23 June, 2021

Discover the wonders beneath your feet in Tasmania

From fairyland caves to heritage tunnels and subterranean art, adventure awaits just below the surface.

There’s so much more to Tasmania than meets the eye. Caves full of fascinating limestone formations are a must for underground lovers. Look a little deeper and you’ll also find subterranean surprises like a railway tunnel reborn as a mushroom farm, and an old mine where precious souvenirs await.

Hobart Convict Penitentiary (previously known as The Tench). Photo: Supplied courtesy of National Trust Tasmania.

Tunnel into convict history

Built in the 1830s, Hobart Convict Penitentiary was designed to make inmates feel isolated, even when they were moved between solitary confinement cells and courtrooms via two underground tunnels. Follow in the footsteps of 40,000 convicts along these grim stone passages, just wide enough for one person, on guided tours that also reveal this National Trust property’s bleak chapel and gallows.

The Void, Mona. Photo: Mona and Remi Chauvin.

Rockstar museum

Did you know most of Hobart’s world-renowned museum of old and new art is underground? Descend into Mona via the spiral staircase or glass elevator and discover this vast labyrinth carved out of Triassic sandstone. With golden, natural patterning and marks left by heavy cutting machinery, this raw rock forms the monumental walls of gallery spaces and the epic Void Bar. What better place to savour Tasmanian whisky on the rocks than 17 metres underground?

Roamwild Tasmani - Lost Mines-Ancient Pines Tour. Photo: Places We Go.

Mining the past

Mining used to be big out west. Most of the passageways to underground riches are now long closed though, so Roam Wild Tasmania’s Lost Mines-Ancient Pines tour is a rare chance to explore this forgotten world. Discover 1880s mining equipment rusting in the rainforest, then follow a mine-cart track into the darkness. Will your helmet’s light pick up something shiny in the rock? It’s yours to keep if you can pry it out with the supplied tools!

West Coast MTB - Spray Tunnel. Photo: Stu Gibson.

Railway tunnels reborn

Train tracks built for the mining operations in the west also closed when the boom went bust – but one line near Zeehan has become a rail trail for walkers and mountain bikers. It passes through the 100-metre Spray Tunnel, carved through a hill for the Spray Silver Mine. Look up at the glow worms about half way along!

In the south-east, another former railway tunnel has become a gourmet mushroom farm. Join a Tunnel Hill Mushrooms tour of this 165-metre section of railway heritage hidden 12 metres underground, where fungi thrives in the cold, dark, moist conditions.

Mole Creek Caves tour (formerly Marakoopa Cave tour). Photo: Tourism Australia & Graham Freeman.

Natural wonders

Tasmania has some of Australia’s longest and deepest caves, sculpted into wonderlands by water and time itself. A few are easily accessed on well-lit guided tours that reveal crystals, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, colourful limestone shawls, reflecting pools and perhaps the sound of subterranean rivers.

In Mole Creek Karst National Park choose from two neighbouring caves: King Solomons or Marakoopa, where you’ll also see countless glow worms. Want to go off-piste? Wild Cave Tours explore the park’s undeveloped caves, including on family-friendly experiences. Not far away, Gunns Plains Cave tours reveal more glow worms and otherworldly limestone formations including the Wedding Cake.

Junee Caves. Photo: Tourism Australia & Graham Freeman.

A great daytrip from Hobart is Hastings Caves State Reserve. Tour Newdegate Cave – one of Australia’s largest – then soak in the pool fed by warm, mineral-rich water flowing from deep underground. Or head to Junee Cave. A nature trail leads to a platform offering a peek inside the cave, where the subterranean Junee River rises to the surface.

Time it right and you can walk through the Tasman Peninsula’s Remarkable Cave: its two entrances are accessible from the beach at low tide. Or take a look from the viewing platform – it’s especially exciting when the tide’s up and water rushes in and out of this natural tunnel.


Information included in this blog is correct at the time of publishing. Please contact individual operators for further information.

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