Jenolan Caves

Every Day is Earth Day or World Heritage Day at Jenolan

April 23, 2021

This April, we have been doubly reminded about the importance of conservation, heritage and the environment.  World Heritage Day was on the 18th, and Earth Day was on the 22nd.  But at Jenolan, every day is World Heritage Day and every day is Earth Day.

UNESCO World Heritage logoJenolan is located on the western edge of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The Greater Blue Mountains covers over a million hectares and consists of 8 massive reserves, including the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve.

Twenty years ago, on November 29, 2000, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed the whole Greater Blue Mountains area as a World Heritage site for several outstanding reasons. The biodiversity of the Greater Blue Mountains was, and still is, regarded as so valuable that it must be protected for all time. UNESCO’s World Heritage mission is to “encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity”[i]’s mission is to “diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 75,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for our planet”.[ii]

Jenolan Caves was declared a reserve in 1866Delicate crystal formation in the Diamond CavePre-dating both these world-wide organisations by nearly a century, Jenolan was declared a ‘Reserve’ in 1866 and an animal sanctuary in 1919, so conservation has always been one of our most important aims.  In fact, our mission is to “connect our visitors with the unique natural and cultural heritage of Jenolan Caves, and through that connection, stimulate the urge to care for and protect all such special places. Simply put, our mission is to protect and connect.” 

From the earliest days of cave tourism, Jenolan has been a leader in developing environmental best practice. We were among Australia’s earliest conservationists. Our early cave guides actively protected the cave system, by ensuring that visitors kept to marked paths, using protective mesh and by encouraging visitors to follow strict rules inside the caves. They created Australia’s earliest ecotourism facility.

In 1866, Jenolan Caves were the first caves in the world to be granted legal protection, 6 years before the world’s first national park (Yellowstone) was declared. 

Brush-Tailed Rock WallabyPlatypus in the Blue Lake at Jenolan CavesWe still implement a range of easy regulations that ensure that visitors have minimal impact on our delicate caves, and we meticulously remove as many human traces as possible (hair, lint, etc) from the caves.

We work with the National Parks & Wildlife Service to ensure that native wildlife thrives in our 7,620 acre reserve, which was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1919. Jenolan is known for platypus and rare brush-tailed rock wallabies, but they are only 2 of many native species that flourish on our huge reserve. 

Buildings on our reserve have been on the NSW State Heritage Register since 2004, having met a range of standards that make them significant for past, present and future generations.

Jenolan Caves HouseCaves House was the work of Walter Liberty Vernon, a highly prolific and well-known colonial architect, who was very influential in the development of Australian architecture. Caves House illustrates the considerable human activity and ingenuity necessary to provide accommodation in the early days of Australian tourism, in buildings especially designed for this purpose. Vernon employed innovative methods to address problems posed by a major building project in a remote setting. Caves House was built to service one of the earliest protected sites of natural environmental heritage in the world. Lighting and sewage developments dating from the late 1880s are of significant historical importance and were crucial to the development of the remote area as a tourist destination. Socially, it is significant that, initially built for the wealthy, Caves House became much more accessible over the years, especially after public motor transport became widely available, exemplifying the growth of social homogeneity in Australia [iii] – something to think about.  So we are very careful to preserve the historical integrity of our buildings, especially Caves House.

Gurrangatch and Mirriganthe Jenolan Caves Historical and Preservation Society logoAt Jenolan, because our unique history is worth preserving, so are our stories,from the Gundungarra Dreamtime creation story to all the quirky tales of Jenolan’s past from 1837 onwards.  The Jenolan Caves Historical and Preservation Society (JCHAPS) is the custodian of our history.  JCHAPS was established in 1972 and continues to do important work to conserve Jenolan’s unique history.  Members continue to build their substantial collection, which is collated and stored off site.  They maintain a fascinating website and produce a quarterly newsletter.  If you would like to become a member of the Jenolan Caves Historical and Preservation Society, please complete the Membership Form and return it to

Your community too has environmental and/or cultural aspects that are worth saving. It starts with simply taking an interest. Join a local environment and conservation group or historical society.

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4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911

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