While there are plenty of caves that are closer to Perth and easier to get to, like Crystal Cave in Yanchep National Park and the many caves around Margaret River, you’ll have to pay a fee and join a tour to explore them. Stockyard Gully Caves on the other hand are free and can be explored in your own without a tour or guide. You can get there from Perth in roughly three and a half hours. Although you won’t find incredible stalactites or stalagmites in Stockyard Gully Caves, the caves are pretty massive, and far off the beaten path, which makes the experience more adventurous.
The caves are in Stockyard Gully National Park, which is just northeast of Green Head, a short way inland. There is a signposted turnoff from Coorow-Green Head Road to the national park. The first 15 kms are on a well maintained dirt road that is accessible in any type of car. Roughly 5kms from of the caves (approaching from the south, don’t come from the north), the road becomes a sand road that is only suitable for 4×4’s, or all-wheel drives if you are daring. After a local ranger assured us that we could make it in our Honda CR-V all-wheel drive, we went for it. The road took us through some deep sand and over rough potholes, and we thought we might high center or get bogged a few times. Even though we managed to get there safely, we wouldn’t really recommend driving the last 5kms to the caves unless you have a 4×4 or high clearance AWD. You can leave your car where the sand road starts and take the one hour walk to the caves if you aren’t comfortable driving, the road is mostly flat and leads you past some pretty wild flowers in spring. As this national park is not managed by the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service, you won’t have to pay the usual entry fee. There are information boards, bathrooms, and picnic tables near the parking area. Be aware that Stockyard Gully Caves can flood during or after heavy rainfall and may be inaccessible. We visited Stockyard Gully Caves on a Sunday early morning and had them all to ourselves, which is common enough, even on weekends.
Exploring Stockyard Gully Caves
From the parking area you can access a loop walk leading through Stockyard Gully Caves. A sandy path leads through a small canyon to the entry of the main cave after about 500 meters. You’ll start hearing the constant humming of thousands of bees the closer you get to the cave’s entrance. There are dozens of bees nests all built into the rocky walls around and above the cave. A sign warning that they can be aggressive, especially on hot days, made us pass below them quickly.
The main cave is almost 10 meters wide and relatively tall, and the entire floor is covered by sand. Don’t forget to bring your headlamp or a flashlight as there is no artificial light inside the cave. After roughly 500 meters the cave exits to the canyon again, with more bee hives hanging above the exit. From here the path requires bit of scrambling across a few rocks and after a couple hundred meters a short stairway leads back to the far end of the parking area if you’ve had your fill of caving.
If you’re up for an adventure and want to explore more caves, don’t go up the stairway but go straight towards another cave entrance you’ll see just ahead of you. There is a barrier and a “Do Not Enter – Rockfall” warning sign in front of the entrance of this cave. We won’t encourage anyone to go further, but if you do and want to know more – here is our experience.
It’s easy to climb underneath the fence and from there go down into the cave. You’ll have to scramble a little but it’s not really hard. The second cave is a lot taller than the first and opens up again to the canyon before long, so you won’t need a light to navigate through. It seems like plenty of people have been through the cave and you can follow a visible path through (at least of the time of our visit, it might be different after rain). To get to the end some more scrambling is required and be aware of more bee hives along the cave walls. The cave opens up to a beautiful and overgrown sinkhole with a giant tree in the middle.
If you’re still up for more caving, you can follow the path along the left rock wall down to the third and largest cave. A wide sandy path leading through the first bit of the cave quickly turns into something rocky and more challenging. For the most part you’ll still be able to follow other people’s footprints or a well worn path . The cave becomes narrower and you’ll have to climb up across some bigger rocks and crawl for a short part as you go deeper into the cave. It is always straightforward to see which direction you have to go, as there is only one possible way with no turnoffs. We continued through the cave for almost a kilometer before coming to a point where we couldn’t see a good way to go on. The final section is dark and narrows in places, so prepare for a real adventure!
To get back to the parking area or the main (first) cave, you’ll just have to head back the way you came. While we enjoyed the main cave at Stockyard Gully, exploring the other two caves was even more fun, as it required a fair bit of scrambling and felt more adventurous.
Things to do nearby
If you’re visiting the Stockyard Gully Caves from Perth, there are a few things on the way you might want to stop at. The popular Pinnacles Desert is just south of the caves. You can drive a short loop or walk around to explore the strange rock formations in Nambung National Park.
Another place worth checking out, especially if you have a 4×4 are the incredibly white Lancelin sand dunes. You can take your 4×4 for a drive on top of the dunes or rent a sand board. If you’re looking for a place to camp, check out Milligan Island Campsite near Green Head. There is a $15 fee per car, but you’ll get a quiet campsite right next to an empty beach with good facilities. It’s a great place to view the sunset.