengths and difficulties. There is a kitchen, toilet blocks, showers and plenty of space for campers. The kiosk sells tickets to the caves as well as souvenirs and there is a small museum on caves and how the Buchan caves formed.
And most impressively there is a swimming pool that is fed by water coming out of a cave! Yes, a swimming pool of cave water. The cave is called Duke’s Cave whichis a very good cave, and the water is cold, but great on a very hot day. Unfortunately, as of 2020, the pool has been shut down because it doesn’t meet health requirements due to the water being straight out of a cave. That water is perfectly pure and many people are disappointed about the pool not being used. This may change in the future.
There are half a dozen permit only caves in the reserve, which all have gates on them. The entrance to the reserve is on the left as you drive through town with the big wooden arches just before the river. You can’t miss it. If you visit the tourist caves and/or camp there be sure to mention this website.
The rangers who run the reserve and the show caves are very actively involved with the wild caving community. It is important as we are accessing caves on their land, and they are the ones who decide whether to grant access when permits are requested.
Have a think about staying at the reserve and visiting the tourist caves. You won’t regret it! More information can be found at: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/buchan-caves-reserve
There is also a volunteer group aptly named ‘Friends of Buchan Caves’ who have working bees several times a year. It is mostly made up of ex-cavers. They are in the process of renovating Federal Cave (the third show cave which is only opened in peak days). They also sometimes do work at the potholes mending fences and planting native foliage. See links page for info.